Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
Virtual Property, Real Concerns
ExpressO (2009)
  • Nelson S DaCunha, University of Connecticut School of Law

The status of digital property protection, especially in virtual worlds, is uncertain to say the least. Several theories have been postulated supporting the case for property rights for players of virtual worlds. Game designers have likewise provided support for maintaining full rights to all aspects of their games. North American society outside of the gaming world, and the legal establishment have written off virtual world property as either child’s play, a passing fad, or too complex to regulate effectively. Virtual worlds, however, have a large economic foothold and deal with large amounts of real money. These virtual worlds will likely evolve but the most important current aspects of them—virtual property—are here to stay. Although the varying “social norms” of these virtual worlds make them complex to paint with the traditional legal “broad brush,” I will discuss some practical considerations of any system that intends to extend protection to virtual property and inherent dangers of applying virtual property protection with a broad brush. I propose a new solution to protecting user rights in property through a hybrid of natural protection, which is layered and built on the extension of an existing framework that is made up of the same software code that already controls virtual worlds. The software creates a high-level boundary of allowable behavior. In areas where software cannot properly protect, such as in areas of fraud or theft, the current legal property regime takes over—much as it does with tangible property. Courts can apply standard property law while overlaying the virtual world rules and the social norms within virtual world. In this way, property can be protected even in virtual worlds where certain kinds of theft are part of the game play.

  • Virtual Worlds,
  • property,
  • internet,
  • virtual property,
  • games,
Publication Date
March 19, 2009
Citation Information
Nelson S DaCunha. "Virtual Property, Real Concerns" ExpressO (2009)
Available at: