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Reader Comments (20)

Posted: Oct 21st 2008 9:05PM Gemi said

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I agree that online thefts should be punished just like real life thefts, but the given penalty in this case seems too harsh. 160 and 200 hours are quite a lot for someone aged 14 or 15, regardless of what was stolen and if it was online or not. But that's not the point here. I'm glad that online thefts are starting to be taken seriously and it does good to the young players out there who learn bad habits from the older players.

Posted: Oct 21st 2008 9:39PM Nadril said

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I have to disagree. Online matters should be handled in the game. I realize that online items often have a small monetary value, but in all honesty ruling on such things is just a waste of time. If a player wants to play as a dick, a jerk and a ninja then let them get punished for their actions THROUGH THE GAME.

Don't group with them, or have special ways (PvP/PKing them, or whatever) to deal with it. Bringing in real life into a game like this is silly. I mean, what next? 50 hours community service for teabagging some kid in a match of halo? You need to draw the line somewhere, and I say leave video game "loot" out of court matters.

Plus the items in the game belong to the game company anyways, so I don't even see it as theft.
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Posted: Oct 21st 2008 9:59PM (Unverified) said

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The thing about MMOs is that you're paying for nothing.... Nothing at all. Fun, perhaps- but there's nothing actually there. It's just a program masked with a graphics card. You can't really benefit from it unless you do something typically against the game rules such as gold selling or whatnot, and it's not really an asset since it doesn't exist physically. It only exists in your mind.

This seems absurdly excessive. It should have been delt with at the GM level, but a legal leve is going waaaay too far.

Posted: Oct 21st 2008 10:17PM (Unverified) said

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If a government considers virtual items "real enough" for the purposes of crime (theft, fraud, racketeering, etc.) the next logical step might be to consider them "real enough" for the purposes of taxes. . .

Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 1:42AM (Unverified) said

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This is utterly idiotic. Why the hell are laws being applied to a virtual world? They could have killed the kid in game and looted his crap too. Would that have been extortion and murder? Stupid stupid stupid stupid....

Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 2:38AM (Unverified) said

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Well i live in Holland and i saw this on the news, And the victim was taken to the house of one of the two boys. And he was molested until he transfered the items on his account to the account of the 2 boy's.
He sended an amulet and a hat. I think it's pretty shocking people would go that far for some items in a game. And then even Runescape.

Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 4:10AM (Unverified) said

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Oh damn didn't know that part. Guess I should RTFA.
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Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 11:09AM (Unverified) said

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@ tundd, thanks for the additional information.

It's good to have another angle on this, as the only mention of the case I've seen is taken from the AP story, which says that the victim was "coerced." To me, this simply suggests he was threatened into turning over the items. Of course this would be a real world crime committed over something intangible if occurring face-to-face. But if a virtual interaction (as the wording of the source article implied) with virtual extortion/RL threats via text -- ie completely within RuneScape -- it wouldn't make sense for courts to punish it as they might with real world crime.

I'm in agreement with the comments below, if actual violence wasn't just implied but used to extort, that's another more serious crime and the punishment should fit, regardless of whether what they wanted was 'real' or virtual.

Thanks again tundd and Ebs for clarification on the incident.
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Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 2:53AM Graill440 said

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The high courts havent even reached a verdict on whom virtual property belongs to, those who created it or those who played a game and created it.

white papers abound with decisions on smaller issues and when the world court finally does decide then the publishers or the folks playing the game will be in a world of hurt. Either way it is lose, lose.

If publishers win then the lawsuits will flow with the slightest infraction or grey area in a EULA, if the players win, then the publishers will be sure to hamstring any decision supporting players owning virtual property and profiting or trying to sue the publisher for theft or reimbursement.

As for players verse players, that is one rats nest waiting to happen and i am sure there are greedy lawyers out there waiting to get grubby fingers into that pie.

Government involvment, *rolls eyes*

Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 2:58AM (Unverified) said

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If happened what 'tundd' said then they should be punished, if happened in game than no way because its Roll Playing Game and you can took role to be thief. Molested IRL become whole new case, there is no virtual any more.

Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 3:05AM (Unverified) said

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I'm Dutch aswell and it happened as Tundd said. I don't think they got this heavy a punishment for taking a vertual item, but also for beating up the other kid.

Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 5:36AM (Unverified) said

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As far as I'm concerned, virtual property theft should be just as punishable as regular theft, UNLESS IT IS AN INTENDED PART OF THE GAME. The punishment is not scaling with what was taken, but with the actions that were performed.

Essentially, it is very necessary for people, of any age, to learn that actions have consequences. And since the actions in this case were so extreme, yes, the punishment is appropriate.

You reap what you sow, kids.

Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 6:42AM (Unverified) said

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This article misses vital information. Providing only half the story leads to misunderstandings. Even when I read the article I was thinking, "There is missing something." And then I read the comments of the Dutch guys above, and it clicked.

