Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Court Ruling in Runescape Case

Last week I blogged a little newsbite from the Netherlands, where the case of theft of virtual goods was laid before the court in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. As expected, the court has reached a virdict and has sentenced two boys to conditional detention and civil services because of the virtual theft from the game Runescape.

On September 6 last year the boys from Leeuwarden, at the time both 14 years old, forced a thirteen-year-old victim to hand over virtual goods, a mask and an amulet, and to transfer the items to their account. The thirteen year old had collected a large amount of credits with which artifacts could be purchased. The boys forced him to a house and there he was kicked and threatened with a knife, until he transferred the goods and credits..

Community Service

The lawyers argued during the meeting that virtual goods do not really exist, and transferring it does not conflict with the rules of the game, but the court thought otherwise. The court charged one boy with 160 hours community service and 1 month of conditional youth detention, where the second received a sentence of 200 hours of community service and two months probation. a month conditional jeugddetentie, the other 200 hours of labor and two months conditional detention. The prosecution had demanded 180 hours of service and 1 month detention with a 2 year probation.

Important precedent

Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm of SOLV Lawyers considers it an important ruling. He had been convinced that virtual theft should be punishable prior to the lawsuit. "It is a confirmation of standards which we find perfectly normal in the physical world, but still had no legal framework in the virtual world . Of course the use of physical violence played an important part in the ruling, as well as the fact that both boys showed no repentance. " Alberdingk Thijm expects the verdict will have a broad impact. In the past it has already been determined that electricity is a good, but not software. Virtual furniture are now in any case under the definition of a good, hence can be prosecuted under normal civil law and also concepts like fencing, computer misuse and destruction may be applied to virtual worlds or games.

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Blogger punkademic said...

This is beyond absurd.

Comparing the theft of intellectual property to the visual representation of a real-life object is totally inaccurate. Video game manufacturers implicitly contend with the same issues regarding intellectual property rights. While I disagree with the ways in which property rights are allotted (i.e. allowing corporations like Disney to hoard copyrights on 'folk' stories), there are people whose work is directly impacted by the theft of digital property.....such as a band losing (real) money on royalties. What, exactly, does someone lose in a 'virtual' theft, aside from the insane amounts of time spent in front of the computer? Isn't this essentially a lawsuit over whether gamers are being mean to each other? And if so, does this imply that people can, or should, sue each other based on their mental distress from having their avatars bullied?

The bigger issue at stake here is that people should be concerned about a different set of 'virtual' goods being stolen, such as the public's airwaves or the entire digital spectrum that was given away wholesale to media corporations in the 1996 Telecommunications Act (and subsequently auctioned off).

Only in cultures built upon the foundation of colonialism and the systemic theft of natives' property could people be so concerned about such trivial nonsense as a virtual robbery.

People need to get their heads out of their (virtual) asses and realize that there are much bigger problems in this world, and much more important rights to preserve than one's 'right' to a simulacra of a virtual object.

Saturday, October 25, 2008 8:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


No, this is not absurd.

Players invest many many hours earning virtual credits in order to buy or collect top items in these virtual games.

They get these items to use within the game allowing them access to more income faster and even better improvements and items.

If a young kid worked hard and saved all their pocket money in order to buy a bike, that is no different to another kid working hard inside a game and saving for these items.

As with the kid with the bike, when the kid in the game reaches their target level and gets the item, they also feel proud about it.

I personally think the gaming companies who run these sites need to do a lot more in preventing these thefts, or punishing the thieves and returning the goods to those who have been targetted. RuneScape have a 'no return' policy when it comes to hacked goods, even in situations like the one reported. What is sad is even though the two boys have been found guilty by the courts, the boy who was forced at knife point will still not get his goods back and the two older boys will still have then today.

Sunday, October 26, 2008 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger VeeJay Burns said...

@punkademic - I think the court has had pretty sound reasoning to establish these virtual goods as actual goods under Article 310 of the Penal Law. (see follow up on this post at Court Ruling in the RuneScape Case (2)

I agree with anonymous and the court reasoning that these goods do have value. You put so much work into creating stuff in Second Life for instance. The time invested does give it value, same goes for buying virtual items.

Sunday, October 26, 2008 11:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not absurd. And it's not about the property over the virtual items. It's about using violence. For the court it didn't matter whether it was a theft or not, it mattered that it was an act of violence.

Thursday, October 30, 2008 3:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the first anonymous: the kids gave the goods back to the victim under the watchful eye of a police officer. That part of the court ruling was left untranslated by veejay (who did a great job on this!).

To the second anonymous: the breakthrough aspect of this case is the idea that virtual goods can be goods in a criminal sense and thus can be stolen. This ruling will have consequences even for hackers who don't use physical violence.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008 1:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Zeke Sirrus said...

Thankyou for the report and I advise any investors in virtual universes to read the report as it is quite illuminating. Players of real cash economy games (such as Entropia Universe) should read the link to the court ruling especially. Thanks again.

Saturday, February 14, 2009 3:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Yes, there is something absurd about this. It's the fact that these 2 older teenagers would use violence to get the younger teen to surrender his virtual goods. This is not much more different than the boys putting a knife to his throat for his hard earned money. Whether it be money or virtual goods, the victim spends numerous hours and time to earn either one.

Just because the goods are virtual does not deny the fact that the victim was wrongfully robbed of something he worked hard for. So get your head out of your ass and recognize justice.

Thursday, April 23, 2009 5:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Orly? said...

@First anonymous comment: You'd be surprised what an effort these companies make. You are punished with a permanent ban from the game. For those who have payed for the game for many years, that's a lot of money wasted.

Monday, July 20, 2009 11:26:00 PM  

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