Who governs MMO worlds? Players and companies should

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“Governance” is a term people are more likely to run into in political science. It may slowly leak into MMO gaming quite soon, if the recent State of Play/Terra Nova symposium at New York Law School is any indicator. As CNET reports, the symposium plays host to a gathering of experts who lectured on the law’s reach into virtual worlds.

And with a lot of talk on taxing virtual gaming/real world transactions, virtual IP ripoffs, and scams, it’s not a laughing matter either. The entire CopyBot episode had a lot of people wanting to invoke the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, for starters.

No matter how much game publishers may say otherwise, the law of the land extends to the virtual world (usually via corporate HQ), many of these experts agree. Says Greg Lastowaka of the Rutgers School of Law, “The law doesn’t treat virtual worlds as any different…the state is not going to accept” virtual worlds being treated as autonomous regions.

Read the Full Article after the jump.

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“Governance” is a term people are more likely to run into in political science. It may slowly leak into MMO gaming quite soon, if the recent State of Play/Terra Nova symposium at New York Law School is any indicator. As CNET reports, the symposium plays host to a gathering of experts who lectured on the law’s reach into virtual worlds.

And with a lot of talk on taxing virtual gaming/real world transactions, virtual IP ripoffs, and scams, it’s not a laughing matter either. The entire CopyBot episode had a lot of people wanting to invoke the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, for starters.

No matter how much game publishers may say otherwise, the law of the land extends to the virtual world (usually via corporate HQ), many of these experts agree. Says Greg Lastowaka of the Rutgers School of Law, “The law doesn’t treat virtual worlds as any different…the state is not going to accept” virtual worlds being treated as autonomous regions.

But because the law covers the virtual as well as the real doesn’t mean that players can easily invoke the law when it comes to their common complaints: scams in World of Warcraft, CopyBot in Second Life, and so on. Says John Fairfield of the Indiana School of Law, contract law does not, repeat, does not cover the interactions among players. You can’t exactly sue someone for defrauding you of a million gold pieces for The Sword of a Thousand Lies, or a fellow Second Lifer for CopyBoting your hot new product.

The one simple, elegant solution to the problem of players going out of control, proposed by all the panelists: Self-governance. Self-policing. The view is that because of the difficulties in applying law (as it is right now) to the virtual worlds of MMOs, governance and “the law” within those worlds will be more like those in a private sports club. It’s something for the players and game developers/publishers themselves to discuss and implement on their own terms, outside of the courtrooms and the legislative chambers.

Somehow, we could imagine a host of vigilante Blood Elves riding WoW scammers into the wilderness… if not impaling them to virtual death outright, but that’s the result of extending the “good governance” logic a bit too much.

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