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Virtual World Feudalism

Yale Law Journal Pocket Part, Vol. 118, p. 126, 2009

NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08/09 #24

5 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2009  

James Grimmelmann

Cornell Law School; Cornell Tech

Abstract

Second Life is a feudal society. No, not metaphorically. Literally.

Two problems have preoccupied scholars of virtual world law: "What is the political relationship between developers and users?" And: "Should we treat in-world objects as property?" We can make progress on both questions by recognizing that virtual politics and property are inextricably linked, in the same way that feudal politics and property were. It is the tenant/user's relationship with his lord/developer that both creates the property interest and enforces it. The similarity between ownership of land in feudal England and in Second Life suggests that offline courts should protect user interests in virtual items, gradually, without treating them as full-blown modern "property."

Keywords: virtual worlds, virtual property, feudalism, property, second life

JEL Classification: K11

Suggested Citation

Grimmelmann, James, Virtual World Feudalism. Yale Law Journal Pocket Part, Vol. 118, p. 126, 2009 ; NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08/09 #24. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1331602

James Grimmelmann (Contact Author)

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Cornell Tech ( email )

111 8th Avenue #302
New York, NY 10011
United States

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