Later today – probably shortly after 12 noon – I’ll be part of a panel that will be debating the role of (terrestrial) law in virtual spaces. On side will be the enthusiasts who will argue that mundane law has little or no useful role to play in regulating behaviors in massively multiplayer online role-playing games. What rules are needed, I would argue in their shoes, will be provided by the game designers, the End User License Agreements (EULAs), and most importantly via emergent behavior as between the users. If I were on the other side I would say, when it’s just a game, we play by its rules, but as we get to things which involve exchange of valuable commodiities, even virtual ones, when we are talking tort, trademark violations, stalking, and so on, then the fact that you happened to use a fancy graphics card to help perpetrate it should make no difference.
Here’s the line-up:
Richard Bartle, Creator of MUD
Dan Hunter, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (Moderator)
David Johnson, New York Law School
David Post, New York Law School
Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger, Harvard University – School of Public Policy
Joel R. Reidenberg, Fordham University – Law
Tim Wu, Columbia – Law
My role, foisted upon me, is to sit like a potted plant for most of the debate and then sum up. The official title is “Judge, Jury and Executioner”. The problem, though, is that I have good friends on both sides of the panel. And executioner sounds sooo tacky. So for days I have been looking for a baby in hopes of being able to cut it. No luck.
The good news, however, is that I have found a very state-of-play kind of way to weasel out of the ugly part of this job: I’ve set up a virtual jury room, and the people in the audience with laptops (and those of you at home following along on the webcast can vote on who you think s winning (won) the debate