Classifying Virtual Property in Community Property Regimes: Are My Facebook Friends Considered Earnings, Profits, Increases in Value, or Goodwill?

Virtual property, or that property which exists only in the intangible world of cyberspace, is of growing importance. Millions of people use virtual property every day, be it an e-mail account, a blog, or a Facebook profile; billions of dollars are spent to acquire virtual property. As the importance of virtual property continues to increase at light year speed, laws pertaining to virtual property must similarly develop. Among the legal issues yet unaddressed is how community property regimes will respond to virtual community (or virtual separate) property. Spouses are on the brink of litigating issues such as whether a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is community or separate property, whether a website generates an increase in separate property, whether e-mail contacts are profits, and whether Facebook friends create goodwill. Community property jurisdictions must be prepared to quickly adapt to the reality of virtual property if they wish to avoid being lost in cyberspace. To aid courts in their impending task of considering virtual property in a community property setting, this Article examines how different forms of virtual property should be classified in community property regimes. After explaining the classification scheme within community property jurisdictions, the Article details examples of virtual property likely to be present in modern couples' lives, and considers how these identified examples of virtual property should be classified.