Comment: Regulating Virtual Property with EULAs

James Bonar-Bridges

Online games like World of Warcraft and Second Life are intensely successful products that have changed the face of modern entertainment. Contracts between the user and the publisher, called end-user license agreements (EULAs), control these online interactions—and entire virtual worlds. Players must agree to a given game’s EULA before starting the game.

This comment argues that EULAs, which purport to control all facets of the user’s in-game experience, are a poor shield for users of these alternate realities—especially in situations where players have large monetary investments. Part I explores the property interests at stake in these massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) by looking at World of Warcraft, specifically. Part II then explores issues that have arisen with the World of Warcraft and other EULAs in terms of who they bind, what they allow software developers to do to users who exploit flaws in programming, and what they regulate. Finally, Part III questions whether these agreements are enforceable contracts and whether contract law is the appropriate mechanism for regulating virtual property by exploring the alternative enforcement mechanisms of property law, consumer protection law, and criminal law.