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Games Your Rights Online

Is Online Property Real? Lawyer Says Sort-Of 128

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the i-paid-10-btc-for-this-dire-wolf dept.
Bob the Super Hamste writes "The St. Paul Pioneer Press is reporting on an analysis by lawyer Justin Kwong in the William Mitchell Law Review about virtual property and ownership. Justin Kwong asserts that virtual items are not real items (PDF) and that you do not own them but only have a license. The analysis stems from a 2008 case of a Blaine, MN man who filed a police report for the online theft of approximately $3800 of virtual goods. Justin Kwong compares virtual items to a mug club at a bar where patrons purchase rights to a specific numbered mug but cannot remove the mug from the premises. He does note that if in game items are purchased there needs to be clear language stating: 'the transaction is a license, not a sale, and that traditional consumer protections afforded by sales of goods do not necessarily apply.'" Justin Kwong also made a weblog entry responding to misconceptions expressed in comments on the St. Paul Pioneer Press article.
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Is Online Property Real? Lawyer Says Sort-Of

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  • As long as someone finds value in the item and is will to either pay for it or labor for it then it has an intrinsic value so it is a real entity. Be it one you can not yet physically hold.
    • According to the example given, I'd also have to conclude that land is not real property either. After all, I cannot just take my land and put it elsewhere.

      • Re:Of Course! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Lumpy (12016) on Monday October 24, 2011 @10:36AM (#37817512) Homepage

        Actually you are correct. Because Land is actually not owned by you but by your government. your DEED is not to the land but a use of that land.

        Your local city/county/state/country holds true ownership of your land.

        • by snowgirl (978879)

          Actually you are correct. Because Land is actually not owned by you but by your government. your DEED is not to the land but a use of that land.

          Your local city/county/state/country holds true ownership of your land.

          As with all hard questions, the answer is actually "it depends".

          • Your local city/county/state/country holds true ownership of your land.

            As with all hard questions, the answer is actually "it depends".

            Depends on what? Unless you are one of the rare owners of an alloidal title [wikipedia.org], which basically doesn't exist in most countries today, your land is ultimately owned by the government, who can confiscate it or restrict its use for a variety of reasons (nonpayment of taxes, etc.).

            The vast majority of land in common law countries (like the U.S.) only allows deeds to be granted in fee simple [wikipedia.org], essentially the way that lower nobility were generally subject to their feudal lords in days gone by. If the lord wants

            • by snowgirl (978879)

              Your local city/county/state/country holds true ownership of your land.

              As with all hard questions, the answer is actually "it depends".

              Depends on what? Unless you are one of the rare owners of an alloidal title [wikipedia.org], which basically doesn't exist in most countries today, your land is ultimately owned by the government, who can confiscate it or restrict its use for a variety of reasons (nonpayment of taxes, etc.).

              The vast majority of land in common law countries (like the U.S.) only allows deeds to be granted in fee simple [wikipedia.org], essentially the way that lower nobility were generally subject to their feudal lords in days gone by. If the lord wants use of your manor, or wants you to pay him taxes or whatever each year, you have to do it, or he takes your land away.

              There are some limited alloidal concepts in Texas and Nevada within the U.S., but they are still ultimately subject to the whims of the federal government regarding eminent domain, etc.

              So... your argument for "you don't really own your property" is that the government can confiscate it? Good goat, no one owns anything then. zOMG, I'M NOT EVEN REALLY ALIVE, because at any time the government could condemn me to death! This notion that property ownership has to be complete and unencumbered in order to be "real" ownership is a matter of almost "no true Scotsman" fallacy.

              Allodial titles on the Shetland islands could be seized by the UK government if the UK government so chose to do so. What a

              • So... your argument for "you don't really own your property" is that the government can confiscate it? Good goat, no one owns anything then.

                No, my argument is that one doesn't really own property when one is required to satisfy conditions to continue "owning" it. I'm not talking about eminent domain here (though I referenced it at the end of my post regarding the ultimate powers of the government) -- I'm talking about the fact that unless you have an alloidal title, you are subject to the whims of the government to require you to do various things each year or month or whatever or else they will take it away from you.

                Powers of eminent domain

                • Your argument stinks.

