[MUD-Dev] Blacksnow revisted

Kylotan kylotan at kylotan.eidosnet.co.uk
Thu Apr 18 17:52:58 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: Paul Schwanz <paul.schwanz at east.sun.com>
> From: Matt Mihaly <the_logos at achaea.com>
>> On Sat, 6 Apr 2002, Kylotan wrote:

>>> Just to throw in another angle into this debate... perhaps the
>>> player's -character- has ownership of in-game items, but the
>>> player does not.

>> Ownership is a legal concept, and property cannot own other
>> property. Characters can't own anything, because they have no
>> legal standing to do so.

> Yet surely a virtual world may have its own virtual legal
> concepts.

> In the real world, the characters don't own anything.  They cannot
> for the reasons you point out.  In the real world, in this case,
> Mythic owns both the characters and the items as outlined in the
> EULA.  But the argument that players own the items because they
> *seem* to own them when playing the game is not an argument from
> the real world perspective, but from the virtual world
> perspective.  From that perspective, it seems clear to me that the
> simple answer is that the character owns the item and not the
> player.

Exactly. I think Matt missed what I was saying due to poor
expression on my part, and consequently seemed to be disagreeing
with me when we were really saying pretty much the same thing. Items
are only 'owned' where the game permits them to be owned, and in
that case they will be owned by the in-game character, not the
player, not the player's account. As far as the outside ('real')
world is concerned, it's just data, created by the MUD owner,
manipulated by the MUD owner, stored on the MUD owner's
equipment. Owned by the MUD owner. Therefore the MUD owner almost
certainly has the sole right to determine how that data is

It doesn't even matter if that data happens to represent information
that is the player's intellectual property. I am allowed to sell or
destroy a book I own, even if that book happens to be the author's
last copy of the manuscript. The book, and the data on the MUD
server, is an instance of the intellectual property, as opposed to
actually being the intellectual property. It's the author's problem
to keep a copy for themselves if they want it. And the EULA should
cover the act of submitting such property to the game. Although
these EULAs are getting more and more preposterous by the day, I
don't expect the 'you give us irrevocable non-exclusive license to
use your stuff' clause would be considered unreasonable in most
courts. It's not giving up copyright or anything extreme like that,
it's just saying that "if you give us something, you're allowing us
to use it". <token analogy> Like writing a letter to a magazine
editor or something. </token analogy>

Under these assumptions, I would say that asking online auction
sites to stop a sale would be perfectly valid, as the 'seller' does
not own the item on offer. One possible loophole remains, which is
perhaps to sell the 'service' of handing over the item. The change
of in-game 'ownership' would be a side-effect of the service sold,
rather than what you are actually claiming to sell. But maybe there
is a way around this too. (Do eBay et al even allow you to sell
services, or just tangible goods?) I don't think you'd have grounds
to tell an online auction site to stop such an auction, but I can
see that it would still be considered reasonable grounds for
terminating a player account if some sort of "no item transfers to
be coordinated out of game" rule was in there somewhere.


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