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Dutch court convicts 2 teens of stealing virtual items.

KageraKagera Registered User regular
edited November 2008 in Debate and/or Discourse
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081021/ap_on_fe_st/eu_netherlands_virtual_theft

The jist is this.

A 15 year old and a 14 year old conned a 13 year old to give them some Runescape items under false pretenses.

So somehow this made it to a judge who called this theft and convicted the two older kids to community service, 200 hours for the 15 year old and 160 for the 14 year old.

My question is this: should this be a law for the US as well and what would the maximum penalty be if you think so?

More importantly, how would this affect MMOs, if at all?

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  • lizard eats flieslizard eats flies Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Isorn wrote: »
    Seems that article left out some rather important facts.

    Dutch news reported that the kid was beaten and kicked in order to force him to hand over his login details. They also threatened him with a knife.

    See, now with this I would rather they just get them on the threats and stuff. And they seem to have gotten off easy. This is possibly what the courts DID do, but the article makes it seem like they are starting to give legal status to virtual items, which in most cases I can see as being dangerous.

  • ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited October 2008
    mcdermott wrote: »
    Sometimes people like to emphasize the ridiculous aspects of a case to make a story more entertaining (McDonald's sued over hot coffee!), so I'd like to know the details before passing judgment. I mean, maybe how they actually got the items is significant.

    The only way I can see this is maybe if the fraud was perpetrated in person, or possibly if the virtual items in question carried a specific monetary value (as in, you paid the developers for access to those specific items...I'm thinking about things along the line of cards in M:tG online, or something...not sure how that game actually works, though).

    Otherwise? It still sounds like this case is giving virtual items in an MMO legal status in meatspace, which is retarded. I'm sorry, your Bow of Almighty Whupass is not real, has no value outside your computer, and if I take it from you you should have no recourse against me. Except through the company running the MMO.

    This gets more complicated when you remember that money is electronic as often as solid, an a computer program can be a valuable and expensive tool (look at what Photoshop'll run you).

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  • DmanDman Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    I'd have to read the terms of service of this game, but assuming they are sane the items in question were, are, and always will be property of the company providing the service as Nova_C said already.

    If Blizzard decides to delete my world of warcraft characters, I'm not entitled to fuck all because it says right in the terms of service that it was never my character to begin with. If some other party fucks over my character I'm still not entitled to anything, but blizzard can go after them for breaking the terms of service or hacking blizzard servers or whatever.

    I know there are some games where you can pay real cash for in game items legitimately. I'd be interested to see how they word such a "sale". If I pay cash to the service provider for an in game item, and then someone takes that item away from my in game character via conning me, then maybe they should be subject to prosecution the same as any other con man. I think a lot should depend on the terms of service. I mean, people do mean/immoral things in online games all the time, sometimes being able to grief other players is a selling point a game.

    I think the service provider should be able to easily resolve these issues (ban accounts/restore stolen items) and if the service provider is shitty, don't pay for that service....

    TL;DR
    I think if terms of service are broken, real world penalties should not be out of the question

  • mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Scalfin wrote: »
    This gets more complicated when you remember that money is electronic as often as solid, an a computer program can be a valuable and expensive tool (look at what Photoshop'll run you).

    Money's entirely different. Transferring funds electronically is possible because of a web of contracts that give those bits real-world value legally on either bank's end.

    Photoshop is different because you have a license you purchased for a specific value (even if that value was $0) from the company that created it.

    Your Sword of Pretty Much Instant Death in World of Everwhatthefuckever? Not so much.

    Unless, perhaps, that item was "sold" to you for a specific value (in real-world currency) by the company running the game. Which is why I brought up something like M:tG online, or maybe that crazy Korean golf game that Super Swing Golf is based on.
    I think if terms of service are broken, real world penalties should not be out of the question

    Only between you and the enforcers of those terms...in this case, the game publisher/developer/whatever. Not between you and other users.

  • TachTach Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Crap! My rogue has been pick-pocketing left and right since I started him. I'm screwed!

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  • ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited October 2008
    Dman wrote: »
    I'd have to read the terms of service of this game, but assuming they are sane the items in question were, are, and always will be property of the company providing the service as Nova_C said already.

    If Blizzard decides to delete my world of warcraft characters, I'm not entitled to fuck all because it says right in the terms of service that it was never my character to begin with. If some other party fucks over my character I'm still not entitled to anything, but blizzard can go after them for breaking the terms of service or hacking blizzard servers or whatever.

    I know there are some games where you can pay real cash for in game items legitimately. I'd be interested to see how they word such a "sale". If I pay cash to the service provider for an in game item, and then someone takes that item away from my in game character via conning me, then maybe they should be subject to prosecution the same as any other con man. I think a lot should depend on the terms of service. I mean, people do mean/immoral things in online games all the time, sometimes being able to grief other players is a selling point a game.

    I think the service provider should be able to easily resolve these issues (ban accounts/restore stolen items) and if the service provider is shitty, don't pay for that service....

    TL;DR
    I think if terms of service are broken, real world penalties should not be out of the question

    I'm pretty sure that were it legal, it would be treated like buying the lease on an office (my dad's a dentist, and apparently owning your own office is quite rare).

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  • lizard eats flieslizard eats flies Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Scalfin wrote: »
    mcdermott wrote: »
    Sometimes people like to emphasize the ridiculous aspects of a case to make a story more entertaining (McDonald's sued over hot coffee!), so I'd like to know the details before passing judgment. I mean, maybe how they actually got the items is significant.

    The only way I can see this is maybe if the fraud was perpetrated in person, or possibly if the virtual items in question carried a specific monetary value (as in, you paid the developers for access to those specific items...I'm thinking about things along the line of cards in M:tG online, or something...not sure how that game actually works, though).

    Otherwise? It still sounds like this case is giving virtual items in an MMO legal status in meatspace, which is retarded. I'm sorry, your Bow of Almighty Whupass is not real, has no value outside your computer, and if I take it from you you should have no recourse against me. Except through the company running the MMO.

    This gets more complicated when you remember that money is electronic as often as solid, an a computer program can be a valuable and expensive tool (look at what Photoshop'll run you).

    The photoshop analogy isnt entirely accurate. When you purchase software you are paying for the 'value' of the software. In photoshop, the value is that it helps you do graphic stuff. In an MMO the value is that you get an experience, part of which involves obtaining and possibly losing items/in game gold.

  • KalkinoKalkino Buttons Londres Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Well, Roman-Dutch law is apparently rather different from default Common Law systems most of us probably live with - so there could be all sorts of weird little subtleties of their property/banking/theft/assault laws that we would need to have explained to us before jumping to conclusions

    Freedom for the Northern Isles!
  • DmanDman Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    mcdermott wrote: »
    I think if terms of service are broken, real world penalties should not be out of the question

    Only between you and the enforcers of those terms...in this case, the game publisher/developer/whatever. Not between you and other users.

    Well, IMO this is arguable on a case by case basis. In most cases the dispute should be between the company offering the service and the person who broke the terms of service (person who got their character fucked has no say), but I can see where the person who was using the service and got fucked over has rights.

    Say there is an MMOG that is basically photoshop+chat (maybe mixing colours gives you points and unlocks new colours or whatever, who cares). The terms of service state you can only see other peoples art and you may not copy it, steal it or use it in any way.

    What if:
    1. Someone hacks the service provider, gets all my art, and sells it.
    Or
    2. Someone cons me into making my online art accessible to them and sells it.
    Or
    3. Does 1 or 2 but no one will pay them for it so they just keep their stolen copy.

    Clearly in all these cases the terms of service were broken, but also I lost control of my creative art when I never willingly gave up my control of it, so I think I'd be entitled to sue whoever stole copies of my work in addition to having the service provider go after them.

  • YarYar Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Please don't bring up the McDonald's coffee.

    Anyway, part of the problem here is that online property, like it or not, is taking on the characteristics and implications of real property. People buy and sell it with real money. People work for it, spending time that might otherwise be engaged in other profitable activity. Businesses pay people to generate it and then sell it. And so on. How large does this virtual economy need to be, and how much effect can it have on the real economy, before issues like taxation and property rights are too big to ignore?

    If people start killing each other IRL over virtual property, then wouldn't that necessitate governance, including property rights? Isn't that sort of why we have property rights and government?

  • lizard eats flieslizard eats flies Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    Please don't bring up the McDonald's coffee.

    Anyway, part of the problem here is that online property, like it or not, is taking on the characteristics and implications of real property. People buy and sell it with real money. People work for it, spending time that might otherwise be engaged in other profitable activity. Businesses pay people to generate it and then sell it. And so on. How large does this virtual economy need to be, and how much effect can it have on the real economy, before issues like taxation and property rights are too big to ignore?

    If people start killing each other IRL over virtual property, then wouldn't that necessitate governance, including property rights? Isn't that sort of why we have property rights and government?

