/**/ Projects: the Virtual Policy Network

Projects

tVPN works on custom projects for public and private sector clients – these include events, research, peer reviews, briefings etc. In our projects we aim to bring together academics, industry and policy makers to bring fresh perspectives from alternative stakeholder groups. We also aim to work on projects that further social goods and prefer our work to licensed under creative commons if possible. For more information contact us on: info AT virtualpolicy DOT net.

In addition to client projects, tVPN is developing a number of projects that will generate positive proposals to support the development of the virtual world industry. These projects will focus on both the virtual world industry itself and the legal and regulatory frameworks in which it operates.

tVPN’s initial projects are:

Principles of Virtual Worlds

tVPN propose that there are is a modular set of principles that all virtual world providers can agree to, moreover that these can be used to form the basis of Terms of Service, End User Agreements and element of operational standards. For these standards to gain wide acceptance from policy makers they should be informed by and will benefit from drawing elements from existing policy texts such as the EU’s Convention on Human Rights.

What kinds of principals, what ‘modules’ ?

The principles should cover as many elements of the Virtual World business model as is practicable and can be agreed. Virtual Worlds are not all the same. Hence a modular approach is proposed. That is, there are a number of characteristics that are shared among groups of worlds e.g. there are a set of worlds that share the characteristic that allows users that are under 18. There are also a set of principles that apply to one or more of these sets of worlds that share characteristics. Example shared characteristics are:

  • Game Worlds
  • Social Worlds
  • 18+ Worlds
  • Closed Economies
  • RMT Economies

Examples of proposed principles and VW Sets are:

  • All VWs: A clear definition of a users rights that is consistent with the EULA
  • All Game VWs: A clear explanation about the type of game play that is to be expected e.g. whether it includes PvP
  • VW’s that Accept under 18s: A notice that an adult should be present before the EULA screen is displayed
Why not a boiler plate EULA?

As a contractual document a EULA is a particular to the needs of individual organizations and jurisdictions – hence a EULA is an order more complex than principles and standards. So, while it is not out of the question that standard legal terms could be agreed, it is outside the scope of this project.

How will the principals be developed?

tVPN wishes to work with stakeholders from industry, academic and policy to develop these principals. At present we seek input from all parties on the concept and the most effective way of developing and maintaining them.
The likely mechanisms to be employed are:

  • Multi-stakeholder steering group
  • Wiki based text development
  • Publication of versioned standards under creative commons licensing
  • This will be supplemented by meetings, conference sessions etc. as the steering group sees fit
What are the benefits?

When policy makers and users view virtual worlds they see a set of individual companies and services with few, if any, obvious shared standards. This presents a challenge to policy makers who, in the political sphere, are often challenged with the question of what is being done about issues that are perceived to be associated with virtual world use.

tVPN propose that it is both good for the industry and civil society for a set of principals to be developed by the virtual world industry in conjunction with academics and policy makers / regulators because:

  • An active dialog will increase the understanding of all parties
  • Policy makers / regulators will understand the practical limits of virtual world regulation
Who will police the principles?

At this stage it is not proposed that the standards or compliance with them is policed. However should a suitable body wish to take them on it is conceivable that they may have an associated certification scheme or similar.

Governance Framework

This project seeks to answer the question: What, if any, are the appropriate governance frameworks for Virtual Worlds?
The project takes as its starting point the fact that sports, both professional and amateur, have international codes of regulation that apply to leagues, teams, players and to some extent spectators. It is thus suggested that there may be a comparable system of structures for virtual worlds. This work on governance runs in parallel with the VW Principles project i.e. there is an interplay between what is to be governed and the structures of governance.

Global Policy Review

The Global Policy Review is an annual look at public policy around the world as it impacts virtual worlds and convergent media. The review will be generated through a network of partners and correspondents and will be edited by tVPN. The review will provide a summary of key policy and legal changes, policy debates and editorial analysis and speculation.

The annual report is likely to cover areas such as:

  • Country spotlight e.g. Germany & ‘ego shooters’; Australia and Second Life
  • Company spotlight: e.g. CCP & Player representation
  • Inter-governmental forum: OECD, UN, CoE
  • Key Legislation changes by country / region
  • Trends and analysis e.g. online & casual gaming, facebook gaming
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