Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
digital goods, theft, virtual worlds

Companies:
habbo hotel



Real Police Cross Over Into Virtual World Again; Arrest Teen For Theft Of Virtual Furniture

from the bad-precedent dept

Just a few weeks ago, we pointed to a lawsuit involving two Second Life users, with one accusing the other of "theft." We pointed out, as we have for quite some time, how problematic it is when real world laws are applied within a virtual world. The point of a virtual world is that anything is possible -- and putting the constraints of the real world on those worlds not only seems counterproductive, but potentially dangerous. That Second Life lawsuit was between two users, but over in the UK, a similar situation has gone even further: involving the police.

The police have arrested a teenager accused of "stealing" virtual furniture from another player in the virtual world Habbo Hotel. Again, it's true that the virtual furniture has real monetary value, but it's the sort of thing that should be taken care of within the framework of Habbo Hotel. The folks who run the world should be able to deal with the situation, as they are the world's de facto government. If you don't think this is a problem that's going to get more and more problematic, then just start to think through the scenarios of what happens next. What happens in an online virtual world where "theft" is designed to be a part of the gameplay? Can players then call the real cops when they lose in the game? That situation may be a bit more black and white, but many of these virtual worlds are designed to be defined by the users. So what if the users decide that "theft" is a part of the gameplay? What if some users decide it is and others don't? Bringing real world laws and real world cops into virtual worlds is guaranteed to cause problems.

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  1. identicon
    zcat, 14 Nov 2007 @ 1:11pm

    The crime is 'phishing'

    I know it's funny to make comments about 'theft of virtual furniture', but that's kind of missing the point.

    The real crime here is 'phishing', deceptively obtaining logins and passwords, and then using those details to mess with an online service that someone else paid for. The exact details of what service are not really that important. It could just as easily be iTunes downloads or Windows licences or documents from Pacer. These things all cost real-world money, if I pay for them online and someone else takes them from me that's theft.

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