    But again, part of the reason I play games is to be able to be a thief and steal game money. Or to PVP and kill people in game. This may set them back hours of game play. But if that upsets them, they are playing the wrong game. This is because you are NOT paying for the items/money in the game, you are paying for the experience the game developers have created. And the virtual property that you work so hard for is NOT yours, it is owned by the MMO developer.

  • ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited October 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    Please don't bring up the McDonald's coffee.

    Anyway, part of the problem here is that online property, like it or not, is taking on the characteristics and implications of real property. People buy and sell it with real money. People work for it, spending time that might otherwise be engaged in other profitable activity. Businesses pay people to generate it and then sell it. And so on. How large does this virtual economy need to be, and how much effect can it have on the real economy, before issues like taxation and property rights are too big to ignore?

    If people start killing each other IRL over virtual property, then wouldn't that necessitate governance, including property rights? Isn't that sort of why we have property rights and government?

    But again, part of the reason I play games is to be able to be a thief and steal game money. Or to PVP and kill people in game. This may set them back hours of game play. But if that upsets them, they are playing the wrong game. This is because you are NOT paying for the items/money in the game, you are paying for the experience the game developers have created. And the virtual property that you work so hard for is NOT yours, it is owned by the MMO developer.

    But internal thievery is a mutually agreed upon form of acquisition. Making a virus that infects others and transfers their stuff to you, on the other hand, is not.

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  • lizard eats flieslizard eats flies Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Scalfin wrote: »
    But again, part of the reason I play games is to be able to be a thief and steal game money. Or to PVP and kill people in game. This may set them back hours of game play. But if that upsets them, they are playing the wrong game. This is because you are NOT paying for the items/money in the game, you are paying for the experience the game developers have created. And the virtual property that you work so hard for is NOT yours, it is owned by the MMO developer.

    But internal thievery is a mutually agreed upon form of acquisition. Making a virus that infects others and transfers their stuff to you, on the other hand, is not.

    I think in this case though, the damages are to the MMO company, not the player. The MMO company can set stuff right by reseting the players goods. And then the person who used the virus would be liable for the work/lost funds/downtime etc to the MMO company. Same as if they hacked a website.

  • NightslyrNightslyr Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    I certainly hope that no one in The Netherlands plays EVE.

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  • BubbaTBubbaT Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    Please don't bring up the McDonald's coffee.

    Anyway, part of the problem here is that online property, like it or not, is taking on the characteristics and implications of real property. People buy and sell it with real money. People work for it, spending time that might otherwise be engaged in other profitable activity. Businesses pay people to generate it and then sell it. And so on. How large does this virtual economy need to be, and how much effect can it have on the real economy, before issues like taxation and property rights are too big to ignore?

    If people start killing each other IRL over virtual property, then wouldn't that necessitate governance, including property rights? Isn't that sort of why we have property rights and government?

    I'll stab you unless you hand over X sounds like pretty cut and dry extortion to me. Does it really matter if X refers to a tangible good?

  • mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    BubbaT wrote: »
    Yar wrote: »
    Please don't bring up the McDonald's coffee.

    Anyway, part of the problem here is that online property, like it or not, is taking on the characteristics and implications of real property. People buy and sell it with real money. People work for it, spending time that might otherwise be engaged in other profitable activity. Businesses pay people to generate it and then sell it. And so on. How large does this virtual economy need to be, and how much effect can it have on the real economy, before issues like taxation and property rights are too big to ignore?

    If people start killing each other IRL over virtual property, then wouldn't that necessitate governance, including property rights? Isn't that sort of why we have property rights and government?

    I'll stab you unless you hand over X sounds like pretty cut and dry extortion to me. Does it really matter if X refers to a tangible good?

    No, because (and correct me if I'm wrong) doesn't require that the attacker take a tangible good. Or even a valuable one, which is the issue here.

    Theft generally does. Generally "theft" requires the taking of a good or service that has a tangible value, even if the good itself is not tangible.

    I guess that's what some people are getting hung up on, because they think that I'm saying a good must be tangible to have value. Of course not. If I take $5000 out of your bank account, obviously I'm guilty of some form of theft, even if that money is merely deposited electronically into mine (and no tangible goods move).

    But the point here is that the "goods" being "stolen" in this case have no value. It's not just that they don't exist (in that they are intangible) it's that they are not sold. You don't pay for them. They are not traded for money by the company that created them. In this way they are different from the dollars in your bank account, or the games in your Steam account.

    Now, I'm talking in the context of the US (in response to Kalkino) since the OP mentioned the idea of whether or not this should happen here. There are a dozen other laws in our legal system (including the criminal side) to handle this particular situation. There's no reason "theft" should apply to the "goods" in question here, which are not only intangible but completely valueless as well.

    These kids are guilty of assault (with a weapon, no less). Possibly extortion. Probably unauthorized access to a computer system (if they used his login), which is also an incredibly serious crime. Then, on the civil side, the creator of the MMO may be able to go after them for some form of damages as well.

    My only issue is with the classification of this as theft.



    Oh, and it's my understanding that there is some transfer between in-game money and "real" money on EVE Online? In this case things are arguably different, because at that point every item within the game does have a fixed dollar value. This probably poses some pretty significant legal questions, though, because you're talking about a virtual world where taking things "by force" is part of the game, as is destruction of that property...so does this mean that ToS violations could be criminal violations in the real world?

    Fuck if I know.

  • lizard eats flieslizard eats flies Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    well every MMO has currency you can buy, thru ebay or some other source. Most are not sanctioned by the game company. There are a select few that DO have real world/game world money translations.
    The EVE reference, I assume, is because that game is notoriously brutal in how much you can be set back. Stories of massive amounts of in game setup of people infiltrating Corporations (guilds) working their way up, and taking everything in the end destroying years of in game work and wealth etc. Some of these are very extensive with real world phone calls and other such out of game things happening. The developers actually encourage a lot of this type of behavior too.

  • mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    well every MMO has currency you can buy, thru ebay or some other source. Most are not sanctioned by the game company.

    Well yeah, I know people sell their loot on eBay to each other. That doesn't necessarily give it a value, though, particularly since (as you said) it's generally not sanctioned by the company that still owns those virtual items.

    I can give you $500 for your Bow of Awesomeness, that doesn't make it worth $500, nor does it even make it mine.

  • NocturneNocturne Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Nightslyr wrote: »
    I certainly hope that no one in The Netherlands plays EVE.

    Oh god.

    "There was a several hour long standoff today, where a group of thieves made off with billions and left several dead..."

  • KageraKagera Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Isorn wrote: »
    Seems that article left out some rather important facts.

    Dutch news reported that the kid was beaten and kicked in order to force him to hand over his login details. They also threatened him with a knife.

    Was it a +2 Knife of Stabbing?

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  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    edited October 2008
    mcdermott wrote: »
    Well yeah, I know people sell their loot on eBay to each other. That doesn't necessarily give it a value, though, particularly since (as you said) it's generally not sanctioned by the company that still owns those virtual items.

    Sure, your terms of service cede any rights over your items and characters to the company maintaining the game. However, I don't see that as giving anyone else the right to interfere with those same items and characters. If a person were able to maliciously destroy my character and items through some sort of non-game avenue (a hack, stealing my password, etc)*, then they've harmed me and there should be some civil recourse.

    Of course, the easiest way to rectify that harm is to have the game company restore the account. That seems the most important distinction to me between in-game goods and real-world goods; in-game goods can be regenerated with a keystroke. Real-world theft law would probably look a lot different if someone could snap their fingers and give you all your property back.

    *EVE and similar games red herrings. There's a difference between thievery that's supported by the game mechanics and stealing passwords.

  • mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    MrMister wrote: »
    mcdermott wrote: »
    Well yeah, I know people sell their loot on eBay to each other. That doesn't necessarily give it a value, though, particularly since (as you said) it's generally not sanctioned by the company that still owns those virtual items.

    Sure, your terms of service cede any rights over your items and characters to the company maintaining the game. However, I don't see that as giving anyone else the right to interfere with those same items and characters. If a person were able to maliciously destroy my character and items through some sort of non-game avenue (a hack, stealing my password, etc)*, then they've harmed me and there should be some civil recourse.

    Of course, the easiest way to rectify that harm is to have the game company restore the account. That seems the most important distinction to me between in-game goods and real-world goods; in-game goods can be regenerated with a keystroke. Real-world theft law would probably look a lot different if someone could snap their fingers and give you all your property back.

    *EVE and similar games red herrings. There's a difference between thievery that's supported by the game mechanics and stealing passwords.

    There's also a difference between unauthorized access to an account (or using force to extort passwords) and theft.

    But yeah, good point on how different laws would be if property could be regenerated.

