If You Duplicate A Weapon In An Online World, Is It Copyright Infringement?

from the sort-this-sucker-out dept

It seems like we've had a bunch of stories recently about how the wild west of online virtual worlds is bleeding over into the real world courts. As we've said since these issues first came to light, it's a bad idea to take these disputes into a real court. Games need to figure out ways to deal with in-game issues in the game. Otherwise it raises all sorts of problematic legal situations (for example, if defrauding, robbing, killing others is a part of the game, then why is it a legal matter?). However, as each new case comes up, different legal issues are raised. The latest one is in China, where a couple years ago there was a lawsuit over a duplicate magic sword. When the game company realized the sword was an "illegal" duplicate, it deleted it. However, the scammer had already sold the duplicate sword, so the person who paid for it felt cheated and sued the gaming company. Again, it seemed like there were reasonable solutions to this within the game, and without resorting to court.

However, questions of duplicate magic swords in China are back on the discussion board today, as someone (anonymously) has pointed us to a case (which may actually be related to that original case) where three men have been tried for selling duplicate weapons in the game. Here's where it gets tricky, though. The men are being charged with copyright infringement. They made a bunch of copies of highly valuable in-game weapons, and were able to sell them for a profit of about $250,000. Apparently, this helped destabilize the world, as there were so many of these weapons which only the top players were supposed to possess. Still, this raises a number of interesting legal issues. Those involved aren't being charged with fraud, but copyright infringement -- which actually makes a little bit more sense, since they did make copies of digital goods they were unauthorized to copy and distribute. Still, again, it seems like an issue that should be solved within the game. The game can take away the weapons, and while that represents a loss to the players who paid for them, those players broke the rules in obtaining the weapons anyway. Also, we'd assume that since the game involves weapons, it's likely that players could lose weapons in a fight anyway -- so obtaining any such virtual good came with associated risks. Of course, after getting sued the last time the company deleted duplicate magic swords, perhaps they figured deleting these weapons would represent a huge legal headache.
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  1. identicon
    Big Huge Dave, 7 Sep 2006 @ 8:03am

    Trampas, you're being illogical

    "Everybody keeps missing the point. Just because YOU don't value the items doesn't mean they're worthless just because they're intangible.

    Is your soul worthless? Your car insurance policy? Your credit card numbers?

    Wake up people, if you can sell it for real money, it's worth real money, even if you don't like it."

    Um, you're comparing real world items, where it's perfectly legal to purchase them, there's a contract, etc, to a video game where it's AGAINST THE RULES TO PURCHASE IN GAME ITEMS FOR REAL MONEY.

    Yes, you're right, if you can sell it for real money then it IS worth real money TO THE PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE TRANSACTION. That doesn't mean it's worth real money to anyone else. It's only worth real money to someone else if you value it to that degree and participate in a transaction with another person.

    Now, to counter the silly points you make:

    Your soul? I can't even respond to that other than saying I'm not purchasing anything for my soul. So that's a dumb argumentitive point.

    Auto Insurance: If you try and cheat your auto insurance company it's a crime, you have to pay fines, possibly do jail time. It's in the contract. The contract specifies rules that you must follow in order to get the benefit of the insurance.

    Credit Cards: If you rip off someone's credit card numbers and use them for yourself it's a crime, you pay fines and/or go to prison if found guilty. If you're irresponsible with your credit card numbers or credit card then you will be succeptible to credit card fraud or someone using the credit cards, but if that person gets caught they are still in legal trouble due to the law prohibiting the theft of other people's property.

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