Virtual worlds are no longer the backwater playgrounds of a few computer-adept programmers. They are multi-billion dollar worldwide industries spanning the fields of entertainment, communications, information technology, and increasingly law enforcement. In short, there's money to be made, and with an expansive, loosely-regulated product like virtual worlds comes the potential for cybercrime.
I wrote several months ago about how law enforcement agencies are increasingly turning to virtual world account information to provide breaks in real-world legal cases, but what about crimes committed entirely within a virtual sphere?
Several news outlets from around the world are increasingly looking at what is required to secure a profitable industry from brazen exploitation by scammers, money launderers, and cyberpirates. Regulators are calling for cybercrime task forces within physical police departments. The frontier of virtual worlds seems poised to get some new lawmen.
Continue reading The Growth of Cybercrime and Cybercrime Prevention in Virtual Worlds
Aimee Weber (TM)
Back in late October I wrote about how how Second Life content creator Aimee Weber sought to have her avatar's name made into a registered trademark. Well, all legal hurdles were cleared and a bit of virtual world history made in the process.
This is a natural progression of any technology that allows individuals to make profit. Many virtual worlds journalists have been predicting an "avatar singularity" – where the user creates and owns a single avatar for use in virtual worlds as far afield as Blue Mars and Everquest.
Continue reading Trademarking Avatars and the Future of Virtual Ownership
Pixels and Policy previously reported on the potential risks of building an online gaming platform around the concept of real money transactions, or RMT's. Customers have proven willing to shell out large sums of money for virtual goods in the form of microtransactions, the $1 – $5 purchases common to games on Facebook and MySpace. So what's the problem?
There's an emerging legal question regarding RMT, and it centers on the growing partnership between online game developers and marketing agencies. What happens when a developer offers "free credits" for filling out "trial" offers? As social gaming titan Zynga found out, offering another venue for RMT is proving far more complicated than planned.
Continue reading The Risky Legal Waters of RMT in Social Media Games: A Zynga Case Study
Pixels and Policy normally approaches the interplay between virtual worlds and some aspect of business, culture, policy or politics. However, there is one issue that transcends these areas not because of its easy definition, but because it is such a hazy concept.
Can the virtual world change the way humans deal with death? And what happens to our virtual goods when our earthly bodies pass?
Continue reading Death in the Metaverse: Mapping Uncharted Social and Legal Territory
As many unlucky MMORPG players can attest, most subscription-based online games come down hard on players caught purchasing in-game currencies with real money. World of Warcraft bans players caught buying game gold, and and Everquest does much the same.
Now a new legal decision by South Korea's Supreme Court could be changing the balance of power decisively in favor of consumers.
Pixels and Policy investigates.
Continue reading South Korea’s Supreme Court Decriminalizes Real Money Transactions in Online Games
Following up its Fashion Section puff piece on designer shoes in the virtual world, The New York Times takes a more nuanced look at some of the legal questions the Metaverse creates. We're taking credit for provoking the story, of course.
Chief among them: What happens to my virtual empire when I die?
As NYT's Chris Nicholson explains, that's a question with no definite answer.
Continue reading What Happens to my Virtual Stuff When I Die?
At least one real-world criminal will be ringing in 2010 behind bars after being tracked and captured in part because of his World of Warcraft account.
Pixels and Policy takes a look at how Indiana law enforcement officials turned to the Metaverse to catch an elusive drug dealer.
Continue reading Real-Life Fugitive Captured Thanks to World of Warcraft
Virtual gambling never really went away
In the virtual world, bondage
enthusiasts frequent the same nightclubs as conservative
Pakistanis and Republican political
. Amidst this digital sea of acceptance, one thing is strictly
taboo: online gambling.
After the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling
Enforcement Act in late 2006, virtual worlds like Second
Life closed the books on what had been a lucrative career for a few aspiring
Or did they? As Pixels and Policy found out in a recent trip
to the virtual worlds of EVE Online,
Second Life, and Evony, illicit wagering
has found a way around the power of Congress and developers.
Continue reading Why Virtual Gamblers Beat the Feds, the Developers, and the Law
Online gaming, especially in fantasy realms like World of Warcraft and Everquest, is a group effort. So why is antisocial behavior so prevalent?
Pixels and Policy looks at why some players seem driven to ruin the experience for others, and what it means for businesses and the long-term existence of the Metaverse.
Continue reading Why Virtual Worlds are Coming Down on Antisocial Gaming
About a month ago we reported on how Dubai is hosting a virtual worlds summit designed to promote online gaming in the Emirates.
Now the scope of Dubai's interest in online gaming takes on a new dynamic as the country's police opt to use "virtual training" to hone skills and study matters of real-world life and death.
Pixels and Policy looks at how one corner of the Middle East is rapidly becoming a techno-state.
Continue reading Dubai Police Force Trains Cadets on Virtual Crime Scenes