  • NocturneNocturne Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    MrMister wrote: »
    *EVE and similar games red herrings. There's a difference between thievery that's supported by the game mechanics and stealing passwords.

    Right. One is already illegal. The other isn't controlled by law and instead by the company that owns the rights to the product and it should stay that way.

    People need to stop bringing up hacking/stealing passwords/viruses. That shit is already illegal. Not. A. Valid. Comparison.

  • zerg rushzerg rush Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Hacking seems like a pretty mundane thing compared to assault with a deadly weapon.

  • NocturneNocturne Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    zerg rush wrote: »
    Hacking seems like a pretty mundane thing compared to assault with a deadly weapon.

    The original hacking.

  • Vangu VegroVangu Vegro Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Interesting ruling, and not just because my mother works as a cleaning lady for the judge that made it.

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  • YarYar Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    mcdermott wrote: »
    No, because (and correct me if I'm wrong) doesn't require that the attacker take a tangible good. Or even a valuable one, which is the issue here.

    Theft generally does. Generally "theft" requires the taking of a good or service that has a tangible value, even if the good itself is not tangible.

    I guess that's what some people are getting hung up on, because they think that I'm saying a good must be tangible to have value. Of course not. If I take $5000 out of your bank account, obviously I'm guilty of some form of theft, even if that money is merely deposited electronically into mine (and no tangible goods move).

    But the point here is that the "goods" being "stolen" in this case have no value. It's not just that they don't exist (in that they are intangible) it's that they are not sold. You don't pay for them. They are not traded for money by the company that created them. In this way they are different from the dollars in your bank account, or the games in your Steam account.

    Now, I'm talking in the context of the US (in response to Kalkino) since the OP mentioned the idea of whether or not this should happen here. There are a dozen other laws in our legal system (including the criminal side) to handle this particular situation. There's no reason "theft" should apply to the "goods" in question here, which are not only intangible but completely valueless as well.

    These kids are guilty of assault (with a weapon, no less). Possibly extortion. Probably unauthorized access to a computer system (if they used his login), which is also an incredibly serious crime. Then, on the civil side, the creator of the MMO may be able to go after them for some form of damages as well.

    My only issue is with the classification of this as theft.



    Oh, and it's my understanding that there is some transfer between in-game money and "real" money on EVE Online? In this case things are arguably different, because at that point every item within the game does have a fixed dollar value. This probably poses some pretty significant legal questions, though, because you're talking about a virtual world where taking things "by force" is part of the game, as is destruction of that property...so does this mean that ToS violations could be criminal violations in the real world?

    Fuck if I know.
    But value isn't something you get to declare or dismiss just because you want to or because a EULA says so. Various virtual gold pieces have real exchange rates to US$. It has real economic value whether you want it to or not. How is it not a currency? If one guy is spending hours earning virtual GP to buy a virtual sword, and another spends hours at a RL job to buy a TV, for how long can we pretend those are not the same thing? Especially if the former can decide instead to sell his GP for $ to buy a TV and the latter buys those GP in order to buy the virtual sword. A EULA somwehere that no one read may say that what's happening here isn't really happening, but over time, reality tends to win in the courts when it is at odds with legal structures.

  • Nova_CNova_C Sniff Sniff Snorf Beyond The WallRegistered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    But value isn't something you get to declare or dismiss just because you want to or because a EULA says so. Various virtual gold pieces have real exchange rates to US$. It has real economic value whether you want it to or not. How is it not a currency? If one guy is spending hours earning virtual GP to buy a virtual sword, and another spends hours at a RL job to buy a TV, for how long can we pretend those are not the same thing? Especially if the former can decide instead to sell his GP for $ to buy a TV and the latter buys those GP in order to buy the virtual sword. A EULA somwehere that no one read may say that what's happening here isn't really happening, but over time, reality tends to win in the courts when it is at odds with legal structures.

    We don't have to pretend it's not the same thing, because the time spent is not spent acquiring property. It's acquiring the ability or privilege to access a restricted area of a program. When you grind gold for 2 hours, you're not acquiring anything, but building access privileges. You then turn that in and are granted access to an area of the program you couldn't access before. That is, the virtual item. It is not property, but a form of limited access.

    Granting property rights to a form of software access would be kinda weird. You'd potentially be able to charge a company for theft for nerfing an item.

  • mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    But value isn't something you get to declare or dismiss just because you want to or because a EULA says so. Various virtual gold pieces have real exchange rates to US$. It has real economic value whether you want it to or not. How is it not a currency? If one guy is spending hours earning virtual GP to buy a virtual sword, and another spends hours at a RL job to buy a TV, for how long can we pretend those are not the same thing? Especially if the former can decide instead to sell his GP for $ to buy a TV and the latter buys those GP in order to buy the virtual sword. A EULA somwehere that no one read may say that what's happening here isn't really happening, but over time, reality tends to win in the courts when it is at odds with legal structures.

    No need to pretend. They are not the same thing. Tomorrow Blizzard can just up and decide to shut down World of Warcraft, and that sword you spent money on disappears. Because you never owned it to begin with. Basically, if your spending real money on fake items in a fake world, that doesn't give them value in the real world...it makes you a damned idiot. EDIT: At least if you harbor any false sense of "ownership" of them.

    Whereas, to my knowledge, Sony can't show up at my house and decide they're going to take my TV and throw it in the ocean.

    There are gray areas here, too, like iTunes purchases. Sure, Apple could shut down the iTMS (or I guess just iTS nowadays) tomorrow, and all your tracks you paid money for lose a lot of their value. But at the same time, you do have a license agreement with Apple for those specific tracks, which does transfer to you very specific rights as far as what you can do with them. And in this example at least, they'll continue to play on your currently authorized devices and you can burn them to a CD.

    That sword in WoW, though? Absolutely gone. And you never had any specific rights to it to begin with.

  • YarYar Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Repeat previous post... you don't get to just claim value doesn't exist when by definition it does. For now, the legal structure of the EULA stands. But don't fool yourself into thinking that someone wouldn't have a case against Blizzard if they shut down that server.

    What if my whole job and currency was WoW? I spent 8 hours a day earing WoW gold, and then convert it to $ every couple weeks. Do I pay income tax? How many people like me would there need to be before the government was like, "you guys need to be paying taxes!" And if I pay income tax, is it not then my gold? What if some of the vendors I shop at IRL start allowing me to keep tabs with them and just pay them in WoW gold, removing $ altogether? These markets already exist online and in limited fashion IRL. Who's paying sales tax?

    We know the virtual economies and RL economies already mix in limited fashion. My question again is at what point is the blur so great that your answer, that Blizzard can just turn it all off, is no longer any better than telling me that my bank could just shut off the server that stores my checking account?

  • mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    We know the virtual economies and RL economies already mix in limited fashion. My question again is at what point is the blur so great that your answer, that Blizzard can just turn it all off, is no longer any better than telling me that my bank could just shut off the server that stores my checking account?

    Do I really need to address this? Please tell me you're joking. Or trolling. Or something.

    EDIT: Fuck it, it's Yar, I'll bite. You have a contract with your bank, and there are laws written by our very real government that state you have a right to that money and that they can't simply "turn their servers off" and deny it to you. You have the exact fucking opposite with a company like Blizzard as regards World of Warcraft, which is to say a EULA that (I've not read it, but going by how they generally run) says they can kick you out at any time, take your stuff, whatever. You want to know when that line blurs? When the companies making these games start giving you real-world legal rights to your fake-world goodies. Which will not happen.

    EDIT: Or, alternately, when banks start employing guys like this:

    20050722h.jpg

  • lazegamerlazegamer Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    Repeat previous post... you don't get to just claim value doesn't exist when by definition it does. For now, the legal structure of the EULA stands. But don't fool yourself into thinking that someone wouldn't have a case against Blizzard if they shut down that server.

    What if my whole job and currency was WoW? I spent 8 hours a day earing WoW gold, and then convert it to $ every couple weeks. Do I pay income tax? How many people like me would there need to be before the government was like, "you guys need to be paying taxes!" And if I pay income tax, is it not then my gold? What if some of the vendors I shop at IRL start allowing me to keep tabs with them and just pay them in WoW gold, removing $ altogether? These markets already exist online and in limited fashion IRL. Who's paying sales tax?

    We know the virtual economies and RL economies already mix in limited fashion. My question again is at what point is the blur so great that your answer, that Blizzard can just turn it all off, is no longer any better than telling me that my bank could just shut off the server that stores my checking account?

    What is the basic principle you're arguing for here? I see you arguing against in-game items not being counted as real unless the ability to cash them out is sanctioned by their owner, which if wrong, is at least a principle. What alternative do you offer?

    Surprise.
    - Spy
  • ElJeffeElJeffe Super Moderator, Moderator, ClubPA mod
    edited October 2008
    Seems to me there are all manner of laws you could apply to this other than theft of property. We have assault, coercion, potentially fraud and identity theft. All of those get across the idea that what went down is not cool, without making the ludicrous leap into assigning real value to fake goods.

