Publication Date



Millions of people worldwide entertain themselves or
supplement their incomes-or both-by meeting with
fellow employees as avatars in virtual worlds such as
Second Life, solving complicated problems on websites like
Innocentive, or casually "clicking" to make money for
simple tasks on Amazon.com's Mechanical Turk. Virtual
work has great promise- increasing efficiency by reducing
the time and expense involved in gathering workers who
live great distances apart,and allowing for efficient use of
skills so that the whole is truly greater than the sum of its
parts. At the same time, virtual work presents its own
unique series of challenges, and regulation is needed to
ensure that the end result is not virtual sweatshops. Some
of the questions that virtual work raises are: How might
the minimum wage laws apply to new forms of work, such
as crowdsourcing, where work is broken down to small
components? How could virtual worlds help us to test the
amount of unconscious bias that exists in hiring? How
will unions use virtual worlds, and as happened in the
2007 IBM Italy "virtual strike," are more virtual
industrial actions yet to come? Other issues discussed in
the Article include virtual work approaches to
whistleblowing, harassment, and disability law. While
still nascent, these legal issues are of concern to employees
and employers alike, and in light of that fact, it is
appropriate to begin formulating well-thought out
approaches to address them.