In this article, Schwarz and Bullis discussed the effects and consequences of intellectual property law on online gaming. In online multiplayer games, players collect cash and points through game play. This cash, applicable only in the game, can be traded for objects within the game that might improve the character’s ability or collection items. However, there are now markets outside the game in real life that trade this type of game currency in exchange for real currency. At first glance, the concept seems fair enough: trade different types of monies at rates that satisfy both ends. Yet, virtual currency, and for that matter, all characters, game plays, and settings, belong to the owner of the game server and software. Does the owner of the server own the currency too, or do players who play the game and gain the cash actually “own” the cash?
One must wonder how ownership should be defined in the context of Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG). When one purchases a book, one may legally resell it. This type of ownership does not apply for digital music downloads. Does it apply for virtual currency and fantasy goods? Companies owning the games have formally banned the secondary market of real-world money trading, primarily to retain control of the game characters and also to avoid detraction from the game experience. If real money can be exchanged for aptitude in the virtual game, then the quality of gaming at its essence, where "skilled" players accomplish the most, diminishes.
The authors concluded that virtual goods and currency should be compared to the reselling of books rather than to the distribution of downloaded music. They argued that even though these goods do not exist outside of the online game, they are still goods that are traded from one person to another. When one player sells a sword to another, that player no longer holds the sword. However, digital files such as music can be duplicated infinitely and the original holder still retains one copy. Further, a physical CD of music can be resold because the original owner no longer owns that physical CD. Thus, whether goods are digital, virtual, or real was irrelevant in this discussion. According to Schwarz and Bullis, the tangible and physical nature of the good was the defining and determining characteristic of property.