    Maddie: "I named my feet. The left one is flip and the right one is flop. Oh, and also I named my flip-flops."

    I make tweet.
  • BubbaTBubbaT Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    mcdermott wrote: »
    BubbaT wrote: »
    Yar wrote: »
    Please don't bring up the McDonald's coffee.

    Anyway, part of the problem here is that online property, like it or not, is taking on the characteristics and implications of real property. People buy and sell it with real money. People work for it, spending time that might otherwise be engaged in other profitable activity. Businesses pay people to generate it and then sell it. And so on. How large does this virtual economy need to be, and how much effect can it have on the real economy, before issues like taxation and property rights are too big to ignore?

    If people start killing each other IRL over virtual property, then wouldn't that necessitate governance, including property rights? Isn't that sort of why we have property rights and government?

    I'll stab you unless you hand over X sounds like pretty cut and dry extortion to me. Does it really matter if X refers to a tangible good?

    No, because (and correct me if I'm wrong) doesn't require that the attacker take a tangible good. Or even a valuable one, which is the issue here.

    Theft generally does. Generally "theft" requires the taking of a good or service that has a tangible value, even if the good itself is not tangible.

    Theft is a pretty broad term. It can refer to anything from extortion to armed robbery to simple shoplifting.

    I would say a login ID/password does have tangible value. I'm not sure about this particular game, but the real-world value of a WoW login is $13-15 US a month and they have millions of customers. That's tangible value pinned to access to a service/good. I suppose that goes for any form of paid electronic subscription, from nytimes.com to porn sites.

    I don't see how access to a service, even an electronic one, does not have tangible value. Especially if - unlike "stealing" cable - access to the service by the illegitimate user prevents access to the service by the legit user.

  • BubbaTBubbaT Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Nova_C wrote: »
    Granting property rights to a form of software access would be kinda weird. You'd potentially be able to charge a company for theft for nerfing an item.

    You'd have to show somehow that the action was being done without your consent - despite the fact that you're still voluntarily paying $15 a month for access to the new service.

    The right to access the service is not the right to have the same service provided forever.

  • mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    BubbaT wrote: »
    Theft is a pretty broad term. It can refer to anything from extortion to armed robbery to simple shoplifting.

    I would say a login ID/password does have tangible value. I'm not sure about this particular game, but the real-world value of a WoW login is $13-15 US a month and they have millions of customers. That's tangible value pinned to access to a service/good. I suppose that goes for any form of paid electronic subscription, from nytimes.com to porn sites.

    I don't see how access to a service, even an electronic one, does not have tangible value. Especially if - unlike "stealing" cable - access to the service by the illegitimate user prevents access to the service by the legit user.

    And ID/password has no value. It can be used to access items of value, in some cases, but the login combo itself is valueless as it can theoretically be replaced at no loss to, well, anybody.

    Access to the system does have value, but it's not like it somehow gives the imaginary items within that system some value by extension. I pay the same subscriptions as a level one rogue as somebody does as a level forty...fuck, I don't even know any other classes in that damn game. Are there even rogues? I don't know.

    So the value of a WoW subscription is in access to the game itself, not the particular items your character "owns."
    Seems to me there are all manner of laws you could apply to this other than theft of property. We have assault, coercion, potentially fraud and identity theft. All of those get across the idea that what went down is not cool, without making the ludicrous leap into assigning real value to fake goods.

    This is true of pretty much any scenario I can think of involving such a "theft." I can't think of any scenario that isn't better handled under other (and generally equally serious) criminal laws on the real world side and/or through the administrators of the game in question. Depending on the circumstances.

  • Nova_CNova_C Sniff Sniff Snorf Beyond The WallRegistered User regular
    edited October 2008
    BubbaT wrote: »
    Nova_C wrote: »
    Granting property rights to a form of software access would be kinda weird. You'd potentially be able to charge a company for theft for nerfing an item.

    You'd have to show somehow that the action was being done without your consent - despite the fact that you're still voluntarily paying $15 a month for access to the new service.

    The right to access the service is not the right to have the same service provided forever.

    Not if the item was your property in the same way a house or car is. The company would be legally bound to allow you access to your property, unchanged without your express consent. It's illegal for a mechanic to make changes to your car without your consent, is it not?