                  Let's assume for a second that, if you don't pay property taxes, the government doesn't do anything.

                  Do you not "own" your land because, if you go bankrupt, you can lose land to satisfy your debts?

                  Do you not "own" your land because it's collateral to a mortgage?

                  Nevermind that, in most places in the US, the government will NOT take your land due to non-payment of taxes. What they will do is put a LIEN on your land, which basically means you can't sell it until the back taxes are paid.

                  The

      • by Kjella (173770)

        According to the example given, I'd also have to conclude that land is not real property either. After all, I cannot just take my land and put it elsewhere.

        The point is that the mugs only exist as long as the bar exists, the moment World of Warcraft shuts down all your "virtual property" will cease to exist but your land will not. One of the essential points of a sale as opposed to a license or service or subscription is that the item is permanently transferred into your possession and if the seller should disappear in a puff of smoke immediately afterwards, you still have your item. That is clearly impossible with "virtual property", so how can you really sel

        • When de watah rises mon- ye land in the islands will be gone too.

        • What about your money? In principle the government could at any time declare that the bank notes you carry in your bag are no longer money (if you think this is a purely theoretical issue: The Russian government at one time did exactly this with the 100 rouble note in order to fight inflation). Yes, the physical item would still be in your pocket, but it would not be money any more, just a worthless piece of paper (except possibly for collector's value). So do you own that money?

          • by Kjella (173770)

            What about your money? In principle the government could at any time declare that the bank notes you carry in your bag are no longer money (...) So do you own that money?

            The distinction between virtual and physical is rather pointless since the government can also say your land is no longer your land, we just nationalized it. It's not against the law if the government just changed it...

        • If you lose your WoW stuff, can't you send in a cute blonde who is an aspiring actress to kick people in the nuts? What do you mean you don't have one of those?
        • by AK Marc (707885)
          My land exists as long as the government agrees to use force to protect it. The moment that stops, then there's no reason someone wouldn't walk onto my land, claim it, and harm me if I objected. That's what happens in warlord countries. You can claim ownership all you want, but you do so from a refugee camp and would be shot if you set foot on your land. All you "own" is a piece of paper held by the govenment stating that, in the case of conflict, they'll likely take your side in the argument. You don'
      • by bkaul01 (619795)

        According to the example given, I'd also have to conclude that land is not real property either. After all, I cannot just take my land and put it elsewhere.

        Legally speaking, that's exactly what makes it "real" property: it can't be picked up and moved. Anything you own that can be picked up and moved is "personal" property. They're taxed separately (real estate taxes vs personal property taxes), and many jurisdictions only tax one or the other but not both.

        • by lgw (121541)

          Most of my property is intangible anyway. I own stock, but I of course don't have the certificates - in fact, they're not even in my name, but in the street name of the broker.

          The important distinction between "intangible" and "virtual" property is that I can transfer my stock to another broker, but I can't transfer my virtual gear to another game.

      • by PPH (736903)

        And when the state decides to build a freeway across it, you are subject to a kind of rights revocation.

        You can buy a box of pencils and sell them on the street corner one by one. But you can't divide your land up into smaller parcels and sell them off without the permission of the local authorities.

        • by JazzLad (935151)

          You can buy a box of pencils and sell them on the street corner one by one.

          Not without a permit.

        • I've seen many multipack foods with 'not for individual resale' labels on. What is the legal value of that? Could it actually be enforced?
          • I think that's more about the relationship between retailers and manufacturers. For example to make sure that retailers have to negotiate a purchasing agreement from distributors, and aren't lust buying the bulk boxes of candy bars from Costco. I think the only government involvement is in mandating that packaged food be labeled with the appropriate nutritional information, and of course the license to actually function as a food vendor.
            • But what is to stop them from buying the bulk boxes? All they have to do is not enter into any contract with the manufacturer.
          • The issue here is food labeling. By law when you sell a package of food it must have all of the nutritional data on it. In the bulk items you are citing the nutritional data is on the bulk package - not the individual packages. That’s the issue.

