How virtual are virtual economies? An exploration into the legal, social and economic nature of virtual world economies

Chambers, Clare (2011). How virtual are virtual economies? An exploration into the legal, social and economic nature of virtual world economies. International Journal of Computer Law, 27(4) pp. 337–384.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clsr.2011.05.007

Abstract

Virtual world economies are undoubtedly increasing in growth, participation and importance. Their macroeconomic impact has already been seen as important in the real world economies; however its governance and jurisdiction is unclear. This paper will argue that virtual economies are not actually as virtual as they first appear to be. Secondly the paper argues that because of the real world effects and impacts virtual world economies can have, they should be applicable to real world jurisdictions and regulations. The question that is therefore posed is in which jurisdiction should the legal backbone be placed? The paper will be divided into several parts. Firstly, a background of what virtual worlds are, and what they mean in linguistic definition. Secondly, a review of law economics and history shall be considered to determine that what is once considered ‘other worldly’ is accepted as the norm. Thirdly, the paper will consider a virtual world economy, namely that of Second Life to establish the real world impacts that virtual world economies can have. Fourthly, the paper will consider two case studies of financial crisis occurring in the virtual worlds and the synergies we can draw from the real world. Finally, the paper will conclude with the proposition that legal governance is required and will enable what is already a lucrative business to flourish further within the realms of possibility and not virtually.

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