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Competing Lockean Claims to Virtual Property

16 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2007 Last revised: 31 May 2012

Steven J. Horowitz

Sidley Austin LLP

Date Written: May 31, 2012


Virtual products in virtual worlds can have real-world consequences, but one wonders whether the property rights that might attach to them are secure. Between users, property disputes can be settled by determining which user has the greater right without addressing property theory more broadly. But when users wish to assert property rights against virtual world operators, one must consider normative justifications for user property when deciding whether to ignore the terms of an End User License Agreement. This paper compares the competing claims of users and operators to virtual world property by using Lockean labor-desert. I argue that the operators' initial labor-based claims to their worlds severely limit user property rights.

Keywords: Locke, property theory, virtual worlds, virtual property, Second Life, Bragg

Suggested Citation

Horowitz, Steven J., Competing Lockean Claims to Virtual Property (May 31, 2012). Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, Vol. 20, 2007. Available at SSRN:

Steven J. Horowitz (Contact Author)

Sidley Austin LLP ( email )

One First National Plaza
Chicago, IL 60603
United States

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