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Posner: Eventually there will be an international law of virtual worlds

Friday, December 15, 2006

In his talk in second life, Judge Richard Posner (JRP) said that we might have international law governing the virtual worlds. Here's a cite:

JRP: A currency is legitimate in the usual sense if it is legal tender-- i.e., you can't refuse it as a means of payment. So you can have a legitimate currency within a virtual world, but you could not compel people outside it to accept virtual world dollars in payment for goods or services.

Skadi Nordwind: The corporation still resides in the US.

JRP: Good question, but it arises in ordinary law--accident at sea, etc.--so there is an international law of admiralty. Eventually there will be an international law of virtual worlds.

Wow. This is almost similar to my opinion that we might have Convention on the Law and Jurisdiction Applicable to Virtual Societies in 2040. I would like now to rescind my opinion and resuggest to have it in, at the latest, 2015 (Guess why "2015"...). This is a quote from my original post titled Jurisdiction in online games:
What if there are disagreement between states on its taxation? Well, no other ways but to resolve this in a Treaty. And who knows, maybe as a part of that Treaty, online gaming societies can create their own version of body of law, independent of any state. This way they can refer their dispute to their own rules, interpret agreement in accordance with their own usage and customs, settle their problems at their own virtual court and enforce them with their own cyber police. A truly sui-generis legal community.
Custom, that's the keyword! That custom will evolve into law. I have said that virtual societies are unique as they:
  1. Develop their own customs, usages and traditions
  2. In the future, their "GNP" could be greater than a state
  3. Are in the process of developing their own dispute settlement process
  4. Are developing their own sense of citizenship, rights and obligations
With regards to custom, judge posner said:
JRP: The servers are solid, but not the software. The way law historically develops is from custom. I can imagine customs emerging from interactions among avatars, and then Linden codifying the customs, as laws, that seem best to regulate the virtual world.
What legal reporter usually do is codifying custom into codes. Well, why not start codifying it now? What are the custom enforced among avatars? Let's start codifying it and later we can make the draft convention (in a few years). We can do it through wikis if you want.

The transcript of the talk is available here.

(Hat Tip to Denise Howell)