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 :

Poll

Which group is more ethically challenged?:

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
PHX Corphttp://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/3bvzy7/as_a_former_developer_theres_a_lot_of_things_i/ Reddit Games: As a former developer, there's a lot of things I wish gamers knew. Here are some of those things...07/06/2015 - 10:52am
james_fudgeI play all of my games there!07/06/2015 - 10:36am
Andrew EisenHey, have you heard of Origin? It's pretty sweet!07/06/2015 - 10:26am
MattsworknameNot sure if your being sarcastic, or if you joined up with EA's marketing department07/06/2015 - 4:01am
Andrew EisenI don't know, maybe a heaping, helping of DRM is the panacea for all that ails Konami.07/06/2015 - 1:24am
MattsworknameThe only thing thats gonna save them andrew , is walking back all the stupid they have been doing lately. At this point , ithink they did to much damage to there brand to survive07/06/2015 - 12:42am
PHX Corphad there been a sonic 4 episode 3, I would Buy it on Steam, Xbox 360 and PS3 right away07/05/2015 - 10:10pm
Andrew EisenWell, what if Konami released MGS 5 with a mandatory $60 plastic peripheral? Do you think that would help?07/05/2015 - 8:09pm
MattsworknameI dont think so, I think that between the lose of iga, kojima, and so forth, i think MGS 5 will be less succesfull then they think, and tha will spell there end.07/05/2015 - 7:08pm
Andrew EisenI'm sure the Metal Gear micro-transactions will keep 'em afloat!07/05/2015 - 6:58pm
MattsworknameKonami is dying, slowly, surely, inevitably. Capcom is in the same situation, and I think that if they don't get there respective acts together, there going to pull a thq and sell off all there IP.07/05/2015 - 6:51pm
Andrew EisenHowever, if you have a gaming PC and like PC gaming, the Wii U is arguably the best console you could get (unless you just don't care for Nintendo's games, of course).07/05/2015 - 6:07pm
Andrew EisenAnyway, if the Wii U is your only gaming platform, yeah, you're missing out on a ton of great stuff.07/05/2015 - 6:06pm
Andrew EisenMatthew is referring to my latest video, if anyone's wondering. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkuL1UVHYJA07/05/2015 - 6:00pm
Matthew Wilson@AE the wiiu may have the best exclusives among consoles, but lack of third party support kills it. now if we want to play the exclusives game, the pc wins, not just in numbers,but some of the best games I have played.07/05/2015 - 5:53pm
Andrew EisenPic of the pack with measurements: https://twitter.com/paulfeig/status/61768231705475481607/05/2015 - 5:38pm
Andrew EisenThis is really cool to see. Ghostbusters director helping out cosplayers with prop pics. Here's the thrower with measurements: https://twitter.com/paulfeig/status/61735089365938995307/05/2015 - 5:37pm
Matthew Wilsonhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lMLRIwiB_c a very interesting video. by Unseen64 Tamaki. the video covers how project hammer fell apart.07/05/2015 - 3:43pm
Andrew EisenImagine if Nintendo started charging for the Super Guide feature it has in some of it's games. That's what the MGS microtransactions sound like to me.07/05/2015 - 12:36pm
PHX Corphttp://www.gamesradar.com/konami-mgs-5s-microtransactions-and-future-franchise/ Konami explains MGS 5's microtransactions & what happens after Koj07/05/2015 - 12:21pm
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician