An emerging issue in online role-playing games is whether the licensor or participant owns the virtual property (such as a virtual avatar) created while the game is being played...Such rights have real world consequences for the objects created in the virtual world...Commercial software has been designed to allow people to create their own interactive, emoting 3D avatar using photographs of their individual faces, and their own unique voice as templates...Virtual environments can be designed for single inhabitants, such as a solo flight trainee, or for many, simultaneous participants... Further, people who spend significant amounts of time in virtual environments are doing more than playing video games...A major event in U.S. corporate law was the landmark Supreme Court decision to treat corporations as “persons” entitled to the equal protection of the laws under the 14th Amendment. Will there also be a similar landmark case for virtual avatars, or, as necessity dictates, will rights for avatars appear slowly without any particular landmark decision paving the way for their emancipation. Many questions remain unanswered, as there is literally no case law on the rights of artificially intelligent entities in general, and intelligent avatars specifically. However, given the increasing intelligence of avatars, significant legal disputes involving their actions very likely will arise in the future. This article provided a framework in which to consider how future litigation may develop, and potential causes of action which may be raised.
"Intellectual Property Rights in Virtual Environments: Considering the Rights of Owners, Programmers and Virtual Avatars,"
Akron Law Review: Vol. 39
, Article 2.
Available at: http://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/akronlawreview/vol39/iss3/2