‘World of Warcraft is My Home From Home’: An Argument for the Protection of Virtual Worlds
AbstractVirtual worlds have taken on a renewed significance in our contemporary world of social distancing and isolation. Virtual worlds exist independently of the physical world yet allow individuals a degree of verisimilitude of the physical world; including attachment to that world and others in it. This phenomenon is present in Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games which are the primary focus of this work. How the law ought to approach such virtual worlds has been contested since the early days of the internet. Much of the literature in the area looks to utilise established areas of law such as property law, contract law, or intellectual property to solve the novel problems created by virtual worlds. It is perhaps understandable that scholars and judges would opt for established areas of law in light of their knowledge and trust in the same. This traditional approach understands virtual worlds and the items therein as the property of the developer thereby eroding users’ trust in the long term existence of virtual worlds. This article takes a novel and previously unexplored view as to how virtual worlds should be protected in light of the attachment an individual may feel towards virtual worlds irrespective of ownership. It will be established that this attachment is akin to the connection a person may feel towards their home in the physical world. This paper utilises these similarities to question why legal protections are not afforded to individuals and the virtual worlds to which they are connected. In arguing to secure this protection the article draws inspiration from the community empowerment principles of the Localism Act 2011 which allows for land and buildings to be protected as Assets of Community Value.
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