News24

Online game theft, real-world conviction

2012-01-31 22:14

The Hague - The amulet and mask were a 13-year-old boy's virtual possessions in an online fantasy game. In the real world, he was beaten and threatened with a knife to give them up.

The Dutch Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the theft conviction of a youth who stole another boy's possessions in the popular online fantasy game RuneScape. Judges ordered the offender to perform 144 hours of community service.

Only a handful of such cases have been heard in the world, and they have reached varying conclusions about the legal status of "virtual goods" - and whether stealing them is real-world theft.

The suspect's lawyer had argued the amulet and mask "were neither tangible nor material and, unlike for example electricity, had no economic value".

But the Netherlands' highest court said the virtual objects had an intrinsic value to the 13-year-old gamer because of "the time and energy he invested" in winning them while playing the game.

The court did not release the offender's name, only his year of birth - 1992. It said he and another youth beat and kicked the boy and threatened him with a knife until he logged into RuneScape and dropped the objects in 2007.

One of the thieves, who was also playing the game, was then able to pick up the items, making them his virtual property.

Both were convicted by a lower court in 2009, but only one of them had appealed to the Supreme Court.

Comments
  • cwboshoff - 2012-01-31 22:35

    It does not matter that the kid had to give up virtual or real world items, 2 kids in real world beat him up and blackmailed him to give up the items or else they would physically hurt him again/further, forgetting about the theft, they should have been charged with aggrevated assault.

  • pieter.bosch - 2012-01-31 22:53

    It is not theft it is robbery with assault. Gaining items in a virtual world costs money (internet dial-up time, buying virtual items, programmes etc. with real money) and forcefully taking it from somebody is robbery.

      Nick - 2012-02-02 10:38

      Robbery constitutes theft + assault... That's what makes it robbery...

  • Sinudeity - 2012-01-31 23:30

    Runescape? What a crap game. As for the virtual items, you can actually sell them for a couple of thousand Rands. In this case, assault is the charge with more prison weight.

  • mario.dippenaar - 2012-01-31 23:56

    Selling virtual hats! 8 ref or 3 keys!

  • Johann - 2012-02-01 11:14

    I think in the future we will see more of these kinds of crime. Especially with games like Diablo III, where you'll be able to sell virtual items in a marketplace online. I agree with pieter it's robbery with assault and should be dealt with that way.

  • Sinjoku - 2012-02-02 07:42

    There is no difference between the virtual world items and real world due to the fact that the crime took place in the real world..... A crime that should of carried a heavier penalty, as this was a robbery with a deadly weapon, Pre-meditated, And intent to do grievous bodily harm to the victim. No difference between the items wanted by criminals and that which is stored in a bank account also accessible through internet.

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