            • And I can't think of any other reason the manufacturers would use different labels for individual and multipack items. Hmm. Sneaky!
          • by AK Marc (707885)
            In some places it can be enforced, in others it can not. It mostly depends on the labeling of the items and the labeling regulations in the location sold.
    • by MarkvW (1037596)

      So I'm playing an FPS and I have an average sniper rifle. I then (virtually) knife my teammate and take his above-average sniper rifle.

      Have I just stolen from my teammate? Should our tax money be spent to fund my prosecution for a crime? Should our tax money be spent to enable his lawsuit against me? What remedies do my "property rights" afford me in the law?

      Property isn't really property without an enforcement right connected to it.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        I think you're just trying to be difficult because you can steal the ball on the football field and you can steal the ball outside the football field and nobody would get very confused about what's what. Likewise I doubt anyone would get confused about what is part of a computer game and not.

        • by Zironic (1112127)

          The tricky part tends to be whether Fraud is part of the game or not.

        • by MarkvW (1037596)

          Of course I'm trying to be difficult. The problem is difficult.

          You raised the issue. Now tell me how you would define what is part of a computer game and what is not?

          • Re:Of Course! (Score:4, Informative)

            by Kjella (173770) on Monday October 24, 2011 @11:38AM (#37818740) Homepage

            The same way you do in a real world sport, every game would have its own boundaries based on the rules, normal behavior and context. If you enter a boxing tournament there's different rules from a football or golf tournament. Obviously if burglary or being a pickpocket is part of the game, then stealing your shit is fair game. Hacking your account is clearly not part of the game and illegal. Fraud, well there is no crystal clear line of fraud but there isn't one in the real world either. And yet the world managed to work it out fine before the Internet.

          • by jythie (914043)
            I think it really comes down to the mechanics of the game. If someone gets your property via a valid game mechanic then it is now their property. If they get it through some other means then it is theft. In a way you could probably model games as a contract, as long as everyone is playing within the rules of the contract property changes owners according to the rules set forth and there is no case. Violate the contract inorder to obtain property and you have a problem.
            • by MarkvW (1037596)

              I agree. Contracts are key to the definition of property rights in a virtual world.

              Assume that a virtual world contract imposed a duty of honesty and fair dealing among the virtual world's occupants. Assume that virtual items can be purchased with real money. Then, lets assume that somebody cheats.

              Are we going to devote our tax dollars to litigation over a disupte over whether a person wrongfully put a spell on another player's avatar, thereby causing that other player damage?

              • by jythie (914043)
                Are we going to devote our tax dollars to litigation over a disupte over whether a person wrongfully put a spell on another player's avatar, thereby causing that other player damage?

                Probably not. Police and prosecutors already ignore a lot of petty crime. Just look at the slashdot read example of email hacking. Unless you are someone important, they will probably just take a statement and then not bother looking into it. Same thing with small scale thefts. Even having your car stolen (happened to me
                • by MarkvW (1037596)

                  Not just prosecutors, though. It's about whether we are going to spend our tax money to support civil litigation.

                  In other words can the virtual victim sue the virtual thief for real damages that can be enforced by real sheriffs in the real world. All that stuff costs money too.

                • by AK Marc (707885)
                  Yeah, stolen cars are recovered only after someone else calls in and reports them crashed or illegally parked. There is no investigation into stolen cars anymore. The police can't seize them, so they'll stick to drug crimes so the police can steal (seize) cool cars and throw them in impound (and maybe drive them occasionally). Yes, we really have come to the point where privately funded police, funded from the fines extracted and seizures made would be cheaper and better for us than the government doing
              • by Talderas (1212466)

                Yes.

                Only because it would be a humorous mockery of our already mockable legal system.

        • by grumbel (592662)

          You make it sound easy, but the line can get blurry the more complex the game gets. Take Eve Online, people have been running pyramid schemes and other frauds in that game. Is such a fraud real or just part of the game? Even in sport the line can get blurry, as not every foul, is just a foul, sometimes it might be a case of battery if it gets to extreme to be considered part of the game.

          In most cases you will of course have a clear distinction about what is part of the game and what is not, like stealing th

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        You are playing "boxing" and someone hits you. Are you going to prosecute them for assault? How about a cross-check in hockey? Tripping in soccer? A punch under the hoop in a basketball game?

