If Someone Picks Your Pocket In Second Life, Who Do You Blame?

from the that-border-between-virtual-and-real dept

We've recently covered a few cases where real world laws end up in virtual worlds due to accusations of theft or fraud. These cases are always problematic, because it's impossible to know where to draw the boundaries. If a virtual world allows theft, then is it still a crime in real world? Now let's make this question a little more complicated. Some researchers have discovered that, thanks to a flaw in Apple's Quicktime, which is used within Second Life, it's possible to steal money from players within Second Life. This is important, because Second Life money can quickly be converted into US dollars. So, the virtual world "pick pocketing" can have real world implications. However, is it a crime?

Second Life is famous for pitching itself as a world where anything can happen -- and you could assume that if it can happen in the virtual world then it's legitimate activity -- or should be dealt with within the confines of the world. Otherwise, you're opening the door to people in worlds where "thieving" is encouraged or a part of game play accusing others of stealing in real world courts as well. Of course, that does open up the question of whether or not someone is to blame for the lost money here. Some could pin the blame on Second Life -- and, in fact, the article above notes that Second Life may need to upgrade its security to be more "bank like." Some could pin the blame on Apple, who has yet to patch the flaw in Quicktime. Others, of course, might blame users for keeping "valuable" currency in an unsecured environment like Second Life. And, of course, some would blame the person exploiting the security flaw in the first place. The point, though, is that it's a bit more complex than many would make it out to be, and future scenarios are only going to get more complex.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 7:46am

    Tired of hearing about this

    Honestly...If you're stupid enough to invest real money into a game beyond the cost of purchase of the game, you deserve to lose the money and then die for not having a life.

     

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  2.  
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    Jack Sombra, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 7:56am

    Not really much difference here to early days of o

    Of course, that does open up the question of whether or not someone is to blame for the lost money here. Some could pin the blame on the bank and, in fact, the article above notes that the bank may need to upgrade its security to be more "bank like." Some could pin the blame on Microsoft, who has yet to patch the flaw in internet explorer. Others, of course, might blame users for accessing "valuable" currency in an unsecured environment like internet. And, of course, some would blame the person exploiting the security flaw in the first place. The point, though, is that it's a bit more complex than many would make it out to be, and future scenarios are only going to get more complex.

     

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  3.  
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    A. L. Flanagan, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 8:02am

    You can have them arrested?

    Gee, I've just been getting my friends Guido and Sal to take care of these things for me. They're with the Italian branch of the Irish Yakuza. It's true arresting them would leave fewer body parts lying around. ;)

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 8:04am

    Its a game. Don't invest money in a video game. Buy it, play it, have fun with it, but get a real life and leave the house every once in a while.

     

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  5.  
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    Max Powers, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 8:15am

    Call the Police

    Call the second life police. If you want to play the game, then play it for real and accept the consequences or don't play it at all.

    If you have that much time for this type of "game" you definitely have too much time on your hands. Get a life, a real life.

     

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  6.  
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    LucBoardwalk, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 8:15am

    Nothing new.

    Sorry, this is nothing new. The definition of "trespassing" was long ago expanded to cover those who gain unauthorized access to computer systems, even when the intruder never left his own home.

     

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  7.  
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    Bobby Ritt, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 8:23am

    SL is not a game :(

    As the title says, SL is not a game, but a collaborative internet hosting system in 3D. It's no more life taking than internet, and can save lots of time for things like conferences, art events, elearning or other very usefull usages. So stealing in SL should be looked into. It's a security probleme, just like Visa's or other well known, unperfect money transaction methods. Just need to try and fix it, and of course punish theft like you would with paypal or visa card stealers.

     

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  8.  
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    sonofdot, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 8:29am

    Re: SL is not a game :(

    SL is most certainly a game, and you're delusional if you think otherwise.

    As has been said, get a first life.

     

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  9.  
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    A. L. Flanagan, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 8:38am

    Re: SL is not a game

    Before we get into a long argument here, I'd like to suggest that each debater be forced to define "game".

