IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Napster's Second Life?--The Regulatory Challenges of Virtual Worlds


  • Mayer-Schoenberger, Viktor

    (Harvard U)

  • Crowley, John

    (Harvard U)


More than a decade ago John Perry Barlow envisioned a cyberspace free from real-world regulation. His vision was flawed. But virtual worlds, in which millions of users around the world spend significant amounts of their time (and money) interacting and transacting with each other, may prove Barlow right after all. In this paper, we look at the universe of these virtual worlds and how virtual world providers compete with each other, trace the likely development of regulatory interdependence and suggest how real-world lawmakers may want to facilitate virtual world self-governance. As virtual world providers transform themselves from offering content to offering a virtual space in which users can settle with their intellectual property, they begin to compete over the regulatory frameworks they offer their users. Users free to take their property and move to a different virtual world at relatively low cost, unleash intriguing regulatory dynamics between the virtual worlds. Will they engage in touch regulatory competition? Will pockets of cooperation develop and if so why and where? Or will virtual world providers much like Tiebout suggested differentiate based on user preferences, and will the virtual world universe hence reach a stable equilibrium? A similar dynamic may ensue among real-world lawmakers attempting to regulate virtual worlds. Virtual world providers may relocate to more welcoming jurisdictions, taking revenue streams with them. Coordination among real-world regulators may offer reprieve from a potential regulatory race to the bottom, but only temporarily. The more real-world lawmakers are tempted to reign in virtual worlds, the likelier that virtual worlds will become decentralized like peer-to-peer networks, leaving real-world jurisdictions without an easily identifiable entity to regulate. To avoid the birth of such a Barlowian virtual space, we suggest real-world lawmakers are better off facilitating the inculcation of real-world governance values into the nascent virtual worlds of self-governance.

Suggested Citation

  • Mayer-Schoenberger, Viktor & Crowley, John, 2005. "Napster's Second Life?--The Regulatory Challenges of Virtual Worlds," Working Paper Series rwp05-052, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp05-052

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. White, Sally Blount & Neale, Margaret A., 1994. "The Role of Negotiator Aspirations and Settlement Expectancies in Bargaining Outcomes," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 303-317, February.
    2. Croson, Rachel & Mnookin, Robert H, 1997. "Does Disputing through Agents Enhance Cooperation? Experimental Evidence," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(2), pages 331-345, June.
    3. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp05-052. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.