The Laboratorium (3d ser.)

A blog by James Grimmelmann

Soyez réglé dans votre vie et ordinaire afin
d'être violent et original dans vos oeuvres.

Bone Crusher 2.0

Greg Lastowka, who taught law at Rutgers-Camden until his untimely death of cancer in 2015, was a thoughtful scholar of copyright and virtual worlds, a beloved teacher, and a profoundly decent human being. He was generous and welcoming to me as a law student whose interests paralleled his, and then a generous and welcoming colleague. He was always one of my favorite people to see at conferences, and his papers were like the man: intelligent, unpretentious, and empathetic, with a twinkle of poetry.

Greg colleagues at Rutgers-Camden have honored his memory by holding an annual memorial lecture, and I was privileged beyond words to be asked to deliver last fall’s fourth annual lecture. It was a snowy day, and I drove through a blizzard to be there. I felt I owed him nothing less. So did many of his colleagues and family, who turned out for the lecture and reception. It was a sad occasion, but also a happy one, to be able to remember with each other what made Greg so special.

I am very pleased to say that thanks to the efforts of many – our mutual friend Michael Carrier from the Rutgers faculty; Alexis Way, the Camden editor-in-chief of volume 70 of the Rutgers University Law Review; her successor Alaina Billingham from volume 71; and the diligent student editors of the RULR – my lecture in memory of Greg has now been published as Bone Crusher 2.0. (The title refers to one of my favorite examples from all of Greg’s scholarship, a stolen Bone Crusher mace from Ultima Online.) Here is the abstract:

The late and much-missed Greg Lastowka was a treasured colleague. Three themes from his groundbreaking scholarship on virtual worlds have enduring relevance. First, virtual worlds are real places. They may not exist in our physical world, but real people spend real time together in them. Second, communities need laws. People in these spaces do harmful things to each other, and we need some rules of conduct to guide them. Third, those laws cannot be the same as the ones we use for offline conduct. Laws must reflect reality, which in this case means virtual reality. Using these three themes as guideposts, we can draw a line from Greg’s work on virtual items in online games – Bone Crusher 1.0 – to modern controversies over virtual assets on blockchains – Bone Crusher 2.0.

This is not my most ambitious paper. But for obvious reasons, it is one of the most personally meaningful. I hope that it brings some readers fond memories of Greg, and introduces others to the work of this remarkable scholar.