Thursday, May 1, 2014

Legal Position of Avatars in Virtual Worlds

This article talks about the laws of avatars in virtual worlds, which are under controversy.  Avatars are able to do and perform certain things that would be illegal in the real world.  Should they be charged and how should we handle these types of situations?

Since humans are able to purchase virtual inventory with real money, shouldn't they also have legal rights?  Avatars are demanding certain constitutional rights, such as the right to free speech, avatar bodily integrity, privacy, anonymity, etc.  One example of this is when an avatar grabs or kisses another avatar without consent.  There have been many complaints on this type of actions, such as sexual harassment, assault, or violent touching.  I, personally, almost experienced this while exploring SL.  One of the avatars I came in contact with asked me several times if he could bite me because he was a vampire.  Thankfully, SL allowed me to turn down the request, or else it would have turned me into a vampire as well.  Also, while in SL, when going to be beach I encountered a sign that read several rules that put restrictions on the avatars so that their rights were not violated.

This topic can be particularly tricky for people who value their virtual life as much, if not more than their real life.  Although this may seem silly, virtual worlds have blurred the lines between games and reality, and for that reason many are unsure of how to handle these types of situations.  I believe that as virtual worlds evolve, more rules, laws, and regulations will be put into place to protect those using the environments.  I feel this is going to be tricky because virtual worlds can be used by anyone anywhere, so finding the right balance of rules, laws, and accommodations that fit everyone is definitely going to be controversial.

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