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The Virtual Property Problem: What property rights in virtual resources might look like, how they might work, and why they are a bad idea

John W. Nelson

Abstract

‘Virtual property’ is a solution looking for a problem. Arguments justifying ‘virtual property’ lie among three common themes — Lockean labor theory, theft protection and deterrence, and market efficiency. This paper goes beyond those who advocate for or against the creation of ‘virtual property.’ First, Locke’s labor theory is dismissed as a justification. Then, two models of what property rights may look like when applied to virtual resources are created. These models are then applied to six different virtual world scenarios in order to see the effects of ‘virtual property.’ Finally, the failure of property rights to benefit the users, developers, and virtual resources of virtual worlds is explained.

Suggested Citation

John W. Nelson. "The Virtual Property Problem: What property rights in virtual resources might look like, how they might work, and why they are a bad idea" McGeorge Law Review (forthcoming) (2010).
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/john_nelson/3

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