The Lawbringer: A prelude to avatar rights is an article kicking off what appears to be a series looking at avatar rights in the context of World of Warcraft. It has been a while since the original article on avatar rights has been commented on much on the web, though it still regularly gets discussed in books on Internet law. Very few worlds ever adopted any variant of this as a terms of service, and Metaplace doing so back when we ran a customer-facing service had no real impact other than garnering some publicity.
Oddly enough, the article has been much on my mind lately, mostly because of how it closes, with a prediction that avatar service providers will both hold immense quantities of personal information but also dominate the market, making it hard to use an alternate provider:
Someday there won’t be any admins. Someday it’s gonna be your bank records and your grocery shopping and your credit report and yes, your virtual homepage with data that exists nowhere else… it may be a little harder to write to Customer Service. Your avatar profile might be your credit record and your resume and your academic transcript, as well as your XP earned.
On the day that happens, I bet we’ll all wish we had a few more rights in the face of a very large, distributed server, anarchic, virtual world where it might be very very hard to move to a different service provider…
…It’s a hypothetical exercise.
— “Declaring the Rights of Players”, 2000
Not very long ago my daughter was banned from Facebook. She has no idea why; neither do I. I would keep an eye on her page, and there was nothing untoward on it that I saw. She hadn’t been using it actively, and it took her several days to notice it was gone. And she’s just not interested in it enough to bother setting up a new one.
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