     

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  10.  
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    Wolfger, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 8:47am

    Doesn't matter if it's a game or not

    The perpetrators are not playing by the rules of the game/world, they are exploiting a programming flaw for profit. I'm pretty sure this counts as a crime in most jurisdictions. If you exploit a bug in PayPal to wipe out somebody's account, that's a crime. Same deal here.

     

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  11.  
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    You never know, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 8:55am

    I have to agree with Anonymous Coward. Have fun with the "Game" but live your life in the real world. And most important, don't confuse the two....

     

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  12.  
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    Thom, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 10:15am

    No and Yes

    It IS a game. Anyone that questions that, or suggests that others need to consider their definition of a game, needs to quit participating in the game because they obviously can't distinguish games from reality.

    That said, Wolfger has it right. Theft such as this isn't taking place within the rules of the game but through an exploit. Stolen game money should be replaced. Thieves (exploiters) should be pursued in criminal or civil courts for computer crimes.

     

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  13.  
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    Dave S, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 10:19am

    Seems pretty clear-cut to me

    If your pocket gets picked in the real world, do you blame the store you were in for allowing it to happen on their property? Do you blame the company that made the pants for not securing the pockets? Or do you blame the pickpocket for being a thief?

    If your house gets robbed in the real world, do you blame the real estate agent who sold you the house? Do you blame the Yale/Master for making an imperfect lock? Or do you blame the burglar for being a thief?

    Granted, Linden probably needs to come up with a (better?) way to police this sort of thing and Apple definitely needs to fix their Quicktime bugs, but that doesn't change where the ultimate blame lies: On the thief. Claiming that Linden or Apple is at fault in Second Life doesn't make any more sense than saying it's the store's, the clothing manufacturer's, the real estate agent's, or the lock manufacturer's fault you were stolen from in the physical world.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 10:19am

    Who are you to tell how we should live?

    My life is where my mind is. I don't care if that is in a world made of molecules or bytes, and neither should you. Who do you think you are to tell people how they ought to live their lives?

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 10:36am

    definitions is where it's at.

    now, in most online games, mmorpgs, the game company owns all digital material. and therefore can't be sold for real money. (even though it is)

    as such, the digital property has no "true" real world value, and thus there is no way for real world police to arrest anyone stealing in game items. it's up to the game compan to deal with such "activities" in accordance with the elua/tos/tou.

    SL has a problem because you can trade in game currency for Real world money. but when does the digital money become real money? who owns the digital money? are there in game policies about stealing?

    because in games like World of Warcraft, you may aquire items and gold via game exploits or such, but you may be in violation of Blizzard's game contract, and may be subject to having those items removed and your account suspended. now what's the SL policy?

    because it could be that the SL currency has no real meaning or owner until it's time to trade to real money. i.e i may have 1 million in game dollars (equal to 1 million us dollars) but they aren't worth anything until i actually trade them in.

    but it's all about deffinition.

     

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  16.  
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    jonas, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 11:09am

    Well...in World of Warcraft I'm a rouge. Essentially an assasin/thief. I think it would b funny to import my Rogue to Second Life to see what havoc he can cause. You know, kill 3D people, steal their lunch, get xp for it. Why not? =)

     

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  17.  
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    Paul, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 11:48am

    Exchange rates

    While I agree that it is daft to leave more than pocket money in a poorly secured environment there is a catch to being sensible.

    Suppose I create a successful means of generating money in SL. To be safe I should convert the surplus to Real Money that is stored in a secure Real World location. If at any time I wish to spend more in SL than I have available I transfer money back from my Real World account.

    How much will I loose each time I do this? The Exchange Rate is not 1 to 1. Who gains - SL. Who has no financial incentive to fix the security risk - SL.

     

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  18.  
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    AlbinoRhino, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 12:00pm

    Having access to monies online is retarded. No matter how 'Secure' your banking establishments tell you that your accounts are when being accessed online...they aren't. Certainly it may seem very simple and quick to participate in online banking, but a phone call is better.

    Having access to money in a game is even more retarded. Stealing is stealing. Whether it is monopoly money or in game credits that can be converted to legal tender.

     

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  19.  
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    Bobby3000, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 12:12pm

    Bobby Ritt sounds like a SL shill

    Post #7.

