Elizabeth Townsend Gard has begun an interesting experiment with her latest cohort of property law students, investigating the relationship between tangible and virtual property by exploring property and how it is treated in the online digital world Second Life.
"Each week a group of 7-9 students investigate, experience, and comment upon Second Life. The final product is a screencast. These screencasts will be posted at number of places -- at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School (where I am a non-resident fellow), here at my academic copyright blog, and then I have set up a special blog for the Fizzy project at http://fizzysecondlife.blogspot.com/."
She has two objectives in mind for her students:
"I want students to experience Second Life, which includes the tasks of avatar maintenance (changing Fizzy's appearance), experiencing different places and events, keeping up with the news, both inside Second Life as out, and most importantly for our course, exploring a property component.
The property question changes each week. The first, week, for example, students looked at the basic legal structure of Second Life and not surprisingly found it was a contract-based system, and not a "property" based regime. Virtual property is contract based. No one was surprised at this; it was just a place to begin. The second week students looked at finders and gifts; the third group is looking at "first in time." These last two examples are common topics for a First Year property course. The goal of this experiment is to get 1L students to apply their very basic knowledge in a different setting. Do they see elements of modern "real life" property being replicated in "virtual property?"
It's a variation on the Cyberone idea about argument/debate in cyberspace tried by Charles and Rebecca Nesson at Harvard.