Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Virtual Law?

This one is a serious, if not actually hard hat, post that even serious, political type guy, bloggers ought to be able to comment on without embarrassment. Go on boys you know you want to.

Scientific American published an article about Second life in their July issue. Well, to be entirely honest it was not just about SL, it touched on World of Warcraft also.

It was suggesting that maybe real life laws ought to be applied to Second life and similar virtual worlds.

They mentioned an instance where a Chinese guy loaned a virtual sword to someone's avie who promptly sold it for $800. The guy tried to report it in Real Life to the police but they felt unable to deal with it. So he killed the guy instead. In RL that is.

They (Scientific American) quote “If somebody is going to die, and somebody else is going to spend the rest of his life in jail for a virtual crime, then we better take it seriously,”

Excuse me! No way is RL murder a virtual crime. People can even get murdered because other (frankly nutty) people think they looked at them funny. Crazy is crazy. That is a real life crime.

I don't know World of Warcraft but I wonder if the lending of a sword would not be outside the rules of the game. Maybe if it was, a RL contact he needed to have it written down and witnessed/notarised with penalties, surety. Maybe he could have sued the guy then? Or kept the surety.

I guess he must have had some serious gullibility, anger management issues and maybe rationality issues also. The place to have done the killing should have been the virtual world. “Kill” the thief there and take his goods where it is part of the game.

Now it seems to me that a “crime” in, say SL, is not necessarily a crime at all unless it is against the rules. If there are laws in SL or any other virtual world then don't they need to be in-world laws? Not imposed by national courts?

For a start what nation's laws would it be? Where the servers were? Where the players were? And if the players are in several different countries what then?

All this talk of laws is quite relevant just now, as your intrepid feisty reporter, can reveal. The virtual space trading "world" (universe?) Eve has a real crisis just now.

One of the biggest banks in that virtual world just had a run on it. That was caused by one of it's financial controllers embezzling 200 billion Kredits (the in-world currency), converting them into RL £3,115.00 and running for the outback (he is Australian).

The theft happened in June. Eve is based in Iceland.

I figure you do need rules. And for rules read laws. And there should be sanctions against those that break them. You don't need many of them. But there are financial transactions within worlds such as SL and you need some sort of regulation/security.

I do think that RL courts and legislators should keep their hands off/out of the virtual worlds. If laws/rules are needed they should be in-world, and dare I say it as few and as simple as possible.


Tom Paine said...

For legal purposes, there's nothing virtual about these worlds. Real life laws apply. People have sued over intellectual property rights. People have been prosecuted. People are liable for taxes on their earnings. Nothing about SL or WoW presents any significant problem to a sophisticated legal system. As for which court has jurisdiction, there are established rules for that too. That these are "virtual worlds" is a fiction. These are real people, with legal rights and obligations, interacting electronically. No biggie.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

What can I say after Tom's learned words? It seems to me some RL rules / laws must apply because real people are using SL and, like all information technology, it can be used for good and evil purposes.

jmb said...

Luckily for me and maybe Welshcakes too, TP weighed in with the answer so we were saved from putting our feet in our mouths Moggs.

Still it was good that you raised the question and we need wonder/worry about no more.

One thought as to your suggestion for a RL contract, perhaps it would have been better for the lender to sell the sword temporarily to the lendee, inworld, on the understanding that he would purchase it back. But who knows, sometimes you cannot prevent people scamming each other.

My understanding is that in WoW, people spend time earning these swords and then sell them to others who are not prepared to spend the time. And they do go for very big money on eBay. We must be all daft.

Scriptor Senex said...

Well done Tom Paine. And you for raising the issue. But surely it simply boils down to the fact that there are nutters (and I use that non PC expression so we all know what sort of person I am referring to!) and villains (is that PC?) everywhere so they were bound to invade the virtual world and, sadly, have it spill over into the real world.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Tom, Thanks. I do get that one can sue over intellectual property rights and earnings they have to be turned into currency in some national territory somewhere and the person owning them will be a citizen somewhere, so no problem there either. There may be rules about who's jurisdiction it is too.

But there are lots of things in sl that people might want to call crimes that are not within sl though they might be in some places in rl. If they are entirely in-world then I can't help feeling their "legality" should rest on the rules of the game or on locally in-world agreed rules, not on the laws of some random country.

In the case of sl I figure if any laws apply it would probably be those of the state of California?

Welshcakes/JMB. Yes I get his points but I still think that is not the whole story. Tho I expect Tom may be able to tell me otherwise?

I would like to see sl be able to stay as free as possible from any national legislation.

JMB I totally agree about it being good sense to have temporarily sold it, but some people are not safe to be let out.

I heard that there is so much currency swapping between rl and virtual worlds the Chinese Government is trying to cut it back.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Scriptor, Ty I so totally agree there are nuts out there. How could it be non PC when you are typing on a PC ^_^ and talking about Virtual worlds?

I think there are always those who would rip us off, or con us, or steal. We need to look sharp, not try to take advantage of others, and keep in mind if it looks too good to be true then maybe it is.

okrebecca said...

is it illegal to say there's more than a few SLers i'd love to chop into tiny pieces IRL?

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

OKRebecca, Tom could probably answer that better, but I guess as long as it's not threats they take seriously or a conspiracy you can get away with it ^_^

Safer to do it in sl...