If like me, you still have trouble taking your Second Life seriously, then think again. Reuters has opened an online news center dedicated to covering the virtual world, with particular attention paid to the game's growing economy. The move also coincides with the launch of a US Congress investigation into how virtual assets and incomes should be taxed.
A quick visit to the Reuters Second Life News Center shows two charts: one depicting the price of the Linden dollar vs the US dollar, and a second graph showing the number of US dollars spent in Second Life over the last 24 hours - currently $410,273! Reuters has also embedded a full time reporter into the game, called 'Adam Reuters' (real name, Adam Pasick).
In an interview with the New York Times, Pasick explains Reuters' thinking:
"It’s not any different than when Reuters opens up a bureau in a part of the world that has a fast-growing economy that we weren’t in before. The laws of supply and demand hold true, it has a currency exchange, people open businesses and get paid for goods and services."
Not surprisingly, one of Pasick's first reports covers the congressional probe:
"The increasing size and public profile of virtual economies, the largest of which have millions of users and gross domestic products that rival those of small countries, have made them increasingly difficult for lawmakers and regulators to ignore."
With so much virtual money changing hands I can see why the IRS would want a share. Although, how this might actually work is anyone's guess, and arguably completely unnecessary. Any virtual earnings that are converted into real world currency are already taxable. The virtual should remain virtual, as anything else is likely to open up a whole can of worms.
From Illya Vedrashko's Ad Lab Blog:
"They should count Second Life as a separate voting district, too. No taxation without representation."