[MUD-Dev] Re: Black Snow Revisited

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Mon Apr 1 08:22:34 New Zealand Daylight Time 2002

From: "Dave Rickey" <daver at mythicentertainment.com>

> someone *please* think through the implications for potential
> future changes to the game and possible legal recourse for those
> financially impacted, if the courts recognize ownership rights for
> in-game value converted to real-world currency, and share those
> implications with the list?

I'm going to break that down into a more easily readable

What would happen if the courts were to recognise that anything your
character owns in-game has a real monetary value to you, the player,
and therefore is subject to remedy and reparation in the event of
loss or damage?

Well, it would be an absolute nightmare, that's what. You see, if
people can sell items, then items are worth money. The game world
becomes an extension of the real world, subject to all the arcane
vagaries of property law outside the game, providing real-world
penalties such as jail time for in-game crimes. When someone steals
items from your character, it is a crime for which they could be
prosecuted in the real world. Since the game owner's servers were
used to do it, the game owner is an accessory to the crime.  Since
crime in the game world cannot be prevented, crime runs rampant and
the administration is an accessory to every charge. The game
administration goes to jail and the game goes down and the players
sue for the value of their in-game property and the company goes
bankrupt and everyone starves.

Of course, then monkeys will fly out of our butts, but that's
neither here nor there.

People have made some very good and well-reasoned points about what
this decision would imply, but they are missing one VERY important
point on the matter.

No matter who "owns" the data, the player has negotiated a contract
with the game administration that allows them to play the game. It
is natural and normal for some things to be lost over the course of
the game. When you play paintball, some of your paintballs are lost
forever and you cannot generally recover their cost from the people
who own the paintball facility. If you dance at a club and tear your
dress, the club owner is generally not liable.  You cannot sue the
Franklin Mint for producing too many of the porcelain doll you
bought as a collector's item, thereby diluting the value of your
collectible, nor can you sue them for lowering the cost of the doll
at a later date. You can't sue a company in which you've invested
when their stock goes down, either. Ownership is just plain not an
issue. In every case above, you *clearly* own the object in question
and are in fact its *sole* owner. Even if it's not classical
property, you cannot sue a private club for having too many members
and decreasing the value of your "exclusive" membership, either --
and that's about as virtual as you can get.

The important thing to note about ALL the above situations is that
in no case does anyone have to TELL you they're not liable if this
happens. The law takes care of that without further assistance,
because the framework is already in place. There's a certain amount
of risk involved in most endeavors. All the nightmares and doomsday
scenarios fail to recognise that this risk is already accounted for
in the existing laws. Playing a MMORPG involves the acquisition and
loss of items and characters. Even when those things have real
monetary value, their acquisition and loss is a natural and normal
part of the game for which no player is due any remedy or
reparations. The courts already recognise and understand this for
many existing businesses, and there is no reason to think they will
*fail* to recognise it in MMORPGs. Sure, it may need a few little
alterations and changes along the way, but it's still a tried and
true method of preventing the sort of nightmares and doomsday
scenarios we're hearing about.

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