Virtual Law in Virtual Worlds?

09 October 2008 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Authors: Peter Vogel

It’s hardly a passing fancy, virtual worlds abound. Second Life boasts virtual property owned by IBM, Dell, and Manpower. Gaming giants Sony and Microsoft have announced virtual gaming communities where avatars will compete but using their specialized equipment rather than just personal computers. Since law is the glue that holds society together, it’s no wonder that there are unique laws in the virtual worlds and a number of lawyers. As a matter of fact, the American Bar Association recently published a book entitled Virtual Law. Also there was Virtual Law Conference was held concurrently with the Virtual Worlds Conference in New York. Even US District Judge Richard A. Posner made an appearance as an avatar in Second Life.

Modern Day SciFi?

It’s hard to tell whether Virtual Worlds are a form of SciFi computer-Internet recreation. That is, living through avatars in an imaginary Internet world. Not being much of a SciFi reader I vividly I remember reading 1984 when I was in the 8th grade and was pleased with the year 1984 came and went without Big Brother running our world. Also I remember reading Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land in 1972 while in graduate school studying computer science and being impacted.

Lawyers Abound in Virtual Worlds

There must be a connection point that interests thousands of individuals since Second Life and other virtual worlds operate in a number of languages around our earth. Virtual residents own property and conduct commerce, so lawyers naturally have a role. Nonetheless when Linden Labs took some property away from a Second Life resident, the litigation ended up in federal court Pennsylvania. Linden Labs was unsuccessful in moving the dispute to California because the judge acknowledged when Second Life founder Philip Rosendale’s Avatar held a “town hall” meeting in Second Life and residents from Pennsylvania were invited and attended, and so the defendants should have known that they could been dragged into court in Pennsylvania.

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