Buffalo Law Review

First Page


Document Type



In Copyright


Millions of people each day log on to participate in "virtual worlds" where they can acquire virtual property, inhabit virtual spaces, and form lasting relationships with other virtual beings. Excited over the potential of a world without physical limitations, commentators extoll the numerous benefits of virtual life and its possibilities as a forum for social experiment. A real threat to this potential Eden exists, however, in the form of advertisers rushing in to sell their wares. Three functional components are present in all advertising - information, persuasion, and personal expression. When these three components are mapped onto the contours of the virtual world, the comparison reveals that there are key differences between real life and virtual life that suggest a revised role for advertising. The creativity and spontaneity that attracts many to virtual worlds does not mix well with the standardization implied by mass advertising. Advertisers and virtual world developers will not restrict advertising on their own initiative. Instead, virtual world participants must demand that that zones of exclusion be established where all advertising is prohibited. Something will be lost if advertisers have the same freedom to set up shop in the virtual world that they did in the real world at the beginning of the twentieth century.