Court Ruling in the RuneScape Case (2)
I thought I was pretty fluent in English, and my Dutch beyond question as I'm a native speaker. However, when digging into the actual court ruling in the RuneScape case as a follow up to the brief summary I posted last week, I had a lot of trouble understanding the contents in Dutch, not being legally educated and at times had even more trouble finding a suitable translation.
I did give it a try though, as the Google translation of the original document, which now circulates various blogs does not make sense at times. As it is a very lengthy document I've left out a number of things, these are:
- Proof Recital
- Evidence Recital
- Proof Declaration
- Verdict Motivation
If so desired, I'll take a shot on those as well.
Prosecutor number 17/676123-07 VEV
Verdict of the full court for the treatment of the case of the declarant against the accused dated October 21, 2008
born on [birth date] 1992 [birthplace],
residing at [address suspect]
The court has paid notice to the investigation presented at the hearing held on October 7, 2008. The suspect appeared, assisted by RA Schütz, lawyer in Leeuwarden.
A photocopy, certified by the Registrar, of the subpoena is attached to this ruling from which the content of the charge should be considered in this ruling. Clerical errors in the verdict will be corrected in reading. These errors will not hurt the suspects' interests.
The prosecutor has argued at the hearing
- Conviction for the primary charge
- Assignment of Civil Service for the duration of 180 hours or 90 days youth detention alternatively as well as conditional youth detention for four weeks with a probationary period of two years;
Consideration regarding the request of the counsel to the hearing of witnesses.
The counsel called for the case to be held at the hearing, as provided for in Article 328 in conjunction with Article 315 of the Code of Criminal Procedure as it has become a necessity that the principal, the co-defendant and the interrogators of the suspects will be heard as witnesses. The court quotes the argumentation by the counsel.
Client strongly denies the alleged conduct. He claims not to have used any violence and has not seen the co-defendent use violence as appeared on the charges. The violence and threats comitted by the [suspect] as the declarant claims does not correspond with the profile of [suspect] obtained from the report of the Council for Child Protection.. It is inconceivable that someone like [suspect] , as we have got to know him through various recommendations, would conduct such violent behavior all of a sudden. According to [suspect] the declarant has erroneously connected the acts the [co-defendant] allegedly comitted with those of [suspect] . Possibly the declarant was confused by the acts of [co-defendant] in such a way that the criminal charge may give a wrong interpretation of the facts. The file clearly shows the declarant was quite upset. The fact that [co-defendant] also incriminated [suspect] , can be explained from the fact that [co-defendant] hoped to get a better deal if he would lay off part of the charges with [suspect] according to [suspect] .
[suspect] states that he has denied all involvement at the police in a first interrogation, but when the police made clear they did not believe him and told him he would possibly have to stay much longer at the police office, he acknowledged the accusations. The charge does not reflect this first denial of [suspect] .
Concluding from the previous arguments [suspect] thinks it is necessary that the declarant, [co-defendant] and interrogators will be heard to find the truth. The declarant and [co-defendant] to review the accuracy of the charge and interrogation concerning the incriminating facts to [suspect]; the interrogators to verify if [suspect] indeed was in denial at first and whether [suspect] has spontaneously told the story as it appears in the charge or if parts in the interrogation report or the charge have been adopted from the declaration of [co-defendant] which [suspect] may have acknowlegded.
Since due to a typographical error in the address on the letters which I sent to [suspect] these letters were returned to sender (in a late stage) and did not reach [suspect] , this case could not be discussed with him before friday september 26, 2008, being 10 days prior to this hearing which was the reason for not calling for the aforementioned withnesses 10 days prior to the hearing.
The court is considering as follows. In short, the counsel has argued the reliability of the charge and statements in his request. According to the judgement of this court this request is insufficiently substantiated according to legal standards and the documents and the argumentation at the hearing, also considering ther argumentation of the suspect , no indication has risen to further hear these persons as witnesses.
The constituent 'good' as provided for in Article 310 of the Penal Code
The Public Prosecutor has, in short, argued in court that the virtual amulet and the virtual mask are goods which fall under the constituent 'good' as provided for in Article 310 of the Penal code, whereas the counsel has argued the opposite during the hearing.