        There is a lot of case-law out there differentiating between "game" and "not-game." Your ignorance of the issues that are already clear to the courts (aside from the "on a computer" part) doesn't make it difficult or confusing.

        Bonus points if someone can remember the name of the NBA player who had criminal charge
  • And the winner is - the lawyers

    • It strikes me that "property" in the legal sense is as much a fiction as "intellectual property" - over time, and in different cultures, we have established complex legal concepts of "ownership", whereby the legal right of "ownership" amounts to a web of in personam rights, particularly the right to exclude.

      I may hold a copy of a book in my hand, but, absent a legal construct of property, I have no clear right that means that you cannot take it away from me. Equally, there is no obligation on me to give i

      • The difference between real property (objects) and intellectual "property" (information) is that physical objects cannot be used by arbitrary people at the same time. Therefore it is of vital importance to have rules telling who has the right to use which object at which time. The concept of property is one, very successful, way to do this. However, intellectual "property" does not share this characteristic. There's nothing stopping some person in China to listen to the very same song you currently listen t

        • The difference between real property (objects) and intellectual "property" (information) is that physical objects cannot be used by arbitrary people at the same time.

          I'm leasing space on a web server. This server is used by over 1,000 people at once, and at any one time, it's serving pages from several different customer's sites to several viewers. So is a server not property?

          • Actually the property (a CPU core) is only being used by one person at a time, it just cycles very rapidly between them.

            Same for memory or disk space: each sector can only be used by one person at a time.

            • Actually the property (a CPU core) is only being used by one person at a time, it just cycles very rapidly between them.

              Hyperthreading.

              Same for memory or disk space: each sector can only be used by one person at a time.

              The compcache [google.com] project aims to compress disk cache and swap files, as a modern-day spiritual successor to Connectix's RAM Doubler: "With compcache at hypervisor level, we can compress any part of guest memory transparently - this is true for any type of Guest OS (Linux, Windows etc.). This should allow running more number of VMs for given amount of total host memory." If data from multiple hosting accounts gets compressed into the same sector, then multiple people are using that sector.

              Or t

              • Yeah, parent's definition is probably bollocks.

                But are people actually using the disc, or just a copy of the information it holds?

              • by BitZtream (692029)

                Hyperthreading is not truely multithreading. There is still one execution core, Hyperthreading basically gives it too execution pipelines so one can fill its cache and load data while the other is executing, and then switch to the other. Its just an optimization to deal with some shitty performance of the massively oversized pipeline that intel created.

            • by bondsbw (888959)

              the property (a CPU core)

              Incorrect. The server as a complete unit (multiple processors, motherboard, disks, memory, power supply, etc.) is the property. At any moment, 1000 processes are being held in memory and/or paged to disk, and a few processes are being served by different cores. Given that each process is designated to a single user, 1000 arbitrary people are essentially using the same physical property at the same time.

              • by AK Marc (707885)
                Then a bus isn't property either. Or an airplane. Or a boat. Or your mother. In those cases, any number of people can be riding it at the same time.
        • The property concept ... The intellectual property concept ... the concepts are not the same just because both are legal constructs

          The rationale for property is, as you say, different to the rationale for the extension of property rights to different intellectual things - such as copyright - but there is no meaningful difference in the law of personalty between the ownership of a book, and the ownership of copyright, since both are property rights at law. They are the one and same thing. (The non-meani

        • The difference between real property (objects) and intellectual "property" (information) is that physical objects cannot be used by arbitrary people at the same time. Therefore it is of vital importance to have rules telling who has the right to use which object at which time. The concept of property is one, very successful, way to do this. However, intellectual "property" does not share this characteristic. There's nothing stopping some person in China to listen to the very same song you currently listen to at the very same time. Nor is there something stopping some African to use the very same idea to make things as you do. That is, unlike physical objects, information has no intrinsic restrictions on use which need to be regulated.

          Sorry, but that's not so clear. That's true for a song or idea, but there is in fact a limited number of certain "digital artifacts."

          Items in an MMORPG are a clear example: I can copy the bits that make up the representation of a certain object (let's say a sword), but that's not the actual object; it's akin to taking a photography of something.
          In reality, short of hacking the server (which is illegal by itself, for obvious reasons), there's no way that I can use someone's "digital sword" without depriving

          • by tepples (727027)

            Items in an MMORPG are a clear example: I can copy the bits that make up the representation of a certain object (let's say a sword), but that's not the actual object; it's akin to taking a photography of something.

