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					Regulating Virtual Behaviour:
The Evolution of Law in Real
and Virtual Spaces




    Lynne Hall
    University of Northumbria
    lynne.hall@unn.ac.uk
Introduction

This virtual life
Virtual Society
MUDs
Legal Structures in MUDs
Crime and Punishment
This virtual life

6 out of 10 children have access to the net
Biggest growing user population: women over
 50
Increasing ubiquity of computer
Computer provides an alternative to traditional
 forms of home-based recreation
  letter writing
  telephones
  games
  reading
Living the virtual life

Web
Email
Chat
Gaming
Working
Shopping
Communicating
Interacting
Virtual does not mean alone

Raison d’etre of the net = communication
Growing possibility to find others to
 communicate with.
Many small societies in many spaces on
 the net
  interest groups
  café society
  village communities
Multi-User Dimensions

Text-based synchronous communication
 forums
Multi-user
Recreational
Communication not just limited to speech
Stable, well-used technology
Geographically bounded spaces
Immersive...
MUD Society

Occurs in context
  MUD provides plot, storyline and landscape
Involves primarily violent activities
Tends to be highly stratified
  deities / admin equivalent
  known players (high level, long time)
  mid-ranked players (approved of players)
  low-ranked players (low-level or “invisible”)
  newbies
Role Playing MUDs

Most typical sort of MUD
Fantasy / Sci-Fi genre most common
Players become a virtual character in an
 interactive novel
Gaming activities focus on gaining
 experience, money, possessions
The populace

Group identity often strong
  race, guild, clan, city, church
Strong personal loyalty between players
Tendency to e-romance
High potential for conflict
  between formal, identified groups
  between informal player groups
Legal Systems

Common / case law
  precedent
  hierarchical judicial structure
  adversarial
  judge as neutral arbitrator
Code law
  codified
  permanent
  inquisitorial
Legal Theories

Legal Formalism
  scientific, positivist


Legal realism
  law as action, judges as people


Natural Law
  underlying fundamental moral principles
Basis of law in MUDs

Legal Formalism
  scientific, positivist


Legal realism
  law as action, judges as people


Natural Law
  underlying fundamental moral principles
Deviant Behaviours?

Ownership
  when is the object yours and when does it
   become public property?
Property
  the right to private space
Acceptable interactions
  what is acceptable in a RP MUD?
Law in Virtual Communities

Similar to real systems
  based on wrongful acts
  sources, enforcement agencies, penalties
But not like real -> crimes committed,
 judged and punished in virtual space
Precedent for separating the real and the
 virtual.
  LambdaMOOs Virtual Rape (Dibble)
Administration of Law

Games Admin as law providers
  dictatorial / oligarchical control structures
  codes of conduct
Players as law providers
  tend to build on code of conduct
  increases democracy and player loyalty
  often highly successful, based on status in
   the MUD community
Crime

Harassment
  most serious MUD crime
  focused at the player not the character
Theft
  often in-role
Malicious Intent to Harm
  RP Muds: rape, violent assault, murder
  Social MUDs: destruction of property, verbal
   attacks
Punishment

Needs to be appropriate to context
Varying degrees of severity
  Site / Player banning
  “Toading”
  Imprisonment
  Removal of status / experience
  Removal / destruction of possessions
Virtual Law

Credible
  within the context that it is applied (similar to
   nation / state based law)
Effective
  has to be enforced to have an impact (similar
   to real world law)
Relevant
  within any multi user environment deviance
   occurs and must be dealt with
Virtual Law

Incredible
  its not real, why should there be any need
   for it?
Ineffective
  has no effect, very easy to avoid
   enforcement
Irrelevant
  it doesn’t matter what people do in virtual
   space as this has no effect on the real
Summary

Sustained growth in computer supported
 co-operative recreation
Need for social framework to regulate
 behaviour
Crime and deviance do exist
Virtual and real is there a cross-over?

				
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posted:6/15/2011
language:English
pages:20