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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Can the Rule of Law Exist in Virtual Worlds?

I'm heading to Washington, D.C. in a few minutes, and will likely have little time to blog over the next three days. I thought I would fill the void with some shameless self-promotion about an article I recently published examining the rule of law in virtual worlds.

The abstract is below, and the article is here.

This article, which follows a presentation at the West Virginia Law Review Digital Entrepreneurship Symposium, is the first to consider whether virtual worlds provide a rule of law that sets expectations for virtual business. Many consider the rule of law a catalyst for economic development, and there is reason to believe that it will be equally important in virtual economies, despite differences from the real world. As more people turn to virtual worlds to earn a livelihood, the rule of law will become prominent in encouraging investments in virtual business. The article finds – unsurprisingly – that virtual worlds now lack many of the elements of the rule of law. Which aspects fail is more surprising, however. Provider agreements and computer software, the sources of regulation that are most often criticized as “anti-user,” provide the best theoretical hope for achieving the rule of law, even if they currently fail in practice. On the contrary, widely proposed “reforms,” such as community norms, self-regulation, and importation of real-world law face both theoretical and practical barriers to implementation of the rule of law in virtual worlds. Part I of the article describes virtual worlds and their connection to business. Part II defines a framework to measure the rule of law in virtual worlds. Part III discusses the various types of regulation in virtual worlds, and Part IV critically analyzes how these regulations measure up against rule of law requirements. The article concludes with some suggestions about how providers might enhance legal rule in virtual worlds.

Posted by Michael Risch on November 5, 2009 at 08:44 AM in Legal Theory | Permalink


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