There's an interesting article over at The Escapist on the rights of players in virtual worlds — covering a myriad of issues (recourse for theft, ownership of items, DRM, etc) on a global scale, Erin Hoffman has a nice look at some of the issues that have been rearing their ugly heads and what players, companies, and even governments are doing about it. Whatever the resolution ends up being, 'virtual' rights are an increasing problem for parties on all sides of the issue(s) at stake:
But as the concept of ownership becomes hazier - and companies more insistent on maintaining it by punishing their paying customers in the process - so are end-user rights more worthy of attention as a mass expression of consumer desire. A clickwrap agreement cannot supersede the basic tenets of property ownership. The tighter DRM grasps, the more legitimate customers will turn to piracy or other means of subverting oppressive license agreements. And the further DRM reaches into a consumer's fair use of a purchased product, the more likely a judge is to support the end-user and not the software company. What's clear in all of this - in a field that is about as clear as pea soup - is that these issues aren't going away. Whether interpreted as a manifestation of player desires, or inalienable rights that form the bedrock of our online pursuit of happiness, these impassioned assertions are proof that games (and gamers) are evolving in fascinating ways. The declaration of rights has never been without conflict in human history. Games are no exception - and the stakes might be higher than you think.
I'm no lawyer, but this is one area I do follow pretty regularly — court cases are popping up ever more frequently, and some recent, high profile DRM blunders have been splashed everywhere. I think it's going to be quite some time before any of this gets ironed out to the satisfaction of players and companies, but it will make for an interesting ride in the meantime. We the Gamers [Escapist]