It's not often that a critical case can be seen coming before it is decided. However, Bragg v. Linden in federal court in Pennsylvania stands to be possible the landmark case in MMORPG law or virtual law or whatever you would like to call it.
For those who haven't been following, the basic facts are that Mr. Bragg was a Second Life real estate developer. He bought some land ("Taessot") for $300. Second Life contacted him soon after saying the land was acquired with an exploit, reclaimed the land, and banned his account.
The court has officially denied Linden's motion to dismiss and their motion to compel arbitration, negating a portion of the TOS. This means, more than likely, the issue will go to trial. What is the issue? As the court put it:
Ultimately at issue in this case are the novel questions of what rights and obligations grow out of the relationship between the owner and creator of a virtual world and its resident-customers.
So what does this mean to you?
If you are a gamer, you should be paying attention because someone may finally stand to define your rights in the game, the virtual world, or at a minimum in Second Life.
If you are a developer, there are a number of reasons to be paying attention:
1. If you make statements like Linden has about rights in game, how will those assertions operate with your EULA?
2. What rights can players assert regardless of the EULA?
3. How far can a government intervene in your virtual world?
4. If you have an arbitration clause in your TOS, will it suffer the same fate as Linden's?
I have my own theories on what the answers to these questions might and perhaps should be, but I will save that for a future post. Keep checking back with Law of the Game for more on the Bragg case as it develops.