Buffalo Intellectual Property Law Journal

First Page


Document Type



In Copyright


Historically speaking, legal fiction assumes that identity and the credentials proving identity are one and the same. It is an important fiction that allows us to access information associated with our identity and restrict others from doing the same. Crimes of identity theft are commonly manifested through the usurpation of one's credentials to falsely verify identity. Legal doctrine such as agency theory makes the assumption that identity and credentials are only transferrable together. Technology, especially the Internet, alters this fiction by allowing the creation of multiple credentials that enable access to multiple identities manifested throughout the world. The one-to-one relationship between credentials and identity is severed, thus making existing legal analogies insufficient in the virtual world. A number of these issues can be obviated by restructuring the legal fiction to embrace separate and distinct credentials and identities. This paper will discuss how the two-pronged approach applies to the death of virtual identities.