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.

8 thoughts on “Virtual Acts, Real Consequences”

  1. I think there are going to be more and more of these cases dealing with “virtual crime”. With technology advancing at its current pace, there’s no telling what other cyber-crimes can be committed.

  2. Many people would not consider such kinds of virtual actions as crimes just because people view internet, especially online games, no more than a place to joke around. With the time goes, more and more people would build the concept of “virtual crime”.

  3. Looking at the two stories side by side, it seems pretty extreme to me that you can face prison time for killing a virtual character, and yet receive only a slap on the wrist for physically harming another individual. The Japanese woman shouldn’t have logged onto her virtual ex’s account, but she didn’t manipulate electronic data to do something a lot worse, like wipe out his bank accounts. The potential punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime. She probably would have been better off physically slapping/kicking him.

  4. Many games these days have almost taken over people’s lives. Players get so involved and addicted to these games that they cannot recognize that they are just games. These “crimes” can only get more and more common as the number of virtual worlds and the realism of the games increase. Although the crimes may seem odd, who knows what else can happen.

  5. I feel that these virtual crime cases are a bit outrageous. I mean who would have thought that you could possibly be doing time because you killed a virtual character. The only consequence I thought would happen for an act like this was you would get kicked off and banned from the game. With that being said, I definately agree that more of these cases will be showing up and we could possibly see even an increase in the punishment.

  6. The second case seems a little outrageous to me. The woman used “login information she got from the 33-year-old office worker when their characters were happily married.” It’s not like she hacked the system and broke security barriers. If the guy gave her the login information, he knew she had it and if he was going to drop her like he did than he should have thought about changing his password. It looks like it’s his own fault for not taking precautionary measures for his actions. Also, for her to get dragged 620 miles from her home to face trial for up to five years or $5,000, she might as well have just beat him up in real life!

  7. Hello there! This blog post could not be written much better!
    Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He always kept talking about this. I will send this information to him.

    Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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