It's not like there haven't been warnings about the blurring boundary between online games and the real world when it comes to the legal system. In all of these online worlds, especially when real money gets involved, people just aren't clear as to whether or not in game actions have real world legal implications. On the one hand, you have people who will say that if something of real value is "stolen" in the game, that's a crime. Something of value has been lost. However, this gets tricky when you realize that some online games have theft or other crimes as a part of the gameplay on purpose. If stealing goods from other players is a part of the game, how can it be illegal outside of the game? So, even if it's not a major part of the game -- or if it's a programming flaw that allows it -- how can it be fair to say it's "illegal"? So, now, take that same issue to a larger scale. What if someone sets up an in-game bank? Then, it turns out the bank is actually a scam, and the owner simply takes all the money people gave him and runs? That's apparently exactly what happened recently. It may be tempting to say the guy committed real fraud -- but, again, the game let him do this. There was no guarantee within the game that the bank was legit. There was no FDIC "backing" the bank. There was a very real risk in putting money into that bank, but people did so by choice, as part of the game. The real issue is that too many online worlds are really just punting on the issue of an in-game legal system or conflict resolution system. They're forgetting that they've basically built a world -- and that world needs some sort of legal system as well. If there's a problem, then let the in-game mechanisms sort out the results or punishment. Because, if there isn't an official law enforcement/judicial process, you'll get the next best thing: an online mafia who will run the online world for you. Either way, that's still better than cluttering up the real world courts over these types of disputes.
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