Monday, March 23, 2009

The feudal world of Second Life

It would be difficult to deny the claim that the closest real life analogy to the "land ownership system" in Second Life is the old-fashioned feudalism.

Second Life even sports a parallel to feudalism’s hierarchical chains of subinfeudation. Several large commercial operations purchase entire Regions from Linden, landscape and subdivide them, and then rent or sell plots to users. Like feudal lords, these “land barons” play a major role in dispensing justice related to landownership. Many of them impose “covenants” on their land, such as a prohibition against running businesses from virtual homes. Tellingly, users upset at a neighbor’s violation of the covenant must look to the land baron for recourse; Linden Labs has no involvement in these local disputes. Similarly, Linden stays out of seignorial disputes between these (land)lords and their tenants. Whereas offline landlords are expected to rely on the state when evicting recalcitrant tenants rather than self-help, Second Life land barons have no recourse but self-help.

Written by: James Grimmelmann, Virtual World Feudalism, 118 Yale L.J. Pocket Part 126 (2009),

Image by Torley

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