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Jurisdiction in online game

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

"When disputes arise over in-world fraud or avatars attacking avatars, for example, what law should prevail?" That was the question asked by Wired in its interesting article about the Terra Nova Symposium.
To Greg Lastowka, a panelist and assistant professor of law at Rutgers School of Law, the virtual-world governance landscape boils down to two categories: internal and external views of governance. "The ultimate governance of virtual worlds is the state," Lastowka said. "The law doesn't treat virtual worlds as any different. The state is not going to accept" virtual worlds being treated as autonomous regions."
Although similarly transboundary, online game is "beyond" international and transnational law. Here's the reason why shutting off the computer and surrender the case to a state may not be enough:
  1. They develop their own customs, usages and traditions
  2. In the future, their "GNP" could be greater than a state
  3. They are in the process of developing their own dispute settlement process
  4. They are developing their own sense of citizenship, rights and obligations
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.

It's a no joke. Howbout a Convention on the Law and Jurisdiction Applicable to Virtual Societies for 2040? ;)