The court's ruling is interesting, and due to their molesting, the two deserve their verdict in my opinion.

Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 6:56AM TheJackman said

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Sorry but the Dutch system is a joke and a insult to there people. I am 100% sure that they will start tax virtual as early as next year. Really they already where talking about taxing websites and so on...

Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 7:26AM (Unverified) said

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IMPORTANT
Stop - before you jump to misconclusions: This articles leaves out very important info!

This was a REAL LIFE incident. The two guys forced the 13-year-old to go to their home, where they beat him up und threatened him with a knife. The 13-year-old was forced to give them the two virtual items.

That changes the picture a lot, doesn't it?

Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 8:51AM (Unverified) said

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This is completely different then. I was going to say its ridiculous to pose a real life penalty to item apparently "stolen" from a game where the TOS will state that they don't actually own the items to begin with.

But with your contribution, I think they got off easy. Pfft.. only in the Netherlands.
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Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 11:12AM (Unverified) said

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Agreed. This changes it from being "virtual extortion" to "extortion over something virtual". Thus, a real world crime, not actions in-game being punished out of game.
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Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 2:00PM (Unverified) said

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yes i believe the boys got punished for what they did in real life not the virtual life.

my only problem is lets say you spend 1000 hours just too get that. then have it stolen, Dev decide to destroy it or something how would that make you feel?

of course that is one of the reasons i quit wow because of the insane time it took too get raid gear and such. i don't know if they made it more user friendly now.

Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 2:43PM (Unverified) said

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Well i'd like to add my 2 cents to this.

Firstly the article is pretty vague as to what exactly happened or how the punishment was determined so let me make a few things clear.

The kid got physically forced to hand over those items. So they slapped him around, brought him to a computer and said "You better transfer this or we'll mess you up real good." That act alone would justify the 200 hours they will need to work in my eyes.

Secondly virtual items are much more then just some data on a harddrive somewhere. Firstly there is a emotional attachement to certain items. (Wouldn't you be mad if your first ever vanilla wow epic got jacked off your account? I could then argue that its just data on a disk, but to you it is so much more, it's a memory or something you are proud of.) Imagine you have a empty piece of paper that your father tried to write his last words on but failed just as the pencil hit the paper, that piece of empty paper might mean the world to you, but only you. And some guy comes along and rips it in half and then argues "its just a piece of paper you can get a new better one in a second". You'd be upset right?

The same thing could be said for virtual items. I haven't even mentioned the time and resources certain players put into getting a certain item. How would you like to be robbed of 30 hours of hard work?

Let's say virtual items are not governed by law.
Does that mean that everything on a computer is virtual and has no meaning and value? If i go online and deface a website its like virtual graffiti, poeple get convicted for that pretty harshly. So why not virtual item theft?

And to the poeple that say; "Omg it's just a game, grow up." I would like to say; yeah it IS a game to YOU. That does not mean it's "just" a game for someone else. If you've met your wife through that game (it happens) it wouldn't be just a game. If you play this game with your child to bond with it and have a project for you and the kid it's not "just a game". A game can be allot of things for allot of different poeple.
So why be suprised if certain poeple get upset over the game? Become criminials because of the game?

Christ poeple kill other poeple if they don't like the jokes someone is telling them.

As you might have guessed i'm from holland and although you might not understand our justice system it's kinda silly to call it shit over this, poorly detailed, article.

I hate to break it to all of you but our justice system is still light years ahead of that of other country's. And, unlike some, i actually found that out by myself.

I mean there's nothing like 12 total strangers having your future in their hands and having almost no accountability for their verdict.

And lastly, although the world hears allot of crap about holland, we're still one of the best places to live in for free thinkers.

Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 5:00PM (Unverified) said

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I can certainly agree that virtual items (and experiences within virtual spaces) mean different things to different people, beyond the idea of monetary value attached to them.

I suppose it's really an issue of how different legal systems differentiate -- or don't differentiate -- between virtual and tangible items. So the issue of the law governing the virtual isn't just about Holland. China, for instance, has set some precedents in their own legal system as to ownership of virtual property, spurred on by their own incidents with real world crimes crossing over with the virtual, not to mention all their lawsuits where players sue game companies over such items, and vice versa.

It really is only a matter of time before more legal systems pay attention to these issues, and whether or not that will be a good thing is debatable. (As one commenter above mentioned, could recognition of virtual goods as actual goods potentially snowball into taxation?)

But typically, items provided by a game or virtual world remain the property of the company, regardless of how we feel about our armor sets, virtual apartments, or faction battleships, or the time spent obtaining them. Although some people are hoping to change that:

http://www.secretlair.com/index.php?/clickableculture/entry/data_bill_of_rights_vs_avatar_bill_of_rights/

http://www.bettereula.com/index.php?title=Main_Page

This really is a whole can of worms though...
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