Monday, November 8, 2010

Second Life - Considering Virtual Justice

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not
be lost; that is where they should be. Now put
the foundations
under them.

Henry David Thoreau



This quote appears at the front of a new book called Virtual Justice - The New Laws of Online Worlds by Greg Lastowka. The author is a Professor of Law at Rutgers University and has written for a number of publications on such topics as CyberProperty and Virtual Crimes.

Far from a "dry academic" tome I'm finding it interesting, thought provoking and educational. One quote from the acknowledgements forward should give you a clue to his approach:

..... I feel obliged to note that this is a book about law that strays fairly far afield from my professional comfort zone. I make extended forays into medieval history, airplanes, and professional sports simply because I could find no better way to say certain things about virtual worlds.

Professor Lastowka appeared today on Metanomics and his conversation with Beyers Sellers generated a lot of interest and a LOT of chat (some of it was even on topic).


The book begins with a look at three different castles and uses them to "introduce some basic observations about power, technology, artifice, and law." The idea that "feudalism" has had a strong influence on virtual worlds found a sympathetic audience even without an explanation. I think people sometimes like to feel downtrodden even if they aren't sure why they should feel that way. Just in case you're starting to think you're downtrodden too - understand that he's speaking about influence on the law as it relates to virtual worlds not your landlord's right to demand Droit de Seigneur cybersex.

I haven't finished the book yet and I don't plan to regurgitate it for you once I have. He covers all the hot button topics (including copyright) so there is plenty of food for thought and debate. I do think it's worth a read and I believe it will generate a lot of discussion which will be healthier if all of the parties doing the discussing have actually read it. :)

The good news is that a pdf version of the book is freely available to read online and/or download (then if you like it you could go buy it). If you need more incentive than just curiousity, go watch the video of his Metanomics talk first. Both are intriguing.

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