            So the valuable part is not the description of the object itself but instead the service of inserting the description of the object into the game's simulated world.

            • Well, that, and preventing others from obtaining similar objects without paying. After all, they're often status symbols and who'd pay for a status symbol if everyone else could have them?

    • That's the reason for "sort of". When the answer is cut and dried there's no need for lawyers.

  • So does getting killed and looted now count as online robbery?

    • Re:Getting looted (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday October 24, 2011 @10:29AM (#37817358)
      Participating in an online came could be taken as an agreement to abide by the rules of that game, including those governing means of taking one's property. In which case it could only be counted as robbery by any stretch if a person used means outside of the game rules - ie, cheating. Plenty of ways to do that, from credential-theft to DoSing the opposing players in PvP. Fraud perhaps as well, but only if it takes place outside of the accepted rules of the game - there are some games (EVE is famous for it) where dodgy dealing is part of the appeal, and in-character con artist considered a perfectly legitimate career choice and endorsed by the game operators.
    • by Dyinobal (1427207)

      Most modern MMOs don't allow for that sort of thing. The only ones I can think of off the top of my head are Darkfall and Eve Online.

      Most modern MMOs don't really punish the loser when it comes to pvp except maybe by a run back to where your body died. The no consequences pvp seems to be really popular with a majority of online gamers which shouldn't really be all that surprising. Though I find the risk of actually losing my items, experience or what not adds to the rush of Pvp. Not everyone feels that way

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        I've played with the evil people who would group for a quest, then lure you out to a ganking spot to be killed and looted. It isn't fun. Most people would get mad when it happens to them and quit the game. So most modern wide-appeal games prevent such actions. They want to limit actions that cause players to quit out of disgust.
    • I'd say it depends on whether it's part of the intended gameplay.

      As an analogy, if you shoot at me with a paintball gun on the street, I can demand compensation for my clothes you damaged with your colour. If you do the same during a paintball game I take part in, I can't -- after all, if I didn't want those clothes coloured, I shouldn't have worn them at the paintball game.

      IANAL however.

      • by vlm (69642)

        I'd say it depends on whether it's part of the intended gameplay.

        As an analogy, if you shoot at me with a paintball gun on the street, I can demand compensation for my clothes you damaged with your colour. If you do the same during a paintball game I take part in, I can't -- after all, if I didn't want those clothes coloured, I shouldn't have worn them at the paintball game.

        IANAL however.

        Stealing a base in baseball has an obvious monetary value... should not be too hard to figure out on a league average basis how much a players annual salary changes both for stealing a base and for being a good base-man and pitcher and not getting a base stolen.

        Another great example is intercepting a pass in american football (or I suppose, in real football)

        If I shoot you with a paintball gun to distract you while you're trying to steal a base, is that a criminal matter, or a civil matter, or a gameplay mat

        • I'd say it depends on whether it's part of the intended gameplay.

          As an analogy, if you shoot at me with a paintball gun on the street, I can demand compensation for my clothes you damaged with your colour. If you do the same during a paintball game I take part in, I can't -- after all, if I didn't want those clothes coloured, I shouldn't have worn them at the paintball game.

          IANAL however.

          Stealing a base in baseball has an obvious monetary value... should not be too hard to figure out on a league average basis how much a players annual salary changes both for stealing a base and for being a good base-man and pitcher and not getting a base stolen.

          Another great example is intercepting a pass in american football (or I suppose, in real football)

          If I shoot you with a paintball gun to distract you while you're trying to steal a base, is that a criminal matter, or a civil matter, or a gameplay matter?

          It's IMHO definitely not just a gameplay matter because the baseball rules don't include paintball guns (however there may be gameplay matters involved as in what effect it has on the scoring of the game, or if the game is considered valid in that case) and being shot with a paintball gun has effects on me and my clothes beyond those to be expected when playing baseball. Whether it's a civil or a criminal matter, I don't know, I'd guess civil.

