Tobold's Blog
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Virtual crime is on the rise

Just a quick link an article on virtual crime, written by a senior lawyer in the Australian paper The Age. It covers subjects like virtual theft, virtual sex crimes, and virtual fraud, and is written from the point of view of a non-gamer. An interesting read.
It's fascinating to think about what might happen if all real-world laws were extended to virtual worlds. If theft is illegal, what about murder? Should someone be sent to prison for ganking?

The US case where the authorities refused accept the theft of virtual goods was interesting as well. What about other forms of virtual good, such as music? By what legal principle is it ok to take someone's magic sword but not their mp3?
Taking someone's MP3 would be a civil matter wouldn't it?

So you could sue someone for taking your magic sword but not have them arrested?
You can only murder another human being. Therefore, you cannot be charged with murder if you kill a cat, a corporation or someone else's character.

Strictly speaking, illegally downloading music is copyright infringement, not theft. Record companies call it theft to scare people. At least in Australia (where I live) illegal downloading without selling/exporting/distributing is not a criminal offence and you can't actually be sent to jail. Of course you can be sued for copyright infringement and ordered by the court to pay some rather large fines.

However, it is still possible to steal virtual property (in the sense that the property is intangible). In fact, most of the money that is stolen is virtual money in the sense that it exists on the bank's computers and not in someone's wallet.

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