Current Edition

Welcome to the first Virtual Policy Network newsletter. On a roughly monthly basis this newsletter will summarise virtual world policy and legal news from around the world.

Virtual Policy News flash:
* Virtual Policy ’08 conference presentations and video now available for download: http://www.virtualpolicy.net/VP08.html
* Virtual Worlds Primer now available for download: http://www.virtualpolicy.net/_Downloads/Documents/tVPN-VW_Primer-V1Q308.pdf

Contents

  • China
  • US
  • Thailand
  • UK
  • International & virtual
  • Topic focus: security
  • Virtual Policy Network News – Think tank news

All these links and more can be found on the tVPN delicious page: http://delicious.com/tVPN

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CHINA
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‘GOLD FARMER’ WINS BANNING CASE IN CHINA

A number of sources (http://www.pacificepoch.com/newsstories?id=129797_0_5_0_M
) report that Zhou Xujun, who was banned from World of Warcraft by The9 (who operate Warcraft in China), has had the ban over turned and court costs paid after he sued The9 in the Shanghai Pudong New District People’s Court. The case turned on the fact that the exploit being used for the alleged gold farming was part of the pre-existing system.

Comment: In a sense this is a literal interpretation of Lessig’s Code is Law (http://www.code-is-law.org/) and highlights a long standing tensions between a game as intended and a given digital artefact.

BANNED PLAYER SUES FOR EMOTIONAL DISTRESS

Shanda, Chinese publishers of Legend of Mir, are being sued by a player claiming emotional distress after being banned from the game. This case follows a suit reported earlier this year where a player is claiming damages over ‘lost’ virtual items.

Comment: As bloggers such as PlayNoEvil (http://www.playnoevil.com/serendipity/index.php?serendipity%5Baction%5D=search&serendipity%5BsearchTerm%5D=legend+of+mir) have noted cases such as these and earlier ones are gradually impacting potential liabilities for publishers of virtual words, especially those based on micro-transaction business models.

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US
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ILLINOIS PASSES ONLINE GAME CANCELLATION BILL

The Illinois General Assembly has passed into law a bill amending the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act which requires ‘Internet gaming service providers’ to make available to their customers a online method of cancelling their account. It is reported that the origin of the bill is Alderman Frank Edwards who spent some time cancelling son’s Final Fantasy XI (FFXI) account and reported this to Representative Raymond Poe.

Comment: This bill is interesting for a number of reasons. First, there are reported difficulties with subscription cancellations across a number of industries yet the bill in question is scope limited to online games. Second, the full text of the bill (http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=51&GA=95&DocTypeId=HB&DocNum=4178&GAID=9&LegID=34488&SpecSess=&Session=) provides a statutory definition of an online game – time will tell if this wording is taken up more broadly.

US GOVERNMENT CREATES BODY TO LOOK AT ‘ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY’ AND LEARNING

The US Congress recently approved and the president signed into law the establishment of a body to research how advanced technology can improve learning at all levels. The newly established National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies will include under it’s remit research into the use of virtual spaces and is seeking funding of 50 Million USD for the 2009 financial year. Details of the Center’s remit can be found here: http://www.fas.org/press/_docs/Advanced%20Information%20and%20Digital%20Technologies.pdf

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THAILAND
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NECTEC CALLS FOR CROSS MINISTRY ‘THINK TANK’ TO EXAMINE CYBESPACE, ONLINE GAMES & SOCIETY

The Bangkok Post reports (http://www.bangkokpost.com/130808_Database/13Aug2008_data001.php) that Nectec (the National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (http://www.nectec.or.th/english/) a statutory body under the National Science and Technology Development Agency, Ministry of Science and Technology) is calling for the remit to form a cross ministry think tank to look at the issues of cyberspace, online games and Thai society. The director of Nectec, Dr Pansak Siriruchatapong, notes that the tendency to use cyberlaw to control online gaming is inappropriate as computer games are not a crime.

Comment: the article also notes that different ministries have contradictor policies on games, some promoting them, some trying to restrict their use. This is an increasing issue especially for virtual worlds that have a tendency to fall under the potential remit of many departments and regulatory bodies.

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UK
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STARDOLL TOPS WEB SITES FOR UK UNDER 12’s

Nielsen Online’s latest survey of the click habits of the UK’s under-12 and 12-17’s ranks Stardoll.com as the most popular web location with 32% and Club Penguin with 29%. In the 12-17 age group the social networking site Frego, Runescape 25% as number two beating Bebo into third place.

http://www.nielsen-netratings.com/pr/pr_080815_UK.pdf

Comment: These figures confirm the under-reported trend for children of all ages to gravitate to social network and game spaces rather than merely websites such as the high profile Bebo.

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INTERNATIONAL & VIRTUAL
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VIRTUAL MOBILE COURTHOUSE

A press release (http://www.cellufun.com/news/press.asp?story=20080819) from mobile game and virtual environment provider Cellufun claims that they are establishing a user governance system for their mobile virtual community.

Comment: A number of virtual worlds have experimented with forms of reputation or justice. Often these are gamed as are standard reporting systems, hence the outcome of the Cellufun experiment will be instructive.

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TOPIC FOCUS: SECURITY
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There have been a number of pieces recently focusing on security and virtual worlds. Gene Hoffman of Vindica gave an illuniating interview to Gamasutra (http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=19570) on MMO fraud and wrote a piece for ECT news on chargbacks (http://www.ectnews.com/story/62173.html). While linux insider examined some or the relationships between security and governance (http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/Who-Polices-Virtual-Worlds-64002.html) and Net Security (http://www.net-security.org/article.php?id=1159) examined matters from a more technical perspective.

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the VIRTUAL POLICY NETWORK NEWS
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* tVPN founder, Ren Reynolds, will be speaking at the following events:

2008, Oct 16-17: More Fun, More Risk? – Digital Games as a Challenge for the Protection of Minors, Berlin, Germany

2008, Dec 3-6: Internet Governance Forum, Hyderabad, India (http://www.intgovforum.org/)

EVENTS

October
2008, Oct 16 – 18: AoIR – Copenhagen, Denmark (http://conferences.aoir.org/)
2008, Oct 17 – 19: Future and Reality of Gaming (F.R.O.G.) – Vienna Games Conference (www.bupp.at/frog)
2008, Oct 20 -21: Virtual Worlds London, London, UK (http://www.virtualworldslondon.com/)

November
2008, Nov 6-8, EvE FanFest, Iceland
2008, Nov 20 -21: Researching Learning in Virtual Environments – ReLIVE08 – Open University Milton Keynes, UK (http://www.open.ac.uk/relive08/)

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Gia

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