Virtual Worlds – a Legal Post-Mortem Account
This paper addresses the lack of legal literature in the area of death and virtual worlds. It sheds light on the legal status of different in-game assets, assessing whether these could fit within the notions of property or other relevant legal concepts such as intellectual property, usufruct, or easements. Having determined this, the paper goes on to explore the possibilities regarding the transmission of these assets on death. The author does not share views of a great portion of the legal literature arguing for recognition of ”virtual property” as a concept. Rather, this paper proposes an alternative solution in order to reconcile different interests arising in VWs; primarily, those of developers and players. Recognising a phenomenon of consitutionalisation of VWs, this article suggests a solution in the form of servitudes (usufruct). Virtual usufruct is herein conceived as player‟s entitlement to use the VW account and profit from it, if applicable. It is suggested that the entitlement to use the account expires on death, but that it allows a player‟s personal representative/executor to gain access to the account and extract any possible monetary value. This solution would enable players to take more control over their virtual assets and heirs to potentially benefit from valuable VW accounts.