Issue of virtual property rights is getting real

All those outdated billboards in Google Street View aren’t just an eyesore; they’re a waste of money-making opportunity for the big G, apparently. But not for long.

Google’s filed a patent entitled “Claiming Real Estate in Panoramic or 3D Mapping Environments for Advertising,” and it should allow them to automagically cut out billboards shown in Street View and replace them with their own current ads.

In theory, this would be done in concert with whoever owns the space, so a theater owner could keep the posters out front up to date at all times. This seems to be the only way for Google to get away with doing this, as if they suddenly started sticking ads on other people’s property without their permission, things could get ugly fast. [Telegraph]

I knew the early interest in legal issues in Second Life would amount to something eventually!

Does the owner of title in real property have a right to control geolocated images of that property? If so, is it a property right? If they do not control it, and somebody else puts their own images in their place, is that adverse possession? (and would adverse possession still be possible since there is no land titles for images?)

Or is it an intellectual property right, since these are intangible assets?

Or perhaps something different — some sort of a contract interest, rather than a property interest at all, or a sui generis property right?

All of which would seem very esoteric were it not for the large amount of advertising money on the table.

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2 thoughts on “Issue of virtual property rights is getting real

  1. Anonymous says:

    In response to this post, <a href="">@jasonjkee</a&gt; <a href="">asked</a&gt;, "Didn’t this issue arise when Times Square billboard ads were replaced in 1st Spiderman movie?"It’s related, but I think it can be distinguished from this situation. I’m writing a response in a new post.

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