    Dude, you're too obvious.

     

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  20.  
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    Matt, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Bobby Ritt sounds like a SL shill

    "...can save lots of time for things like conferences, art events, elearning or other very usefull usages"

    Really? I kind of always assumed MMORPGs were by definition useless usages. I don't think I'll be having any work-related conferences, going to art shows, or taking college classes on SL anytime soon.

    I can play Diablo2, WoW, SL, etc, for 10,000 hours, and from that time I get... oh yes, nothing, in return. If I find a sucker willing to trade REAL money, for FAKE online items, then great. But it's not my "right" to "earn a living" on these games. And if someone steals my items, well that's crummy and it stinks. But I'm not calling 911 either!

    Me: "...hi I'd like to report a theft."
    911: "OK sir what was stolen from you?"
    Me: "Some #@$& jerk took my Rune Staff of the Ages! Arrest him!"
    911: "Sir, please stop prank calling 911."

     

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  21.  
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    LBD, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 2:26pm

    Re: Re: SL is not a game

    SL is a toy (It's interactive but there are no goals)

    A game has a set goal

     

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  22.  
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    Gando Thurston, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 3:28pm

    SL is not a game - this is theft

    Since expropriation of Second Life money is against the terms of service (TOS) in Second Life one cannot assume that theft is a legitimate activity.

    The terms are there for anyone to read: http://secondlife.com

    Second Life is free to use, it's not that hard to explore and I'm willing to give anyone a free tour -- especially interested reporters.

    Sign up and IM me in world, I am Gando Thurston.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 4:18pm

    Re: Tired of hearing about this

    Yeah. I mean, why pay regular fees for continued entertainment? Bye Internet, Cable TV e.t.c

    You're a stinge and an idiot.

     

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  24.  
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    Buzz, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 5:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: SL is not a game

    WRONG! Many games have no set goal. Are SimCity and Rollercoaster Tycoon no longer games when you fire up the sandbox mode? Even many of today's RPGs have goals to help you along, but they have no final goal. The goal of any game is to have fun. If one finds it fun to simply kill themselves repeatedly in the game, well, that person has issues, but the game has served its purpose.

    People are taking Second Life way too seriously. As has been mentioned already, if you are complaining to real-world authorities about virtual-world crimes then you have problems. Obviously, if REAL money was stolen from someone's account, that's a different story, but once a player uses money to purchase a virtual item, that money is gone forever. The player is not 'entitled' use to that item. It can be stolen, destroyed, hacked, etc. It's part of the inherent risks of playing GAMES.

     

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  25.  
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    Nick, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 7:20pm

    Time is money, friend!

    Stealing is stealing, whether it's a credit card online, real world, or a game. To those who said don't invest money in a game or it's your fault, well time is the same thing. Reporting scams to the game maker is the first way, and a lot of people lose their accounts that way.
    Short of that, the long road is explaining it to a lawyer, getting a subpoena to get their real identity, then pressing charges. Good luck explaining this to a cop though. Even reporting credit card or identity theft is a long shot when it comes to law enforcement. It's hard to believe the Second Life staff hasn't fixed this bug, knowing they can lose a lot of subscribers over it, just bad for business.

    I remember in Ultima Online years ago there was a duplicating bug where people were duping expensive items and gold, and hundreds of peoples accounts were wiped out when they found them doing it. SL keeps logs, they can find out who's doing this and take action.

     

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  26.  
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    Barrenwaste, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 12:11am

    Let SL take action

    Let them cancel accounts if they want to. But to call the police because the character you play in an MMRPOG got ripped off? Come on, that's taking things way to far. Now, if you paid to play and the administrators cancel your account without cause, you have a legitiment case, but that is something else entirely. The worst that should be allowed for people finding ways to gain profit that were not covered in the original design should be reprimand and then cancelation of account. Especialy with a game touting it's real life paralells.

     

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  27.  
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    Pura, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 10:34am

    Don't play Secondlife Big rip off

    read terms of service , they can cancel your accounts for anything they choose to, i have friends that have lost over thousands Dollars on buying land houses and all there inventory,, play don't spend

     

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