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U.K. website (which appears, primarily, to resell real-estate domains) is running a bizarre, but oddly Logocompelling, futuristic virtual property law hypothetical set in “Third Life.”

Once you get past the Guy Noir-ish purple prose (the real estate attorney is “highly intelligent and powerful,” and her avatar is “beautiful and shapely”), you’ll find that the post raises some good virtual law questions in a fairly accessible way. I’d not be surprised if it attracts some interesting comments.

Here are a few excerpts from the post to get you started:

It is the year 2030 and the laws regarding virtual real estate are up for grabs. Fred is a 26 year old human male living alone within the secure confines of New York City. Like most young people in 2030, in order to escape reality, Fred spends a large part of his real life plugged into the electronic grid, immersed in massive multiplayer virtual environments and economies, and inhabiting a virtual character with a separate identity….

…Another aggressive virtual land speculator was a highly intelligent and powerful real estate attorney named Aria, who lived in San Diego. Through alter ego in Third Life, a beautiful and shapely female avatar named “Athena”, she had been acquiring land in 100 acre parcels for over 15 years. As a legal scholar, skilled programmer and seasoned technology intellectual, Aria had realized early on that, while the laws and rules governing virtual land ownership in Third Life, and elsewhere online, were still being defined, they were clearly taking the shape of centuries-old real property laws that had been created in England, but that had been widely adopted and practiced in the U.S. and elsewhere….

…If the implications and rights in the title and/or deed to virtual property reasonably resembled that of a real property title, why then should virtual real estate ownership be any different than in the real world? To some extent this was a rhetorical question: she was confident that, in the end, there would be no difference at all.

At the end, the post poses some good questions, including: “Do you believe that virtual property matters should be played out in a virtual court as opposed to a real world scenario?” and “Should real property law concepts such as adverse possession apply in virtual property environments?

I think these questions are going to be answered much sooner than 23 years from now, but in my book, you get a little artistic license when your protagonist is a “legal scholar, skilled programmer and seasoned technology intellectual” named Aria, who has “pictures of her beautiful avatar Athena sunbathing in different areas of the parcel in question.”

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8 Responses to “Futuristic Hypothetical on Virtual Property”

  1. on 31 Aug 2007 at 12:28 pmNobody Fugazi

    I think the naming of ‘virtual worlds’ and ‘virtual property’ is as much a misnomer as anything could be. The history of the use of the descriptor ‘virtual’ derives from ‘virtual reality’ – which is actually rooted in ‘artificial reality’ (Myron W. Krueger).

    How did it become ‘virtual reality’? Science fiction, of course. Thus, for all intents and purposes… it is ‘artificial property’ or ‘property made by mankind’. Odd that we don’t have ‘virtual preservatives’ in our food, isn’t it?

  2. on 31 Aug 2007 at 12:47 pmBenjamin Duranske

    You’re really going to hate the name of my book then, Nobody.

    I argued with myself over this very point, but ultimately figured that, in the long run, the word “virtual” is going to be converted into: “of and pertaining to computer simulated environments” whether that’s what it means right now or not. “Virtual reality” is so 1992.

  3. on 31 Aug 2007 at 3:18 pmBenjamin Duranske

    Since he’s not likely to link to himself, I’ll direct readers to KnowProSE — where Taran Rampersad goes into these issues in some detail.  I’ve only had a chance to skim it (having a really busy day today) but it appears to attempt to seriously answer the questions posed in this piece, and looks like it is well worth your click.

  4. on 31 Aug 2007 at 4:04 pmc3

    The sooner everyone gets over the”land acre” metaphores to server storage of bits and bites as suckered by Linden labs real estate marketing scheme, the better.

    the passage reads like a bad VR soft porn cinemax movie fro 1994 and the assumptions that anything dealinf with storage of digital property needs to be “meta futurized” in blogs like this is frankly laughable.

