Well, my post about Web2.0 security (or lack of it) seems to have aroused considerable interest.
How should real world laws apply to virtual worlds?
One thing which comes to mind straight away is that there can be more than one kind of virtual world. The rules around a quest for dragons’ gold will probably be different from an office meeting and the context should be obvious.
So if I am meeting a group on line for a work meeting, then the rules of a work meeting would apply. In a work meeting you could commit offences like breach of contract, hate speech etc. This could create interesting evidential weight issues if someone wants to prosecute on the basis of behaviour at an online meeting. If someone suddenly decides to murder a colleague at an online meeting (assuming that our online office environment has such a facility), then we may not condone such behaviour but it clearly isn’t real murder.
At a fantasy world on the other hand, the rules could be very different. Because everyone knows it’s a game, I would expect more latitude about what speech and behaciour is acceptable. But would using an automated attack bot be illegal? What if I use it to rob someone of virtual gold pieces that are convertible to real money – is this robbery? I believe this situation has already arisen.
In all cases, I strongly believe that virtual smoking should not be an offence!
Should we have the same rights (e.g. to free speech) online as in real life? You can always argue that if you don’t like the rights you get from one virtual world you can always go to a different world. Does that mean that governments shouldn’t define online rights? I’m tempted to say yes.