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.

Filed Under: digital goods, theft, virtual worlds
Companies: habbo hotel

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  1. identicon
    Kyros, 14 Nov 2007 @ 1:02pm

    Well of course, everything in moderation. This applies to everything, but is inherently irrelevant to the discussion.

    I'm somewhat curious as to what exact law the police are prosecuting the physical world your probably talking about a transfer from lines in a database, is that something you can prosecute for? How much money are we talking about anyways? I mean, since when do the cops care about 5$ in an online game?

    I've never played habbo hotel, so is theft built into the game, or did the guy steal his buddies account?

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