  • Knuckle DraggerKnuckle Dragger Explosive Ovine Disposal Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    The way I look at it is that the company retains all ownership and rights to the virtual goods, but that doesn't really mean that they have no value. The items in question have a given value out of game; even though people are not supposed to, they will do buy the items for that amount. More importantly, however, if the actual company that owns the item were to start selling them (or selling the service to generate those items without transferring ownership ;-) ), that is the price they could start at. That gives the virtual good a real world value, even if the owner never intends to sell it, and I think that is where the judge is coming from when he called it theft. They didn't steal something of the boy's, but they stole something of value that had been put into his possession by the owner. Somewhat akin to stealing a rented item from someone.

    sig-2699.jpg Iosif is friend. Come, visit friend.
  • mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    The way I look at it is that the company retains all ownership and rights to the virtual goods, but that doesn't really mean that they have no value. The items in question have a given value out of game; even though people are not supposed to, they will do buy the items for that amount. More importantly, however, if the actual company that owns the item were to start selling them (or selling the service to generate those items without transferring ownership ;-) ), that is the price they could start at. That gives the virtual good a real world value, even if the owner never intends to sell it, and I think that is where the judge is coming from when he called it theft. They didn't steal something of the boy's, but they stole something of value that had been put into his possession by the owner. Somewhat akin to stealing a rented item from someone.

    I already mentioned this, and how it would change things significantly.

    And a rented (like, say, a DVD) item is different because it cannot be instantly replaced. An in-game item can be...it's made of bits, not stuff.

    Any attempt to define this as "theft" is going to be a stretch...and even if you make that stretch work, I question whether or not it's a good idea to do so when (according to the reports here) there are other equally serious criminal laws available to prosecute under.

    The only possible motivation I can come up with (other than the judge just being a bit dense) is that by giving these items real-world legal value in this case, it opens up the door to start taxing transactions of the type mentioned in this thread.

    Unless, as mentioned, their legal system is just that much different than ours in that it won't establish any such precedent for other cases. In which case I guess fuck it, it doesn't matter. But if we're talking about creating such a law in the US, it certainly would have far-reaching legal consequences that I'm not comfortable with.

  • lizard eats flieslizard eats flies Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    mcdermott wrote: »
    The way I look at it is that the company retains all ownership and rights to the virtual goods, but that doesn't really mean that they have no value. The items in question have a given value out of game; even though people are not supposed to, they will do buy the items for that amount. More importantly, however, if the actual company that owns the item were to start selling them (or selling the service to generate those items without transferring ownership ;-) ), that is the price they could start at. That gives the virtual good a real world value, even if the owner never intends to sell it, and I think that is where the judge is coming from when he called it theft. They didn't steal something of the boy's, but they stole something of value that had been put into his possession by the owner. Somewhat akin to stealing a rented item from someone.

    I already mentioned this, and how it would change things significantly.

    And a rented (like, say, a DVD) item is different because it cannot be instantly replaced. An in-game item can be...it's made of bits, not stuff.

    Any attempt to define this as "theft" is going to be a stretch...and even if you make that stretch work, I question whether or not it's a good idea to do so when (according to the reports here) there are other equally serious criminal laws available to prosecute under.

    The only possible motivation I can come up with (other than the judge just being a bit dense) is that by giving these items real-world legal value in this case, it opens up the door to start taxing transactions of the type mentioned in this thread.

    Unless, as mentioned, their legal system is just that much different than ours in that it won't establish any such precedent for other cases. In which case I guess fuck it, it doesn't matter. But if we're talking about creating such a law in the US, it certainly would have far-reaching legal consequences that I'm not comfortable with.

    I dont even think this changes all that much. Its just paying more money to access a different aspect of the game quicker or something. I sort of look at a lot of this like going to the gym. You are paying money to go to the gym. You dont own the equipment you use there, the gym does. Maybe there are advanced machines that you can only use if you have been a member for a certain amount of time. In this analogy 'buying a sword of awesome from blizzard' would be like paying your gym some extra cash to be able to use the advanced equipment earlier. You still dont OWN that new equipment.

    Also if you are putting in tons of 'work' to get your items, then you are doing it wrong. The 'work' (grinding etc) IS the game. There is value in grinding, there is value in your character having the sword etc. That value is 15 bucks a month. Same as the value of a lvl 1 character etc. because the value IS the game NOT the items/characters/status.

    And as far as ebay and full time workers. You arnt selling anything tangible. If I pay a company for money, and they dont deliver I have no recourse, because it wasnt theirs to sell in the first place.

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