[p2p-research] request for comments: What property rights in virtual resources might look like

Kevin Carson free.market.anticapitalist at gmail.com
Thu Aug 20 20:28:12 CEST 2009

On 8/14/09, Michel Bauwens <michelsub2004 at gmail.com> wrote:
> http://p2pfoundation.net/Virtual_Property_Problem

> it would be nice if this entry could have extra comments, publishable in our

> Article: John W. Nelson. 2009. "The Virtual Property Problem: What property
> rights in virtual resources might look like, how they might work, and why
> they are a bad idea"
> Available at: http://works.bepress.com/john_nelson/3

Sorry for the delay, Michel.

I confess I had trouble getting into the issue because I'm not a gamer
and the idea of resources in virtual worlds seems of limited relevance
to me.  But it strikes me that Nelson, at least for the sake of
argument, accepts the legal doctrines and jurisprudence attached to
current copyright law, and then simply evaluates whether they're
applicable to virtual property.  Since I consider all the moral
justifications of copyright to be invalid, the invalidity of extending
it to virtual property would seem to follow as a matter of course.

I also didn't see the point, in particular, of extending real-world
law to cover acts of in-game theft, since the rules of any game are to
some extent arbitrary and accepted by the players for the sake of the
game itself.  For the sake of simulating the world in some chosen
particulars, all sorts of rules like gravity and various forms of
artificial scarcity are imposed which do not by the nature of the case
obtain in the virtual world.  Strictly speaking, the virtual world
could be the ultimate gnostic realm of unlimited potential and
abundance--no gravity, the possibility of achieving unlimited
character traits and wealth with no effort, the availability of an
infinite stock of resources for all players, etc.  By the nature of
things, all scarcities in the virtual world are artificial.  And by
the very act of playing a game, the players tacitly submit to the
artificial scarcities created by the game for the sake of

Kevin Carson
Center for a Stateless Society http://c4ss.org
Mutualist Blog:  Free Market Anti-Capitalism
Studies in Mutualist Political Economy
Organization Theory:  A Libertarian Perspective

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