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Virtual property becomes a reality

With the recent sentencing of a Chinese man who murdered an acquaintance in a dispute over a virtual sword, talk of the growing trend of virtual property has been rampant and, largely, pretty disparaging. But an interview in the Guardian Unlimited's blog section is a refreshing reminder that the concept of virtual property isn't inherently bad.

The Guardian's Aleks Krotoski has posted a short interview with Philip Rosedale, founder and CEO of online game "Second Life." For those who aren't familiar with the game (and I was among them until today), it's a virtual world in which players create their own land, structures, products, services and characters with almost limitless potential for creativity. Think "The Sims," with nearly every rule and boundary broken down. Developers who spend their time creating unique buildings or hip fashions for avatars can sell those virtual goods and services to other players. The company behind the game, Linden Lab, even sets aside money every month for "Developer Incentive awards," real-life money that goes to people who develop the virtual lands other players spend the most time in.

As concern and confusion grow over how virtual property should be treated in the real world, Rosedale's interview gives some insight into a group that is doing it the right way, with thorough thought and caution. Let's hope those who start trading virtual property on "Second Life" and a myriad of other games have the same healthy perspective.