Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law

Article Title

The Magic Circle

First Page



This Article examines the concept of the "magic circle," the metaphorical barrier that supposedly excludes real-world law from virtual worlds. The Article argues that this metaphor fails because there is no "real" world as distinguished from "virtual" worlds. Instead of a magic circle, this Article advocates a rule of consent: actions in a virtual world give rise to legal liability if they exceed the scope of consent given by other players within the game. The Article concludes that although real-world law cannot reasonably be excluded from virtual worlds, game gods and players can control the interface between law and virtual worlds through their agreements, customs, and practices. This leads to a new conception of the magic circle: the point of interface between community-generated norms and background law, which often adopts local norms as legal rules.