CIS Fellow Julian Dibbell

Julian Dibbell will discuss real-world legal issues rooted in virtual-world
economies. In the last five years, virtual worlds like the massively
multiplayer role-playing games EverQuest and Ultima Online have become
sources of genuine wealth for their inhabitants. Scarce in-game items and
well-developed player accounts sell on eBay for hundreds of dollars, with
assets accruing to players at a rate that dwarfs the GNP per capita of major
economies like India's and China's. But who actually owns this wealth? The
companies that create the virtual worlds, or the players who generate the
virtual economies? At least one lawsuit has sought to resolve this question,
and others are sure to follow. Dibbell will lay out the facts, the issues,
and the case for rethinking the status of virtual property within existing
intellectual property regimes.
Monday, December 2, 2002
12:15 - 1:30 pm
1:30- Booksigning
Moot Court Room
Stanford University Law School:
Directions: http://www.law.stanford.edu/directions.shtml
Lunch provided

Julian Dibbell, author and journalist, has been writing about digital
networks and their cultural fallout for over a decade. His articles and
essays -- on subjects ranging from hacker subcultures to blogger aesthetics
to the politics of virtual rape -- have appeared in The Village Voice, Time,
Feed, Wired, and many other publications, both online and off, and have been
reprinted in Best American Science Writing 2002 (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2002),
Reading Digital Culture (Blackwell, 2001), Flame Wars: The Discourse of
Cyberculture (Duke University Press, 1994), and other anthologies. He is the
author of My Tiny Life: Crime and Passion in a Virtual World (Henry Holt,
1998), about the text-based online role-playing game LambdaMOO, and is
currently researching a book on the next generation of massively multiplayer
online games. In spring 2003, he and Lawrence Lessig will coteach a course
at the Law School on the social structures of virtual worlds.

Comments

Dear Professor Dibbell,

This is a fascinating topic. While I cannot attend your talk (since I am in DC), I am very interested in your philosophical views on the social structures of virtual worlds. That is, would you refer to a Cartesian divide in your analysis? Or do you think other contexts make more sense, such as materialism (everything in the universe is merely a physical entity), mentalism (everything in the universe is a mental thing), or neutralism (everything in the universe can be explained either physically or mentally, but they are both the same thing)?

Thanks,
Ruchika

Dear Professor Dibbel,

I 'm a Korean lawyer who has been writing about MMORPGs and their legal and techincal system over 5years.

S. korea is the place where the Nexus, the kingdom of the wind (the first graphic MUD game in the world) and the Lineage (the 150,000 current users play on the average) are made in.

In Korea, two cases regarding virtual property issues in MMORPG are in the progress. In one case, a user sued the game company for damages due to loss of his virtual items. In the other case, a game company sued virual item agencies for preliminary injuction.

By the way, on the ground that the economy in the virtual world is purely artificial one(the matter of scarcity in the game is optional, not fatalistic), To find out the ideal degeree of resemblance between real world and virtual world will be necessary for discussing the virtual property.

In the point of virtual property, I think, the focus will be not on "Who own items;result/property approch", but on "How much do the play of users contribute to the virtual world creation ;process/copyright approach"

Thanks, Yoon

Dear Professor Dibbel, I am curious as to EA's current policy on ownership of virtual property. I see property on EBay, yet I don't see EA providing repairations when they are responsible for the loss of property. EBay leads me to believe that things in game are mine, but EA's actions lead me to believe that said things belong to them. I've played Ultima Online for 4 years, and have seen a huge amount of inconsistancy on this issue from EA and OSI.

If Julian checks in here at all, I'd like to invite him to peek at my comments on his Play Money. We share common interests in this topic.

Ah, para viver em Rio! Que sorte tu tiveste para visitar assim.

If you want to read the, drop me an email and I'll send you the specific links. I'll be writing more on this in the future also. And on other MMPORPG topics.

Dear Prof. Dibbel,
I am currently writing a not on this topic, and have emailed with some other Professors working in this field. I was curious as to what the case is that has already been litigated as to who owns the property created by players of games like Second Life, There.com, etc.
Thanks for your help!
Brittany

As for MMORPGs and their rights. Too many businesses try to bully users around with threats of deletion for non conformity or issues brought about by the development teams in these games cause the consumer to lose time and effort. Also, many EULAs for these programs strictly prohibit the consumer for selling "in game" items on online auction sites such as eBay.

Frankly, I think the time, effort, and "in game" items any consuer has linked with their account should just be treated as an intellectual property. While the creator and license holder of the game in the end own that software. Any time or effort put forth in the program, which may result in amassed items, should in the end be given in rights to the consumer who paid their dues and took the time to "create" the details of that account.

But that's just me.

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