RealNews

Laying Down the Virtual Law

You’re a dwarf in a virtual world, and that troll over there has just defamed you in front of everyone. So can you sue, or is it all just fun and games? That’s what a collection of the brightest thinkers and best designers of games like EverQuest, and metaverses like There and Second Life, will be talking about in New York starting Thursday. They’re gathering for the first State of Play: Law, Games and Virtual Worlds conference. A host of questions are on everyone’s minds: Are virtual worlds the new Wild West or a legitimate province of the courts? Is game play equivalent to speech as defined in the First Amendment? Is there such a thing as fraud in a metaverse? “As the game universe becomes intricate, as transactions start to cross the boundary between the game world and the real world, it becomes more complicated as to what you’re going to call defamation,” says Jack Balkin, a professor at Yale Law School and an organizer of the conference. “The more closely your life is tied to the game, the more what happens can be construed as injury to yourself … privacy, fraud, breach (of contract). Maybe you really did break a promise. Maybe you did defame me. Maybe you did defraud me, and maybe that does matter.” Full Story

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