The Virtual Property Problem: What Property Rights in Virtual Resources Might Look Like, How They Might Work, and Why They are a Bad Idea

29 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2009 Last revised: 26 Jan 2011

John William Nelson

Samford University - Cumberland School of Law; University of East Anglia (UEA) - Norwich Law School

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Date Written: August 15, 2009

Abstract

“Virtual property” is a solution looking for a problem. Arguments justifying “virtual property” lie among three common themes—Lockean labor theory, theft protection and deterrence, and market efficiency. This Article goes beyond those who advocate for or against the creation of “virtual property” by first dismissing Locke’s labor theory as a justification. Then, this Article explores two models of what property rights may look like when applied to virtual resources. These models are then applied to six different virtual world scenarios in order to see the effects of “virtual property.” Finally, this Article explains the failure of property rights to benefit the users, developers, and virtual resources of virtual worlds.

Keywords: property, virtual property, virtual worlds, computers, information technology, economics, philosophy

Suggested Citation

Nelson, John William, The Virtual Property Problem: What Property Rights in Virtual Resources Might Look Like, How They Might Work, and Why They are a Bad Idea (August 15, 2009). McGeorge Law Review, Vol. 41, p. 281, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1469299

John William Nelson (Contact Author)

Samford University - Cumberland School of Law ( email )

800 Lakeshore Dr.
Birmingham, AL 35229
United States
(404) 939-4705 (Phone)

University of East Anglia (UEA) - Norwich Law School ( email )

Norwich NR4 7TJ, Norfolk
United Kingdom

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