Virtual property : towards a general theory
Title: Virtual property : towards a general theory
Author: PALKA, Przemyslaw
Citation: Florence : European University Institute, 2017
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of Law
The primary contribution of the thesis is a theory enhancing the legal understanding of the phenomenon of virtual property, encompassing presentation of data and a new conceptual framework to interpret it. The author argues that the normative debates concerning the phenomenon have underestimated the importance of understanding and conceptualizing it first, and aims at amending this gap. The ‘virtual property phenomenon’ refers to the users of internet platforms and online computer games ‘possessing’ virtual items – digital objects that exist within these services – and getting into economic and social relations concerning these items, with other users, service providers and third parties. These relations are regulated by different types of service-specific rules – contractual and the ‘code’ – created unilaterally by the service providers, who additionally retain the ability to interpret and enforce them, using ‘digital force’, i.e. by modifying and deleting virtual items, and blocking users’ accounts. The primary challenge stems not from the fact that the phenomenon is not regulated, but from the fact that lawyers lack words – terms and concepts – to even conduct a meaningful debate about it, or how to respond to it. The thesis consists of six chapters. Firstly, the author describes the phenomenon and analyzes the theoretical and regulatory legal challenges posed by its emergence. Secondly, he critically assesses the state of the art. Thirdly, a methodology to address these challenges is proposed, which can also be used in other research projects concerning law and technology. Fourthly, the author explains how the process of digitalization has fundamentally challenged the assumptions that private law held about the structure of reality, and proposes new doctrinal tools to conceptualize it. Fifthly, the author presents a legally useful concept of virtual items, and argues that granting users property rights over them might not be the optimal means of realizing the property goals. Finally, the author proposes a normative solution, a correction of private law, responding to the new type of inequality in relations, namely a user protection law.
LC Subject Heading: Property; Possession (Law); Internet -- Law and legislation; Computer games -- Law and legislation
Defence date: 20 December 2017; Examining Board: Professor Giovanni Sartor, European University Institute (Supervisor); Professor Hans-Wolfgang Micklitz, European University Institute; Professor Roger Brownsword, King’s College London; Professor Bartosz Brożek, Jagiellonian University
Type of Access: openAccess
Preceding version: http://hdl.handle.net/1814/40366
Version: Chapters 3.2.2. 'The formation of legal concepts : organic and manual acquiring of meaning'; 4.2.1. 'Objects'; 5.1.2. 'The three step-method : particularization of the Idea by the features of an object'; and 5.2.3. 'The method applied' of the thesis draws upon an earlier version published as an EUI Working Paper 2016/08 'Redefining 'property' in the digital era : when online, do as the Romans did'