Property rights, legal issues, and business models in virtual world communities

Ian MacInnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


This paper uses a business model framework to help identify the issues that developers of virtual worlds have to address as their enterprises mature. While most virtual worlds have adopted subscription models there is an increasing trend toward selling digital items directly to users. This arises from the emergent markets linking real world currency to items existing on company servers. This practice has resulted in controversial and unresolved legal issues. Communities that arise from virtual worlds can be classified according to level and type of control. Lack of control can lead to a Hobbesian world of predation and vigilantism. Strong developer control can be exerted to protect users but communities adopting shared governance with users are likely to become more common.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-56
Number of pages18
JournalElectronic Commerce Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • EULA
  • Item trade
  • Online games
  • Property rights
  • Virtual communities
  • Virtual worlds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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