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March 12, 2008

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As noted on Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr has posted a very interesting article on SSRN about regulating virtual worlds. He is very much in favor of a hands-off approach:When does conduct by an online player in a virtual world game [Read More]

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saul levmore

Could you just clarify the first point in this post? My first example was where A deletes B's existence in the virtual world. On the one hand you say you agree it should or could be a legal wrong, but then you go on to say that this should depend on whether there is harm in the real world. My point is that there is harm, though sometimes quite subjective, because of B's investment of time and emotioanl energy in the virtual world. I'm itching to respond but perhaps it would be good to know whether you agree with the example.

Orin Kerr

Saul,

If B somehow deletes A's account, A can go to the system administrators and have them restore the account to its prior state. The account is just a computer file, and the game operators keep back-ups. The game will keep logs of everyone's status at times past, kind of like earlier drafts of a Word document. So the psychic harm would be temporary; it would be the subjective pain of knowing that there is a short window of time when the character is unavailable.

Kevin Lowey

It is not necessarily true that a person's "psychic harm" would be temporary if user A deletes user B's account. What's important is what opportunities the person misses during the time his account is unavailable.

For example, I have gone to several events in Second Life that occur at specific times. Things like conferences where I paid a real-life fee to attend.

If my account was deleted just before the event so that I could not attend, then restoring my character's account from backups would do nothing to alleviate the professional harm of not being able to attend the event or the real monetary harm of the loss of the conference fees I paid.

The fact that Second Life offers the "Linden Exchange" site to exchange virtual Linden Dollars to real hard currency is also important. If the loss of my account means I am unable to transact business in Second Life, that could translate into real world loss of income. See this article about a lawsuit over real harm caused by a virtual land deal that went bad: http://www.wired.com/gaming/virtualworlds/news/2006/05/70909

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