The court is considering as follows. In this case we have to deal with virtual goods, namely a virtual amulet and a virtual mask from the online game "RuneScape". The following is known ex officio to the court about "RuneScape". "RuneScape is one of the larger online games and especially popular among the youth. Millions of players, socalled online gamers, from all over the world play the game "RuneScape". "RuneScape is set in a virtual world in which the players can participate with their carachters. Players may fullfill assignments ( 'quests'), fight other players and deploy other activities. To this end players can procure 'items' such as a mask or amulet. The items each have a value. This value is expressed in this game in 'coins', fluctiating on the basis of supply and demand of these items.With those 'coins' a player can train skills. The more 'coins' a player posesses, the stronger he is in the game "RuneScape".
Declarant, suspect and co-defendant each had an account, which gave access to playing "RuneScape" and were also active players of this game. Declarant had in his posesssion a virtual amulet and a virtual mask.
Article 310 of the Penal Code aims to protect the property of citizens In answering the question whether or not virtual goods are 'goods' in the meaning of that article, this aim has to be taken into consideration. There are a number of criteria that must be met for these virtual goods to considered 'goods' in the meaning of this article.
First of all, it is important if a good has value to the posessor. This value does not need to be expressed in money. In today's society, the virtual goods from the online computer game "RuneScape" have become of significance. To large numbers of online players these goods have value. The more virtual goods a player has, the stronger he is in the game.Moreover, the virtual goods are bought and sold with money, e.g. through the internet or schoolyard. From this case it also shows that the mask and amulet had value to both the declarand and the suspect and co-defendant.
Of interest is that a 'good' need not be material. It has been determined by case law that non-material goods, such as electricity and giro transfers, are labelled 'goods' as well in a criminal sense. The virtual amulet and the virtual mask as considered in the case at hand are not material goods, albeith they are noticable. Regarding case law this is no prohibition to declare these as 'goods' under the meaning of Article 310 of the Penal Code.
Furthermore, jurisprudence shows it is an important feature of a 'good' in a criminal sense that the taker receives control over the goods in theft and the victim loses actual control of these goods. The posession of a good must be transferrable from one to another. When speaking of posession in a criminal sense, it means having actual power. Case law has previously determined the foregoing is not applicable in case of a PIN number, computer data and phone call minutes in a subscription bundle. In this case the virtual goods, namely a virtual amulet and a virtual mask, were in posession of the declarant. Only he had actual control over these goods. The posession of virtual goods can be transferred, e.g. by moving these goods from one account to another.
In the case at hand these goods have transferred, namely from the actual control of the declarant to that of suspect and co-defendant. Suspect and co-defendant have transferred the goods from the account of the declarant to the account of the suspect. In this act the declarant has lost actual control over these goods and suspect and co-defendant have obtained actual control over these goods.
As the virtual amulet and virtual mask as defined in the case at hand meet the aforementioned criteria, the court is of the opinion that these virtual goods are to be included in the concept of 'goods' as provided for in Artcile 310 of the Penal Code and belonged to the declarant.
Application of laws
The court has taken into consideration articles 77a, 77g (old), 77i, 77m (old), 77n, 77x (old), 77y (old), 77z (old), 310 and 312 of the Penal Code.
THE VERDICT OF THE COURT
Denies the request of counsel to hear further witnesses
Declares the primary charge proven, qunatifyable and punishable
Convicts suspect in this case to
Civil Service consisting of 160 hours of unpaid labor. Labor has to be done within a 12 months.
Orders, in case the convict does not carry out his civil service in good manner, alternative youth detention will be applied for the length of 80 days.
Youth detention for four weeks.
Determines this youth detention wil not be executed, unless the judge may rule otherwise in a later stadium, based on a probation period, which hereby is set at two years, if convict has commited a fellony.
Decalres not proven which is charged to suspect more or other than the proven and dismisses charges against suspect.
This verdict is ruled by mr. BJ de Jong, president, mr. MJ Dijkstra and mr. A. de Jong, judges, assisted by mr. G. Sannes, Registrar, and pronounced at the public hearing in this court on October 21, 2008.