This from today’s NYT:

Game companies are not like phone companies, which have a legal obligation to carry all speech over their lines. The Constitution does not protect speech once it has been signed away by contract, which is what players do when tghey subscribe.

But that could change as virtual worlds increasingly intersect with the real one, some legal experts contend. It is considerably more painful to switch game worlds, abandoning pets, property and friends, than it is to switch phone companies, they note. Games may come to be regarded in the same gray area as shopping malls, which several state courts have ruled can be forced to uphold speech rights despite being private property.

1-15-04, NYT, cover, C21

Story’s about a professor booted from a sim for linking to his own site, which linked to a site that had tips for cheating..

The issue concerns whether or not his free speech was violated.

Insofar as “cyberspace” (the term I love to hate coz there’s no space there) provides users w/ possibilities for community development in which participants follow their own normative rules (hence allowing you to devalue ownership, wealth, ethnicity, gender, age, whatever…) one question that is answered differently by the courts, and by users, is: Whether cyberspace is contiguous to real space, or contained within real space.

A) Do rules followed in a cyberspace community provide an equally real, but virtual alternative (contiguous world, contiguous community and society)?

B) Or do they carve out a niche, a protected space, within the mainstream?

If it is the latter, then cyberspaces will have to answer to the codes set by mainstream culture, and will only ever provide alternative subcultures to the extent that members can protect themselves from scrutiny. The virtual community has to subordinate its codes to everyday law and practice. It becomes a microcosm of daily reality, and whether it reproduces, rejects, or recontextualizes “real” norms and codes, it is never more than a commentary on “real” culture.

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