Several public policy groups are beginning to set up limited operations within the virtual realm called Second Life; lectures, publications, that sort of thing. On a much larger scale, car, shoe and hotel companies are doing business there. But along with budding euphoria over what looks to be the next big online thing, there’s a risk that regulators could get in there early and spoil the fun. Already, membership in Second Life is impressive as is the money spent there (over half-a-million over the past 24 hours if their stats are to be believed), but actual member usage as a percentive of members is often relatively low; it’d be easy to mess things up.
Adam Thierer, my former partner in crime at the Cato Institute and now senior fellow at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, has taken an early look at some emerging MMOG regulatory debates via the Tech Liberation Front blog: See (Virtual) Taxation without Representation? and Copyright and DMCA to Enter the World of Virtual Reality?. We’ll be exploring these and other issues; maybe we can thwart regulation of proprietary virtual worlds in a way that we’ve not been able to do on the non-proprietary Internet itself. If I can’t be optimistic, at least my avatar can.