Virtual Acts, Real Consequences

Two stories caught my attention this week.  The first (see here and here) concerns two Dutch teenagers convicted for “virtual theft” and sentenced to a total 360 hours of community service for pressuring another teenager to transfer a virtual amulet and virtual mask to their account in the game RuneScape.  The court reasoned that the amulet and mask were goods under Dutch law, so their forced transfer is theft.  Apparently the defendants relied on more than virtual pressure to accomplish the crime–they “beat up and kicked their victim” and “threatened him with a knife.”

The second deals with a Japanese woman who, angered when her virtual husband in the game Maple Story divorced her, logged onto the game using the virtual-ex’s identity and password and killed his character.  Japanese police arrested her on suspicion of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data, crimes that carry penalties of up to 5 years in prison and $5,000 fines.  During police questioning the woman explained her actions:  “I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning.  That made me so angry.”  The woman did not engage in real-world revenge.