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On the (partially) inalienable rights of participants in virtual communities

Suzor, Nicolas P. (2009) On the (partially) inalienable rights of participants in virtual communities. Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, 130, pp. 90-101.

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Abstract

As virtual communities become more central to the everyday activities of connected individuals, we face increasingly pressing questions about the proper allocation of power, rights and responsibilities. This paper argues that our current legal discourse is ill-equipped to provide answers that will safeguard the legitimate interests of participants and simultaneously refrain from limiting the future innovative development of these spaces. From social networking sites like Facebook to virtual worlds like World of Warcraft and Second Life, participants who are banned from these communities stand to lose their virtual property, their connections to their friends and family, and their personal expression. Because our legal system views the proprietor’s interests as absolute private property rights, however, participants who are arbitrarily, capriciously or maliciously ejected have little recourse under law. This paper argues that, rather than assuming that a private property and freedom of contract model will provide the most desirable outcomes, a more critical approach is warranted. By rejecting the false dichotomy between ‘public’ and ‘private’ spaces, and recognising some of the absolutist and necessitarian trends in the current property debate, we may be able to craft legal rules that respect the social bonds between participants while simultaneously protecting the interests of developers.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 29997
Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Post-print only, available under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 (AU)
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Virtual communities, regulation, Digital constitutionalism, cyberproperty, governance
ISSN: 1329-878X
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Intellectual Property Law (180115)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Law and Society (180119)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Past > Institutes > Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2009 Nicolas Suzor
Deposited On: 27 Jan 2010 09:09
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2012 00:04

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