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Michael Risch

The rule of law generally requires that governments announce and follow the laws of land. This allows citizens to know what to expect from their government and to make investments accordingly. Entrepreneurs want to know what activities are legal, whether the government can interfere in business, whether agreements are enforceable, and whether harmful actions by others will be stopped. For this reason, many consider the rule of law a catalyst for economic development, and there is reason to believe that it will be equally important in virtual economies, despite their differences with the real world. As more people turn to virtual worlds for fun and livelihood, the rule of law will become prominent in encouraging investments in virtual business. This chapter considers whether virtual worlds provide a rule of law that sets expectations for virtual life. It is not surprising that—for the most part—they do not; virtual worlds currently lack many of the elements of the rule of law. Which aspects fail is more surprising, however. Provider agreements and computer software, the sources of regulation that are most often criticized as “antiuser,” provide the best theoretical hope for achieving the rule of law, even if they currently fail in practice. On the contrary, widely proposed “reforms,” such as community norms, self-regulation, and importation of real world law face both theoretical and practical barriers to implementation of the rule of law in virtual worlds. These conclusions follow from a four-step analysis.

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Michael Risch

This chapter surveys a variety of methods in conducting empirical trade secret research. It discusses data sources, study types and methods, and challenges unique to trade secrecy with respect to four different considerations: innovation incentives, trade-offs with other IP, the “cost minimization” theory of trade secrets, and litigation behavior. The chapter also includes a comprehensive bibliography of every empirical trade secret study we could locate, organized by subject. Many of the papers and their findings are discussed in the chapter as aids for those developing their own research along similar paths.

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Michael Risch and Jack Russo

This book chapter explores the development of virtual reality technology from its rudimentary roots toward its realistic depiction of the world. It then traces the history of copyright protection for computer software user interfaces (a law that only predates virtual reality by a few years), highlighting competing approaches toward protection and infringement. While the focus is on virtual reality, this chapter contains an exhaustive examination of the state of “look and feel” protection for software interfaces. The chapter then considers how these competing approaches—each of which is still holds some sway in the courts -- will apply to virtual reality objects, application, worlds, and interfaces. We posit that as VR becomes more realistic, courts will find their way to allow more reuse. We do not expect to see traditional characters and animation treated any differently in virtual reality. Mickey Mouse is still Mickey Mouse, and Pikachu lives in trading cards, cartoons, augmented reality, and virtual reality. It is whether and how realistic depiction, gesture control, modularization, and sharing fit within copyright’s limiting doctrines that will create important and difficult questions for future developers, judges, juries, and appellate courts.