    Presence and Immersion has already shown its fundamental power and difference as a media type to be used. But to continue to read about AVATAR Bills of Rights;) and Governance within a private companies TOS driven application or service is really silly.

    If those who want to live in VR want to live in a single corporate entities “island” than learn to deal with them for that they are in the real world, a licensed company. private/public or otherwise….. modern media has 35 years of back law and history that should work for you.

    Bragg vs Linden– good reporting.. please keep it up… Great how one user of questionable values is sueing the other:)

    To paraphase Woody Allen— ” they only eat themselves”

    But seriously…… The past days have indicated that Lindens ability to freeze and prevent RL work in a business to business world should be unacceptable in the illusion known as this Second Life. But all new metarati must learn the lessons of the past i suppose the “hard way” as another daily metanonsense blogger has found out recently.:)

    headed back “into SL servers” to “free” cube inada from his unwanted “hibernation” of the last hour.-;) i’ll await his lawsuit;)

  5. on 31 Aug 2007 at 4:36 pmc3

    a thought.

    forget “SL” “LL” or any single corporate service /game/platform whatever….. the concept of “owning” anything in them is just not gonna happen.

    the 3d web will occur as a natural evolution of the 2d html=paged web….. just as color tv replaced bw– and digital now replaces analog– as mainstream defacto medium.–its a done deal… :) cogs always spin unless the machine is busted.

    lets talk about 3d and 3d virtual objects/products of today/ the past/ and the future.

    Since ive been selling them as long as anyone online i have some experience.

    LICENSED usage vs. Property Transfer…

    would seem this is the crux of all VO law past and future.

    For 50 plus years we have lived a law system that considers the “chair” i buy for 20 dollars ” now MINE as property. but the “image-design-representation- in any media representing it” of a chair i purchase for the same 20 dollars – commonly a license to use….

    bits/bytes/ Film/media/paper etc that has expressed concepts/ip and ideas expressed within it or on it, is licensed under current mainstream laws…..

    you may “own” the plastic shell as property– but you license the data in it. The creators own the property -the IP of the contained expressions.

    3d data as “format” finds itself under duboius ownership or licenses as well online today…. 3DS—- own by autodesk…. X3D- open free standard…… Any SL object—–owned in its digital code by Linden labs….

    we all saw the GIF. JPEG PNG issues of format ownership not too long ago..

    that was an open WWW wide issue.

    seems thats a better thing to talk about….

    Imagine if the graphic format used by AOL rainman, was the issue of these blogs….. would today seem quite silly….

    Again, seems that very few things need “cyberlaw”…;)
    just proper understanding of media law.

    if new medias threaten old business models that were based on “sided” media law, well thats fair enough… let the various interests duke it out….and gravity will do the rest:)


  6. on 31 Aug 2007 at 7:53 pmNobody Fugazi /Taran Rampersad

    @ c3 (5): “the concept of “owning” anything in them is just not gonna happen.”

    Well, you can own copyright in SL, as an example. In that regard, Linden Lab acts as a publisher of content based on their own ToS – specifically the right to use the content creators have inworld at their discretion. That kind of smells like a contract of adhesion there, but what do I know? :-)

  7. on 05 Sep 2007 at 3:40 pmc3

    certainly does…..

    and ripe for lawyers business:)

  8. on 05 Sep 2007 at 3:51 pmc3

    by “owning” in that reference i simply meant the difference of license and ownership common in software….

    in affect my placing of my ip within SL offers them a “limited license” to use under the terms of there TOS….

    but a “consumer” of these digital goods( which is who most of the metablogs are talking too) is assuming many ownership rights that not only a company like linden, but even a content owner like myself( every model i sell in SL has an attached notecard personal usage/no resale simple license attached) is not offering.

    as a creator of bits/bytes and IP content, as well as some products of plastic, none of my virtual characters or gadgets designed will have any rights to sue me any time soon i would think.. bill of imaginary rights or not.:)

    that type of law is left for star trek episodes to ponder.

    c. 2001

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