          • "It's IMHO definitely not just a gameplay matter because the baseball rules don't include paintball guns"

            No, but I think you are on to an idea there.
        • Re:Getting looted (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Kjella (173770) on Monday October 24, 2011 @11:24AM (#37818508) Homepage

          If I shoot you with a paintball gun to distract you while you're trying to steal a base, is that a criminal matter, or a civil matter, or a gameplay matter?

          Why would those be mutually exclusive? If I break your leg in a way totally unrelated to the game I'd expect criminal assault charges, a civil tort and an immediate expulsion from the game.

        • Stealing a base in baseball has an obvious monetary value... should not be too hard to figure out on a league average basis how much a players annual salary changes both for stealing a base and for being a good base-man and pitcher and not getting a base stolen.

          I don't really think stealing a base is a good example here, as you're not actually taking the base with you. Nor does Team A having a player on the base stop Team B's outfielders from their use of the base.

          If I shoot you with a paintball gun to distract you while you're trying to steal a base, is that a criminal matter, or a civil matter, or a gameplay matter?

          I'd imagine this really depends on what level you're playing the sport as. If it's just a couple of people playing a pick up game of baseball and one of the players decides to bring his paintball gun and shoot another team's player while he's stealing a base (or even just do anything that's not outside u

        • by AK Marc (707885)

          If I shoot you with a paintball gun to distract you while you're trying to steal a base, is that a criminal matter, or a civil matter, or a gameplay matter?

          If it is a fan doing the shooting, it's a different matter than if it's a player shooting. I'd expect a fan to be charged with assault. I'd expect a player to be ejected and the play re-winded in a manner disadvantageous to the team with the shooting player on it. Criminal charges could be levied as well, though are less likely (given the obvious assaults that are regularly ignored in sports, like headbutts in soccer).

  • by krygny (473134) on Monday October 24, 2011 @10:33AM (#37817448)

    All the money I have in the bank and my 401K ... is ... well, ... "virtual".

    • by Dyinobal (1427207)
      Big monies free citizen reeducation agents will be to your house shortly to address this erroneous belief of yours. Please wait quietly and do not attempt to flee.
    • by rubycodez (864176)
      That really isn't money, just debt notes. History proves the value of such things can drop to zero in a short period of time. We stopped using real money, because the banking cartel parasites seduced the government into that situation over a period of half a century.
      • To all of you "bank notes aren't real money" people, I have a question: What do you consider to be "real" money? Gold? Diamonds? Platinum? Carbon credits? Bitcoin? The value of those things can change suddenly, too. Any form of currency is only worth what people agree that it is worth.

        If I have a bunch of friends that I can trade Monopoly money with for other goods, then Monopoly money is real enough among us. There are modern on-line communities that use barter, or other non-cash value exchange. I'd consid

        • To me, if I can take it to a grocery store, gas station, or a computer shop and exchange it for their product, it's money. For better or worse, that includes that dirty green paper with dead presidents, credit cards, and possibly checks (though I know of places that don't accept those), and excludes gold and bitcoin.

          • by rubycodez (864176)
            When you wake up one morning and it takes a wheelbarrow full of the "dirty green paper" to buy a loaf of bread, will you still be happy with it? This has happened in history to other countries on the same trajectory we are currently pursuing. Paper notes backed with something of value is real money, we used to have that.
            • by AK Marc (707885)

              Paper notes backed with something of value is real money, we used to have that.

              No place on the planet has that. You need to invent a time machine if you want paper backed by gold. It failed, get over it. The absolute hard limit to the currency possible made "profit" a zero sum game, causing massive economic problems. With "unlimited" money (backed by nothing), all those problems are gone, hence why every currency in the world is handled in that manner.

        • by rubycodez (864176)
          Paper and electronic money is fine, if backed with something of value. We used to have that. The value of the "money" we have now can plummet in value to near zero overnight.
    • You should really consider moving some of your retirement money out of Bit Coins.

      The gains are impressive, but I'm not sure how liquid they'll be in the future.

  • by esocid (946821) on Monday October 24, 2011 @10:35AM (#37817488) Journal
    If you lose a virtual item to "virtual theft" you appeal to the people running that game, not the police. There are no virtual police, and likewise, the virtual police can not come into the real world and arrest people for trolling.
    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      Quite right, it's just abstract numbers in a database with no real intrinsic value, and you can't "steal" an intangible that only ever existed in the imagination. Just like with bank accounts, right?
  • So since there ISN'T that language, the items really are sold?
  • Those games? Those are imaginary. Even this comment is imaginary.

