Texas Wesleyan Law Review
To explore these issues, this Comment will first give some background on the rise and explosive growth of virtual worlds. The focus of the first section will be on the development-and especially the economics-of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), in which millions of subscribers interact with each other via the Internet to accomplish tasks or to engage in commerce or other activities. After a general tour of MMORPGs, the Comment will concentrate on the world of Second Life. Second Life is unusual among MMORPGs in that it is totally free-form, with no goals or quests or prizes to win. It is a world created by its "residents." But the feature of Second Life attracting most attention is that Second Life is the first virtual world that allows its residents to retain intellectual property rights to their in-world creations. The Comment will then review litigation related to in-world activities and the ability of the real-world legal system to resolve in-world disputes. What rights do avatars have in the real world? Does Kevin Alderman, the real-world head of Eros, LLC have a cause of action against Robert Leatherwood, the real-world name of the avatar "Volkov Catteneo," for theft of intellectual property created in Second Life by Alderman's avatar "Stroker Serpentine"? Section III will use Bragg v. Linden Research, Inc. and Eros, LLC v. Doe to focus on issues related to both virtual real property and virtual intellectual property. Section IV will describe the current intellectual property regimecopyright, trademark, and patent law-as it relates to virtual property. Among the issues discussed in this section will be the failure of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to protect the copyrights represented in the Catteneo and Simon lawsuits. This Comment concludes, first, that real-world courts are an appropriate forum for virtual-world property disputes. A second conclusion is that, rather than applying the contract law embodied in End User License Agreements (EULA) to every dispute involving a virtual world, the law applied should depend on the nature of the dispute. Finally, this Comment concludes that copyright, trademark, and patent laws need revision to deal with virtual intellectual property, and they are ill-suited to other types of virtual property.
Sharon K. Lowry,
Property Rights in Virtual Reality: All’s Fair in Life and Warcraft?,
Tex. Wesleyan L. Rev.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.37419/TWLR.V15.I1.5