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There are a number of ways to explain how the property system in a virtual world works. Various explanations are proposed in this paper to explain this phenomenon. Some people argue that property in virtual worlds is purely based on contract and as such can be explained as merely licensing players to use the virtual worlds. Other explanations include the arguments that virtual property is based purely on intellectual property, actual (real) property or even does not exist at all. However, one alternative to accepting that virtual property is actual property, is by viewing the property relationship as a system as feudal ownership or estates. This model of explaining virtual property manages to incorporate many, if not all of the current explanations for the existence of virtual property. As such, it can be argued that even if virtual property is based solely on contract and that the developer therefore maintains his or her position as owner, the player in fact, also has a stake in the virtual property. The developer can be regarded as lord with the user’s interest being regarded as seisin rather than ownership. Alternatively, the developer is regarded as having dominium directum, while the player is regarded as having dominium utile, due to the fact that in most cases the developer has little or no actual interest in the ownership of a specific object of virtual property. This paper will analyse the possibilities of this explanation.

Keywords: Virtual Property; Virtual Worlds, Property; Ownership; Feudal Ownership; Property Relationships; Dominium Directum; Dominium Utile; Seisin; Feudal Estates; Governance

How to cite this paper: Erlank, W. (2015). Property relationships in virtual worlds – A return to the feudal system? Corporate Board: role, duties and composition, 11(3), 153-165.