Intellectual Property Rights in Virtual Environments: Considering the Rights of Owners, Programmers and Virtual Avatars


A virtual environment is a computer-generated world that can be used for training, data visualization, recreation, and commerce. The visitors of virtual environments include not only humans but also virtual avatars. The avatars can take on a range of shapes, characteristics, and personalities, and can perform a variety of tasks within the virtual environment. As the behavior of avatars becomes more realistic, sophisticated and intelligent- and the avatars become more autonomous in their decision making, the question of whether virtual avatars should have legal rights separate from those of their owner, becomes an issue. This paper discusses legal rights associated with the design and use of virtual avatars, commenting on the ownership rights of the creators of virtual avatars and the rights of avatars themselves should they gain intelligence and become independent decision makers and creators of intellectual property.


Intellectual Property Law

Date of this Version

November 2005