Apr 4, 2007

enforcing real laws in a virtual world

I have a friend who's busy writing a constitution for a group in Second Life. As a lawyer, he tries to bring his real-world experience to the virtual, establishing rights and duties in a just, secure framework.

After all, where there's life, there's crime. And where there's crime, there's the FBI.

FBI investigators have visited Second Life's internet casinos at the invitation of the virtual world's creator Linden Lab, but the US government has not yet decided on the legality of virtual gambling.

"We have invited the FBI several times to take a look around in Second Life and raise any concerns they would like, and we know of at least one instance that federal agents did look around in a virtual casino," said Ginsu Yoon, Linden Lab's vice president for business affairs.

Second Life is a popular online virtual world with millions of registered users and its own economy and currency, known as the Linden dollar, which can be exchanged for real US dollars. Yoon said the company was seeking guidance on virtual gambling activity in Second Life but had not yet received clear rules from US authorities. Hundreds of casinos offering poker, slot machines and blackjack can easily be found in Second Life.

While it is difficult to estimate the total size of the gambling economy in there, the three largest poker casinos are earning modest profits of $1500 each per month, according to casino owners and people familiar with the industry. The FBI and the US Attorney's Office for Northern California declined to comment.
They might have not decided on its legality yet, but you can be sure it's not going to be legal for long.

Second Life should declare itself a virtual state operating within whichever extant "real world" government is the friendliest, its citizens subject to their laws, yet semi-autonomous, as in a federal system. They'd probably have to move their servers, but freedom isn't free. (Doesn't necessarily have to cost blood, though.)

The real world isn't ready for virtual reality encroaching on real reality, is it?

Sidebar: And now the virtual world wants its users to have real-world names, for a price.

Update: And then there's the taxation issue. (Via Instapundit.)

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