Should real life legal frameworks affect virtual worlds?
There has been a debate about the role of law in virtual world: whether legal frameworks should play a role and to what extent. We can start by saying that virtual worlds are not separated from the real world they are a part of it. Not only actions taken inside the virtual worlds can affect the real world but the virtual world itself, as a company, is governed by the rule of law. Because virtual actions have ramifications in the real world it is imperative to establish a legal framework: law-breakers should not be able to hide in what could be seen as a legal loophole. But besides these practical matters, laws can be a positive influence in the development of a society.
Currently many of the laws in existence protect the company but not the freedom of its users. In many virtual worlds users are not owners of their creations and economic activity between them is prohibited. According to Ondrejka this is a mistake:
"…not only does banning users and attempting to block real world transactions effectively criminalize and marginalize a large section of the user base, it also fights one of the great benefits that free markets and competition bring to economies: innovation." (Ondrejka, 92)
Virtual goods have real value and because of that an economic environment is inevitably born:
"Current MMORPGs demonstrate conclusively that virtual goods can have significant real world value, and any world that hopes to bootstrap itself into the Metaverse must allow these real world economic opportunities." (Ondrejka, 92)
Laws that protect creativity in the real world can and should also confer such protection in virtual worlds: laws that were created to promote creativity and creation and that ensure copyright protection. It is no easy task, the enforcement of such laws seems more difficult for practical purposes (geographical barriers, the dark web, anonimity, privacy-protection laws, etc) also new art forms and behaviors have created the need for new laws or the redefinition of old laws. As users of virtual environments we must encourage the creation of laws that protect us as users.
It is an important task because the best way to encourage people to create is to give them ownership of their creations and the highest autonomy possible, economic autonomy through free markets and artistic autonomy through more autonomic designs.
We need to protect virtual worlds with laws that protect the society in general we must not forget that as time passes our virtual identities will become more and more important.
Burri, M. (2011). Misunderstanding creativity: User created content in virtual worlds and its constraints by code and law. Int'l J. Comm. L. & Pol'y, 14, 1.
Ondrejka, C. (2004). Escaping the gilded cage: User created content and building the metaverse. NYL Sch. L. Rev., 49, 81.