Courts put real value on virtual crimes

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Courts put real value on virtual crimes

A pair of recent criminal cases are placing new value on virtual world actions.

Courts in Japan and Europe have decided that damage to property in online worlds warrants real-world legal punishments.

In the Netherlands, a judge sentenced a pair of teenagers to community service after they were found guilty of attacking another boy and forcing him to turn over items for Runescape, a popular fantasy RPG.

The victim was allegedly kicked and head and body, strangled, and threatened with a knife before agreeing to turn over the in-game money and items to one of the attackers. Both were sentenced to 180 hours of community service or 80 days in jail.

The second case involves a Japanese woman whose quarrel with a digital lover ended in charges of illegally accessing and manipulating electronic information.

The 43 year-old piano teacher from Miyazaki allegedly hacked into the account of another user and killed his avatar after he ended the couple's in-game marriage in 'Maple Story', an online RPG community particularly popular in China and Japan.

Police say that the incident began when the victim abruptly ended the couple's in-game marriage with little explanation, causing the woman to use logon information previously given to her by the man to log in to his account and kill his character.

Though the woman has yet to be formally charged, the charges of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data could carry a penalty of up to five years in prison.

Both cases show examples the growing overlap between real-world laws and online worlds. Economic issues have previously been the focus in virtual worlds, as such issues and gambling regulation and banking management were the focus.
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