State of Play: Identity

On Day 3 I attended the Identity workshop organised by James Grimmelmann from New York Law School and Caitlin Hall from Yale Information Society. This was a surprisingly good and fruitful session, not surprising because of the organisers, but because workshop format can be quite uneven.

The small number of participants meant that we were able to engage in a detailed discussion on the issues of identity in virtual worlds. We agreed that one of the main functions of identity is that of reputation management, both in the online and off-line worlds. Amongst those present was a Korean judge, who commented on some of the fascinating rulings coming out of Korea with regards to virtual identity. For example, there have been cases of online raids that have spilled over into the real world because many people play in the same Internet cafes. Another case cited was a situation that explored the complex legal interaction between virtual identity, account and the person behind it. People have separate accounts with all sorts of avatars, so can one identify and circumscribe liability to the user, or can it be instanced to a specific avatar? In this particular case an avatar in Lineage was banned from the game, but the user had four accounts, which were all banned as well. The user sued to get only one of the accounts banned, but the appeals court decided in similar line to the first instance. However, the Korean High Court was asked to decide, and in their final ruling only one account was banned, and the other three were allowed to remain.

This is mind-blowing stuff, and it prompts one to try to find out more details about the growing game-related jurisprudence coming from Korea.

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