Avatar rights come back

 Posted by (Visited 11939 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , , ,
Apr 102011

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.

For now.

“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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Chinese jail for virtual currency extortion

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Jun 092009

So this gang of bullies strongarms a guy in an Internet cafe in China, and extorts a bunch of virtual goods and a pile of QQ coins from him. He gets caught, and the court rules that since the virtual goods were purchased, this was a valid case of extortion. Thee of the gang got fines, and the ringleader — three years in jail!

According to the Xinhua news agency, the man, along with three others, assaulted another man in the cafe, forcing him to give up various virtual goods and 100,000 yuan ($14,700) worth of the virtual currency known as QQ coins. The coins are the currency utilized by the major Chinese web portal, Tencent. It is used for the purchase of online goods and premium services for supported titles.

— Virtual Currency Extortion Leads to Three Years of Prison in China.

It isn’t too surprising that this sort of thing is getting taken seriously there; industry experts in China assess the virtual goods market there as being 25 times the size of the US market. (You can download an interesting report on this here, or just check out this slide show).

State of Play VI

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Jun 052009

State of Play VI is coming up June 19th and 20th, and I will be keynoting there and doing lots of Metaplace demoing.

I’m looking forward to this one — I haven’t made it to a State of Play conference since the first one, and it was incredibly stimulating. A great group of folks is gathering there this year, and the topics are nice and meaty: kids’ worlds, whether virtual worlds have reached a plateau, recent policy developments, and even government worries about terrorism. There’s also a Graduate Student Symposium where students will present their research.

Here’s the press release:

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Worlds.com patent update

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Jun 022009

Virtual Worlds News has a report that tomorrow may see some developments in the Worlds.com patent case; apparently Article One Partners, the folks who were crowdsourcing finding prior art, will be posting something…

…announcing the outcome of a Patent Validity Study it conducted on the Worlds.com complaint.

“With verification of outside counsel, Article One Partners has identified prior art that can show the Worlds.com patent to be invalid,” the organization said in a statement. The group said it would post the prior art on its web site, although at press time the art had yet to be posted.

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