Don’t Touch My Virtual Property: Justifications for the Recognition of Virtual Property

Authors Wian Erlank

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus)
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 133 Issue 3, 2016, p. 664 – 687


While there is growing consensus about the place and value of virtual property, both inside and outside of virtual worlds, the question of how to justify the acceptance of these new objects of property law needs to be addressed. In this article three normative justifications for the recognition of real world property is applied to virtual property as found inside virtual worlds. The first refers to John Locke’s labour theory, the second to Jeremy Bentham and the utilitarian theory, and the third is the personality theory as described by Jane Radin. By applying these theories to virtual property, it becomes clear that one would be justified in accepting that objects of virtual property, and in this article, specifically virtual property objects as found inside virtual worlds, should be recognised as objects of property in the real world.