Tuesday, June 24, 2008

ABA Hosts Virtual Reality Law Conference in Second Life

The ABA’s Conference “Why Virtual Worlds Matter for Lawyers” was held today at the Justice Center in Second Life (SL). It was a fascinating discussion of virtual reality law issues and the future of law in virtual reality worlds.

I attended the conference through my avatar on SL while other attorneys participated through teleconference for CLE credit. Panel members included David Elchoness, Executive Director of the Association of Virtual Worlds, Lauren Gelman, Executive Director of Stanford Law Center for Internet and Society, Steve Mortinger, VP & Associate General Counsel of IBM Systems & Technology Group, Francis Taney, Chair of the Technology Litigation Practice Group, and Benjamin Duranske, attorney and blogger who writes about his experience in SL and about virtual reality law on his blog, Virtually Blind. He has also written the book Virtual Law: Navigating the Legal Landscape of Virtual Worlds.

As far as practicing law completely through a virtual reality world, the security is not fully there yet. Not to mention that the client base would be limited and difficult given multiple jurisdiction issues. I'll stick with my VLOTech virtual law office. However, there are a number of American attorneys who have opened up virtual reality offices in SL and are helping to write and interpret the laws that will govern this virtual reality world.

Here’s a screenshot of the ABA Conference today (I'm the short-haired blonde sitting down in the middle. It costs Linden dollars for an avatar makeover and new suit, so I stuck with what they gave me.):

If you are not familiar with SL, you might want to check it out. I have limited time for virtual reality worlds right now, but I enjoy keeping up with the development of the technology behind these worlds. I find the environment extremely addictive because of the ability to meet new people from around the world and travel (fly) to different virtual reality developments. There is a Second Life Bar Association that meets every second Saturday in the Justice Center on SL and I may limit my SL interaction to those meetings. It might be a great way to meet some of these pioneering attorneys who are out there creating the legal system that will govern virtual reality worlds.

Why does this matter to the rest of us in the "real" world? Because individuals in the real world are creating viable businesses completely based in SL. Virtual world real estate is bought and sold in Linden dollars but that translates into US dollars in the real world. Companies, such as IBM, and many universities, have SL presences and own real estate in SL. There are IP, business, employment and contract law issues that arise in SL among other matters. Some of these issues were discussed in the conference today and hopefully they will make a transcript available.

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