Can Virtual Property be Transferred from One World to Another?

If a player leaves one virtual world to take up “residence” in another virtual world their virtual property rights will be governed by two things, the EULAs of both virtual worlds and the code used to build the particular virtual worlds.  If a player is leaving an “open world” they likely have ownership of certain intellectual property which they may choose to bring along with them and utilize in another virtual world.  This may take the form of copyright, trademark or other rights.  However, if the player is leaving a “closed world” the developer theoretically retains ownership to all the intellectual property that exists in the game and the player’s license to use it would likely terminate.  Therefore, any future use of the intellectual property in the context of another virtual world, or elsewhere, would likely be an actionable infringement.  In most jurisdictions the courts have not yet reached a determination as to any differences of ownership of virtual assets in “open worlds” or “closed worlds”, however, this will likely soon change.

Putting aside the above, even if a player does have ownership rights to virtual property it may have little or no value or use outside of the particular virtual world.  As some legal scholars have said, “code is law”.  However, as of today there is no one specific platform or code language that is being used to build all virtual worlds.  Given this fact, there is not currently a way to insure that virtual property could be taken out of a particular game and ported to another world.  Without the specific platform that the virtual world was built upon all the player has is arguably a string of meaningless code representing the asset which would not be accessible.  This may change in the future as more and more companies like Multiverse, Icarus Studios, Prototerra, Forterra, and others are developing licensable virtual world platforms which would allow multiple worlds to be built sharing the same underlying framework.  Moreover, companies like IBM and Cisco are working on a set of industry standards which may alleviate this concern.  When code and standards becomes more mainstream there may be a greater opportunity for virtual property from one world to be utilized in another world.