    Property isn't just a concept, after all...

    • And you know that number in your bank account and those bills in your wallet that are only made valuable because everyone believes that they are, they are also imaginary and just a concept.

      • You're mistaken. Those things exist. Therefore, they can be property. However, data cannot exist. It's all just an illusion!

        • The bills exist but the value that they represent is imaginary and changes all the time.
          The number in your bank account does not point to anything specific, you could say that is a promise from them to give you back some number of bills (but it does not point to anything specific and solid, AKA it is data) and the value of these bills will have changed from the time you put them in and took them out.

          AKA they do not exist is a real physical, property sort of sense.

  • Virtual != Real

    If you believe that virtual "property" has any real monetary value, you probably believe that the $70+ trillion in derivatives that are floating around the financial system -- larger than the real GDP of the entire planet -- have real value, too.

    Of course, the bankers/gamblers will argue that they do but they have just a little bit of a conflict of interest in the matter. One would suspect that having an eight-figure bonus that depends on their having real value is the most important thin

  • Justin Kwong compares virtual items to a mug club at a bar where patrons purchase rights to a specific numbered mug but cannot remove the mug from the premises. He does note that if in game items are purchased there needs to be clear language stating: 'the transaction is a license, not a sale, and that traditional consumer protections afforded by sales of goods do not necessarily apply.'

    Don't forget that neither you or another bar are allowed to put that number on a glass in a different establishment, even if you own the glass and/or the bar, because you're violating copyright and/or DRM by re-using that magic number.

    /snark

    • Am I the only person who never heard of a "Mug Club"?

      Is it a way to have more drinks at once or something?

  • Ok so virtual properties are not real, that's the very definition of virtual. This has two implications. One, it means that when the company disappears so does your property. Two, it means that if you are the victim of robbery, you end up asking the police to help you get your pretend money back.

    In both instances, the game company is the key factor in the reality of your property. In the former case, virtual robbery, it is the game company which has a stand to sue the thief, since the thief basically commit

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday October 24, 2011 @01:09PM (#37820208) Homepage

    It's technically feasible to have a virtual world with property owned by the users. But it's not as profitable.

    No one has yet built a distributed virtual world on the scale of Second Life. I'm surprised this hasn't been done in some place like Singapore, where there are a lot of high-bandwidth end users. Conceptually, you could have a system where a DNS-like service handles "land allocation", so that activity relative to some area is sent to the owner of that area of land. Each landowner then runs the server for their area.

    Movable objects, including avatars, would be digitally signed by their owners. They could be made unique but transferable, if desired, by using something like the Bitcoin block chain, which catches attempts to "double spend". (Bitcoin is an failed financial system but a useful technology.)

    Technically, this could work, but it's not easily monetized. And, technically, a virtual world will work better if all the servers have really high bandwidth server farm backbone connections between them. Distributed, it's going to suffer from lag.

  • Given the "realm" of SecondLife if i "owned" a set of 9 regions (and various buildings and items on said island)
    WITHIN THE SL GRID CONTEXT i own everything on those regions (unless they are owned by someone else) and can eject anything and anyone that is on those regions without my permission. Now if i find out that somebody is running some sort of scam on my regions (or making/selling porn) then i AM REQUIRED BY REAL WORLD LAW to eject that person.

    Most of the time the Real World Authorities DO NOT CARE wh

  • The interpretation of virtual goods not being subject to property law is dangerous as more information is moved to the cloud. It implies that you have no recourse, should somebody steal that information. It implies that the media you "buy" online can have it's lease revoked at any time, without recourse.

    I could care less about people who spend real money on in-game items. It's a game. Your priorities are screwed up.

  • What about the IRS? if in game has monetary value then you may have to pay tax even if it's 100% in game and you don't cash out.

    • I would expect that would be more or less like the stock market. You don't get hit with capital gains until and unless you cash out.

      Come to think of it, stocks were an early form of "virtual property". Money, of course, is the original form.

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