Do You Actually Own Your Virtual Property in Your Favorite Online Game?

October 25, 2011 -

Is virtual property found within games and often freely traded real legal property? One legal expert says absolutely not. Minneapolis lawyer Justin Kwong says those virtual baubles you spent real-world cash on are simply lines of code owned temporarily through a license. Or so he posits in the most recent issue of the William Mitchell Law Review (as highlighted in this article).

"At their core, virtual items are lines of software code that exist within larger computer programs," according to Kwong, who also writes a blog called Virtual Navigator on legal issues in online worlds and social networks. "Many scholars and authors have attempted to paint virtual items or virtual land as a new form of property. To date, no online environment has expressly acknowledged any such right to items within their world and no U.S. court or legislature has recognized a right to virtual-world assets."

Greg Lastowka, a law professor at Rutgers University, points out that courts in other countries such as South Korea, have begun treating virtual items as real property. He also notes that domain names are just lines of code too, and they have been regarded as property in U.S. courts.

"Your bank account is lines of code," he adds.

But Lastowka also concedes that virtual items don't fit the traditional legal definition of real property like a piece of land or personal property, and would be difficult to make an exclusive claim of ownership to an item created in an online game.

But "there's a lot of different ways you can have a property right," he said. "I think we'll see a day - it might not be next year, it may be five or 10 years from now - where a court will recognize some form of virtual currency or virtual property as legal property," Lastowka said.

Kwong says that for now, when you purchase a virtual item in an online game, you are really buying a license, not a piece of property.

Kwong compares the experience to the Mug Club at the Contented Cow, a pub in Northfield, Minn. For a fee, a bar patron can join a club that gives him or her the exclusive right to use a numbered mug, "but he or she does not own it - the mug must stay in the pub," according to Kwong. "Virtual items are analogous to the mugs because they are created by software and cannot be moved outside the realm for which they were created," according to Kwong.

Instead of trying to give the status of legal property to virtual items, Kwong says he'd like to see more standardized language used on terms-of- service or terms-of-use agreements in online games.

Kwong followed up on the story that appeared in the William Mitchell Law Review with a rather lengthy post on his Virtual Navigator blog - mostly to address the harsh comments he received from readers, who strongly disagreed with his assertions. It's worth reading for some clarification on the topic. Clearly the issue will continue to be argued until someone, somewhere either takes a case involving virtual property to court - and wins or loses, setting some sort of precedent.

Source: Slashdot

Image provided by Shutterstock. All rights reserved.


Comments

Re: Do You Actually Own Your Virtual Property in Your ...

This reminds me about the story of a woman in Japan who was arrested and jailed for using her ex-boyfriend's Maple Story ID and password to access his account and delete his character, because he broke up with her. She faced up to 5 years in jail or a $5,000 fine, for illegally accessing his account and deleting was was deemed to be his property, which in this case was his character. I don't know what the full outcome of the trial was though.

I'd be surprised if the US didn't follow suit with virtual property considering how everything is becoming more on more online these days.

“How can one not be fond of something that the Daily Mail despises?” ― Stephen Fry

Re: Do You Actually Own Your Virtual Property in Your ...

Do I own my emails? I wonder if I own my photos on Facebook?

-----------------------------------------

Managing Editor at TheBestGameSiteEver.com

Re: Do You Actually Own Your Virtual Property in Your ...

Caveat emptor.  'Nuff said.

Re: Do You Actually Own Your Virtual Property in Your ...

Not quite enough said. A lot of us don't speak latin.

Re: Do You Actually Own Your Virtual Property in Your ...

"Buyer beware."

Re: Do You Actually Own Your Virtual Property in Your ...

Stocks and bonds are considered legal property, but are also just lines of code with no real in world representation.....

 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
Andrew Eisen20.2 million PS4 consoles sold as of March 1. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/playstation4-ps4-sales-surpass-202-million-units-worldwide-300045019.html03/04/2015 - 12:33am
MechaTama31Goth: True, but you can at least not waste your time reloading pages that have no new comments, or trying to remember which stories you even commented on.03/04/2015 - 12:26am
ZippyDSMleeI like nivida as well but this is kinda sad, http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2015/02/nvidia-hit-with-class-action-lawsuit-over-graphics-card-ram-issues/03/04/2015 - 12:23am
Goth_SkunkTo be fair, the tracker only advises you of threads that you've commented on have received more comments. It does nothing towards advising you if you've been replied to.03/04/2015 - 12:21am
ZippyDSMleeSeems you can make a link to the trackpage and ti will go there for as long as you are loged in.03/03/2015 - 11:26pm
ZippyDSMleeOh wow you can do that? I been just checking my posts 0-o03/03/2015 - 11:24pm
Matthew Wilsononly news worth while is a console that is about wiiu power for 200 bucks, but who cares.03/03/2015 - 11:12pm
MechaTama31Is it possible to make it so clicking on your username takes you to your Track page instead of your Edit page? I use the Track page routinely to see if anybody has replied to me. Editing my profile, not so much. Save a bit of wear and tear on my mouse?03/03/2015 - 10:44pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.twitch.tv/nvidia is going to do a GDC conference, but god dam their preshow is so cringe worthy. ps I have a nvida card, and like their stuff, but still...03/03/2015 - 9:31pm
ZippyDSMlee.....win8 hates any left over hidden install partitions from other version of windows....only waste 5 hours finding that out...its ahrder than you think keeping up with 4 or 5 HDDS......03/03/2015 - 4:44am
Matthew WilsonI am going to pax east, any games you guys want me to check out?03/02/2015 - 11:23pm
ZippyDSMleeNo one remembers the days of Cinemagic and Cynergy eh? :P, meh even MGS is getting to film like....03/02/2015 - 8:44pm
MechaTama31I was about to get all defensive about liking Metal Gear Solid, but then I saw that he was talking about "cinematic" as a euphemism for "crappy framerate".03/02/2015 - 8:29pm
prh99Just replace cinematic with the appropriate synonym for poo and you'll have gist of any press release.03/02/2015 - 5:34pm
PHX Corphttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZQDFO2KEPo Jim Sterling Makes Fun of "Cinematic" Gaming03/02/2015 - 3:39pm
Matthew WilsonWOW is copping EVE. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/18141101/introducing-the-wow-token-3-2-2015 I think its a smart move to deal with gold farmers in this way.03/02/2015 - 1:16pm
Matthew WilsonI guess epic is tired of having their lunch eaten by unity. https://www.unrealengine.com/blog/ue4-is-free03/02/2015 - 12:50pm
Andrew EisenNot much to follow. Kern is being silly and... nothing much else is happening.03/02/2015 - 11:40am
Papa MidnightI ask because, having only just heard of it, I have not, and I was hoping for some insight.03/02/2015 - 11:39am
Papa MidnightHas anyone been following this petition by Mark Kern regarding Kotaku, Polygon, and VG247? https://www.change.org/p/kotaku-lead-the-way-in-healing-the-rift-in-video-games03/02/2015 - 11:38am
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician