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Rights To Virtual Property In Games?

Soulskill posted about 6 years ago | from the you-stole-my-cloudsong dept.

Real Time Strategy (Games) 167

With the rise of MMOs and other persistent environments over the last decade, the trafficking of virtual game property has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Regardless of whether the buying and trading goes on with the blessing of the content provider (or, in many cases, the owner of the account in question), the question of players' rights to virtual goods is coming to the forefront. The Escapist Magazine takes a look at how some companies are structuring their EULA in this regard, and what some countries, such as China, are doing to handle the issue. "... the differences between China and the West in this case have more to do with scale than cultural norms. So many people play online games in Asia — and play them so intensely — that social problems in meatspace society inevitably emerge in virtual worlds as well. ... The general consensus, therefore, is that paradigm shifts like the ones that have already occurred in Asia will inevitably come to the West, and with them, the need for legislative scaffolding that keeps us all from killing each other."

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It is your property! (0)

jackb_guppy (204733) | about 6 years ago | (#25364663)

Why would belong to anyone else?

You are renting you space, to store your items you have collected. What else is the month fee for?

Re:It is your property! (2, Interesting)

paultag (1284116) | about 6 years ago | (#25364671)

maintaining the servers, paying for bandwidth... Items are digital, a construct. IMHO its silly to quibble about who owns a series of bytes.

Re:It is your property! (4, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 6 years ago | (#25364683)

Your bank account it a series of bytes.

Re:It is your property! (3, Informative)

paultag (1284116) | about 6 years ago | (#25364725)

Indeed. However those are a representation of assets, not your actual assets. Granted the "score keeping" is done digitally, but it is directly related to your estate. The goods are not data.

Re:It is your property! (4, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 6 years ago | (#25364783)

Since there is significantly less currency existing than there is money represented in bank computers by series of bytes, what are those goods and actual assets exactly?

Re:It is your property! (3, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about 6 years ago | (#25364835)

Exactly, with fiat currency, the numbers in the bank only mean something because enough people say so. Just as the bytes in a game server represent an asset because the people playing the game say so.

Re:It is your property! (4, Insightful)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 6 years ago | (#25365005)

Exactly, with fiat currency, the numbers in the bank only mean something because enough people say so.

Inside the crown of one of the kingdoms in the Society for Creative Anachronism (http://www.sca.org/ [sca.org] )is the inscription "You rule because they believe".

The medium is a bit retro perhaps, but the message is the same. Money rules because we believe in the accounts. Or at least that ATM dispenses stuff that people believe in, and will probably continue to do so until 1 loaf of bread = 1 wheelbarrow of dollars.

My WoW bank and characters are very real to me for several hours most days.

It is your effort! (2, Insightful)

Ostracus (1354233) | about 6 years ago | (#25365527)

While effort is a renewable resource. A given effort over time can't be reclaimed for another purpose. e.g. leisure. Also effort scales poorly. e.g. Barter. And last effort can't be stored for future use. e.g. Like in a bank. And since the majority want to enjoy the advantages being a society brings. Money (however it's backed) is the best representation we have for overcoming these disadvantages. Money rules because it's in everyone's best interest to preserve their effort for their use.

Re:It is your property! (3, Informative)

SylvanCyke (1375051) | about 6 years ago | (#25366207)

Exactly, with fiat currency, the numbers in the bank only mean something because enough people say so.

Inside the crown of one of the kingdoms in the Society for Creative Anachronism (http://www.sca.org/ [sca.org] )is the inscription "You rule because they believe".

Yes, from political power to the shoes on our feet, it's a matter of agreement. Now, the value and ownership of virtual items, is a facinating phenomenon.

Consider that people who play in virtual realities, online, in the SCA, in tabletop RPGs, or otherwise, do play within a set of rules. The players know what everyone owns, and have ideas as to the value of said items, irregardless of whether any meatspace value in currency is assigned to them.

If my Paladin has a +5 longsword, he'd better still have it the next day, save if the party's Rougue stole it, fair and square, within the rules of the game. I certainly place value on that longsword, as something useful to me in-game, and it does effect me personally in some manner, which is not described within the game. The game may describe how my character feels about the +5 longsword, but not me.

Selling the item for meatspace currency, is simply a translation of that understanding, into a market-value. I feel an emotional attachment to the sword; others share a similar attachment. This attachment occurs in RL, and is not in-game. It is appropriate that RL currency be assigned to an RL emotion.

--

Elvish grove for sale.

Re:It is your property! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25364843)

Your bank account it a series of bytes.

Indeed. However those are a representation of assets, not your actual assets. Granted the "score keeping" is done digitally, but it is directly related to your estate. The goods are not data.

Missed the current events lately huh?:P

Before anyone says "but it is FDIC guaranteed", keep in mind if the government has to pay up it will be with money borrowed in your name in some fashion or another and especially if it requires firing up the presses its going to mean that money credited to you is worth less then it was before they had to do so, plus you, your neighbors and everyone's kids will have to foot the bill somehow. Like Jimmy Stewart's character mentioned in It's a Wonderful Life, the money isn't in the bank its in someone's house or business. Unfortunately these days, what they owe on it greatly exceeds what it is worth and they jacked the payments up higher then the person can pay. If we all went down to get our money at once the government would have to start snagging banks all over the place. In fact it wouldn't even take all of us, a small fraction would do the trick and it's also possible it might just take one person who happens to have a lot of stolen bank customer information.

Re:It is your property! (1)

corsec67 (627446) | about 6 years ago | (#25364687)

IMHO its silly to quibble about who owns a series of bytes.

Tell that to the MAFIAA

Re:It is your property! (1)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | about 6 years ago | (#25364689)

ah yes, let us talk about proprietary code. Because clearly, it is just as cut and dried as you make it.

Re:It is your property! (4, Insightful)

ozphx (1061292) | about 6 years ago | (#25364681)

Hell no. Thats like claiming as a Slashdot subscriber that you "own" your comments, and Slashdot is liable if they delete them.

You pay your monthly fee to be allowed to play with their toys in their sandbox. They have some rules to make it fun, including letting the toy solider you play with "own" toy swords.

Still their toys.

Re:It is your property! (2, Informative)

Rebelgecko (893016) | about 6 years ago | (#25365407)

"The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way."

Re:It is your property! (1)

TriezGamer (861238) | about 6 years ago | (#25365541)

You can post without paying. The subscription is for other things

Re:It is your property! (1)

SylvanCyke (1375051) | about 6 years ago | (#25366315)

Hell no. Thats like claiming as a Slashdot subscriber that you "own" your comments, and Slashdot is liable if they delete them.

You pay your monthly fee to be allowed to play with their toys in their sandbox. They have some rules to make it fun, including letting the toy solider you play with "own" toy swords.

Still their toys.

Slashdot owns the tools we use to create our comments, and at least to some degree, the space those comments inhabit. Does that mean it owns our opinions?

Taking it away from the net, ownership of a text is a major topic in contemporary Literary Criticism and Philosophy. Examples of ideas that are touted around are: If I read a Shakespeare play, and form my own images of the characters, does Shakespeare own the characters, or do I? Shakespear's dead, does he still own the play? The play is public domain, do we all own it, or is it still connected to Shakespeare, as he wrote it initially? What about the history, culture, and linguistic building blocks, that allowed Shakespeare to write? Don't those count as tools, owned by others, required for Shakespeare, to write his plays?

To move the discussion closer to Slashdot, consider the number of people who collaborate in order to put on a Shakespeare play. Someone posting a Slashdot comment, is similar to an actor in the play. The actor didn't write or direct anything, but does bring something of himself to it, which nobody else can do. In my opinion, he owns part of the play he is in, and has contributed something to the body of work we call Shakespeare.

You wrote it, you own it. Slashdot owns the machine you used to write it, but now you kinda do too.

Re:It is your property! (1)

Icarium (1109647) | about 6 years ago | (#25367867)

I take it you have never read the disclaimer at the bottom of the page?

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the Poster. The Rest © 1997-2008 SourceForge, Inc.

Conversely, most MMO EULA's have a clause somewhere stating that the company running the game servers own any and all objects within the game world.

Whether either are enforceable is a matter of debate, but you can get the developer's view on the matter simply by reading the EULA.

Re:It is your property! (4, Interesting)

ozphx (1061292) | about 6 years ago | (#25364705)

Furthering on from my rushed comment earlier:

I used to pay a monthly fee to a chess club I was a member of.

I was never under the delusion that the pieces were "mine".

Re:It is your property! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25365481)

It's not quite that simple. When you join a chess club you get access to the pieces but they are not yours to take away, but when you join a pottery club you get access to clay and it *is* yours to take away after you're done with it. Granted, you can also make original creations out of chess pieces but you're not supposed to, at least in any chess club I know of. Coming back to virtual realities, if a game provides the digital equivalent of clay which players can utilize to implement their own creative works, then arguably they should own whatever rights there are to those works. Even games that don't directly support creative activities can be used to produce truly original new content like machinima.

Re:It is your property! (1)

ockegheim (808089) | about 6 years ago | (#25365563)

In WoW, Apolyon, the Soul-Render [thottbot.com] is Blizzard's IP, and they let you use it if your raid kills the big boss dude. Perhaps it's like being able use the coolest chess set if you're the best in the club.

If a player creates something cool in Second Life, it would be their IP.

Re:It is your property! (1)

SylvanCyke (1375051) | about 6 years ago | (#25366365)

Furthering on from my rushed comment earlier:

I used to pay a monthly fee to a chess club I was a member of.

I was never under the delusion that the pieces were "mine".

What if someone paid you to take over one of your games in mid-play? It's an unusual consideration, but theoretically possible. It's analogous to selling a character in an MMORPG.

--

Two Rooks for a Queen? Any takers?

Re:It is your property! (1)

ozphx (1061292) | about 6 years ago | (#25366919)

My opponent may/may not be pissed off. It wouldn't affect the ownership of the chess set. It certainly wouldn't affect the ability of the chess club to kick everyone out at closing time.

It *might* mean they are breaking some TOS, if we hired the board for the hour - but it certainly wouldn't be a situation where they were required to compensate me for my valuable position.

Presumably I could write down the position (would have already using game notation). Theres nothing stopping you from screenshotting your Wanglock holding the Great Wang of Wangzar either, or telling people about your epic beating of the Wangs of Wangzar when you received it.

Blizzard is completely able to say "Hey guys, you can't play with our toys anymore, we're shutting down the realm".

Re:It is your property! (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | about 6 years ago | (#25364727)

From TFA:

A report out of China tells the story of a 41-year-old man who stabbed an acquaintance who stole his "Dragon Saber" in the MMO Legend of Mir III and sold it for approximately $1,000. Initially, the injured individual sought the assistance of the police, but was told that the theft was not a crime, since virtual property is not covered as a protectable asset. Thereafter, the individual attacked the alleged thief at his residence.

Ha Ha! What the lawmakers really need to do is make meatspace vigilante justice legal! It would sure cut down on 10 year old punk kids raiding that wimpy fort with the unarmed priest(who happens to be a karate master in real life)!

If you play games, you may not have a problem. If you have no job but play games for 4 hours a day, you have a problem. If you pay more than 50-60 bucks at a time for anything to do with gaming, you're just an idiot.

Re:It is your property! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25364749)

"If you pay more than 50-60 bucks at a time for anything to do with gaming, you're just an idiot."

I just KNEW that I shouldn't have bought a console this generation. Now someone on the Internet thinks I'm an idiot!

Re:It is your property! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25365331)

and someone else on the internet thinks you might be an asshole.

And damm. One of us is right.

Re:It is your property! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25364813)

It would sure cut down on 10 year old punk kids raiding that wimpy fort with the unarmed priest(who happens to be a karate master in real life)!

Watching Kung-Fu films does not make you a Karate Master in real-life. But your priest is wimpy. Bitter and wimpy.

Re:It is your property! (4, Interesting)

The MAZZTer (911996) | about 6 years ago | (#25364803)

For one thing, you aren't paying for the items, you're paying to play the game and to pay the company's bills, and hopefully they will use some of the left over profits to make new content for you to play, so you will keep subscribed and pay them more money.

Technically, your items are nothing more than records in a database, owned by the company. All MMORPG companies likely can legally do whatever they want with this "property", from giving their employee game accounts every "super-rare" item for free, and lots of money for nothing, to messing with random players' items and stats to deleting random accounts to the whole database. Of course these would all upset players, leading to less money income as players leave. It's all about the money, so for now they will protect your virtual goods for you because it's in their best interest... but they're not really yours.

At least, that answers your question of who else could own them. I suppose it's still a matter of perspective, and EULAs.

However can you really "own" something that has no context whatsoever outside of that company's property (the game servers)? The database records in question would just be a bunch of strings and integers. Useless to you on their own without the game giving them context and meaning.

Other examples that come to mind... I can say I own the files on my computer because I own the computer, plus they still are useful when removed from my computer to other computers (note what this says about DRM). I can say that documents I create with Google Docs I own, because although I don't own the servers I created them on, it's trivial for me to print them out or download them in formats I can use locally.

Re:It is your property! (2, Informative)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | about 6 years ago | (#25365297)

The gamemaker makes the rules. They could...

1. Have the game admins deal with theft such as that.
2. Permit stealing in the games, within the boundary of the game. No hacking of other people's accounts allowed.

Re:It is your property! (2, Insightful)

ockegheim (808089) | about 6 years ago | (#25365581)

2. Permit stealing in the games, within the boundary of the game. No hacking of other people's accounts allowed.

I would rather eat my own eyes than have to read this game's forums.

Re:It is your property! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25366155)

Ancient Anguish (anguish.org) has had this for 14 years.

Lately, all of the bitching related to theft has been that theft has been nerfed TOO MUCH, even by people who don't play rogues.

Re:It is your property! (2, Informative)

Jedi Alec (258881) | about 6 years ago | (#25367641)

I would rather eat my own eyes than have to read this game's forums.

In that case don't go anywhere near Eve Online...

Oh, and we don't like people to do something to their own eyes, as we need the tearducts intact.

Re:It is your property! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25364975)

You're renting the storage space on the server and the right to access the server. Unless the EULA specifies otherwise, the items on the server are essentially only yours for as long as you agree to the terms therein, and pay your fee.

Reason for in-game assets prohibition (5, Insightful)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 6 years ago | (#25365131)

The reason for the prohibition on sales of in-game assets is not entirely to keep the gold spammers out (although I find that laudable personally) but to keep the governmental authorities from closely examining the financial transactions that go on in a game. If you buy in-game gold with real-world dollars -- and subsequently sell items you acquire with that in-game gold for real-world valuta, there is a compelling argument for examining such transactions as to whether or not they are a mechanism for laundering money. The EULA prohibitions are to keep any such enquiries from the tax and legal authorities off the game hosting company's back.

Re:It is your property! (3, Insightful)

Broken scope (973885) | about 6 years ago | (#25365275)

Then I hope you don't mind when your virtual "property" becomes a taxable asset.

Re:It is your property! (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | about 6 years ago | (#25365599)

they own the server and the hard drives and they don't want to pay out settlements if there's data loss. BUT I've always said you can sell in game activities all you want. If you go on ebay and list an auction for "a one sided trade that would benefit the other party by exactly 10,000,000 gold" that's as legal as auctioning off in-game bodyguard services. Somehow ebay still lets companies remove listings like that though!

Re:It is your property! (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | about 6 years ago | (#25365675)

"It" is your property? What do you mean by it? Do you mean a complex of rights defined by the game developers that you agreed to via EULA?

Is "it" an emotional thing you feel that deserves governmental protection (i.e., protection financed by tax dollars)?

What is "property" in your scheme? A bit arrangement on someone else's computer? Do you have rights in their computer? From what do your rights derive?

To address this question you need to address (a) your society's conception of property; and (b) your own conception of property. Fuzzy thinking is not helpful here.

I don't think that my tax dollars should be spent enforcing property structures in vapid computer games. If people in the games really care about such stupid shit, then they ought to create virtual legislatures, virtual police, virtual courts, etc. (i.e., virtual dispute resolution). If people want to dork about in computer games equipped with virtual police, lawyers, and judges, more power to them. Just don't use my tax dollars to police your fantasy.

RL mechanics for VR entrepreneurs (1)

SylvanCyke (1375051) | about 6 years ago | (#25366449)

"It" is your property? What do you mean by it? Do you mean a complex of rights defined by the game developers that you agreed to via EULA?

Is "it" an emotional thing you feel that deserves governmental protection (i.e., protection financed by tax dollars)?

What is "property" in your scheme? A bit arrangement on someone else's computer? Do you have rights in their computer? From what do your rights derive?

To address this question you need to address (a) your society's conception of property; and (b) your own conception of property. Fuzzy thinking is not helpful here.

It's intellectual property.

I don't think that my tax dollars should be spent enforcing property structures in vapid computer games. If people in the games really care about such stupid shit, then they ought to create virtual legislatures, virtual police, virtual courts, etc. (i.e., virtual dispute resolution). If people want to dork about in computer games equipped with virtual police, lawyers, and judges, more power to them. Just don't use my tax dollars to police your fantasy.

You do make it sound like a steady move towards Ludocracy, but it's much simpler than that.

1) Grant gamers the right to virtual property.

2) If they want to engage in any real-world transaction with that property, they pay a reasonable (we hope) fee on top of their monthly subscription. It covers the legal/taxation side of it, just like RL businesspeople have to deal with. No, the bureaucrats aren't VR, but may have appendages that occur in VR.

Re:RL mechanics for VR entrepreneurs (1)

Mprx (82435) | about 6 years ago | (#25366617)

Calling it "intellectual property" only makes an already vague phrase worse. http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.html [gnu.org]

Re:It is your property! (3, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | about 6 years ago | (#25365763)

Why virtual game property is never "owned"

1. Virtual property doesn't exist: that's why it is called virtual. Saying that you own a sword in World of Warcraft is as non-sensical as saying that James Earl Jones owns the death star.

2. You never buy a "thing," and you never get a copyright. You're paying for the potential for access to copyrighted material on a server somewhere. That you have to further play a game to get access has no bearing on the fact that you were never actually transferred a copyright.

3. Game makers have structured the interaction carefully to allow themselves freedom to maintain a healthy game experience. If the value of all items within a game needed to remain fixed for sake of a stable economy, no positive balance changes would be possible and the game experience would crumble.

4. If you did "own" virtual propery, you would need to pay american dollar taxes on virtual transactions. If you happened to fight and slave and earn an Amani Warbear, for example, you'd be owe an additional 45 dollars in capital gains taxes.

I have the right to - (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25364679)

first post!

Fundamentally, this is a question of Law (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25364691)

As Locke once wrote, the property of inheritance is found in the bargain. Neocons want us to worship the derivative of classical rights, but their crystal ball is cloudy today. Here is the dialectic of atomized, monetized property and its foundational electronic forms, in action in the market's grand arena. Chicken dicks, sausage pussy.

Don't let it spill over - Just a game. (1)

Haoie (1277294) | about 6 years ago | (#25364695)

It's like that old story about someone killing someone else in the "real world" [patent pending] over a dispute about a magic sword or something in an MMO. Insane.

After all folks, it's just a game.

Re:Don't let it spill over - Just a game. (1)

andy.ruddock (821066) | about 6 years ago | (#25366851)

I'm guessing you didn't RTFA

Re:Don't let it spill over - Just a game. (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 6 years ago | (#25367485)

After all folks, it's just a game.

Gold is just a pretty yellow metal, and yet people have and continue killing each other over it. Just because something has no intrinsic value doesn't mean that it doesn't have externally assigned value. In fact I'd go so far as to say that nothing has truly intrinsic value, because there is nothing in the laws of physics that would correspond to the human concept of "value", so all value anything might have must be externally assigned.

Or, to put it another way, all value is imaginary.

Ummm. this is /. (3, Funny)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 6 years ago | (#25364707)

We don't believe in imaginary property.

Careful there...you're about to make a non-car analogy about intrinsic value of said property and it's redeemable worth in corporeal markets. Aren't you?

Even if your imaginary property is your livelihood, we don't believe in it.

Re:Ummm. this is /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25364801)

I'll happily lend you my stuff to dupe... (What you'll do with rags of the ages though...)

Re:Ummm. this is /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25366283)

Rather ironic - this post:

> Ummm. this is /.
>
> We don't believe in imaginary property.

appears immediately below Slashdot's statement:

> The following comments are owned by whoever posted them.

Re:Ummm. this is /. (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | about 6 years ago | (#25367593)

We don't believe in imaginary property.

Very true. I'd mod you up, but Slashdot hasn't given me any mod points... why haven't Slashdot given me my mod points! I've earned some mod points, dammit!

Who owns it? Ultimately, the game companies. (4, Interesting)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | about 6 years ago | (#25364761)

Ownership of online content of this is not clear-cut, like ownership of your chair or computer might be. You don't really own your character; the game company does--your character is subject to the alterations and whims of the company as needed, and access is even based upon whether they let you or not. They can kick you off if you are selling gold, selling your account, being a jerk, or because they simply don't like you.

Some of you may have an entitlement complex going on--"But it's mine! I am paying for it!" No, you are paying to RENT it, to have access based on their terms. Remember, they're the one making the game, without the company you couldn't have a game in the first place.

I think user agreement on MMOs are particularly important. If you don't like the terms of ownership or the rules, then don't play. They make no real guarantees. They make no guarantees that the in-game economy will remain just as stable, that they won't nerf rogues in a future patch, or that your character won't receive a huge revamp for balance.

Too often, I think, consumers fist-pound over their rights when they are the ones who signed the contract conceding the terms in the first place.

Can you imagine people suing Blizzard for devaluing their online property because Blizzard nerfed a certain set piece, or introduced better items?

People seriously want to bring the government into this? If you don't like the terms, don't play. You aren't owed. You do not have a special right; you agreed to the transaction upon signing up. You pay to play a game, and nothing beyond that unless you agree otherwise.

Re:Who owns it? Ultimately, the game companies. (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | about 6 years ago | (#25364791)

Ownership is less clear-cut than you are making it, because virtual worlds introduce the idea of virtual labor. In some ways, it is as if you were being paid in factory scrip. Virtual worlds have introduced a new category of activity: play-labor, which acts a lot like regular labor, even though it occurs in the context of leisure. That's why there's markets for virtual-world currency.

China has generally decided that you have first dibs on the rights of the product of your labor, even if its virtual labor in a virtual world. There are limits to the rights you can give up even in a contractual setting: you can't sell yourself into slavery, you can't legally work for less than minimum wage. Blizzard wants the Chinese markets, so they, too, have to agree to the terms to "play" there.

Re:Who owns it? Ultimately, the game companies. (1)

SL Baur (19540) | about 6 years ago | (#25365091)

There are limits to the rights you can give up even in a contractual setting: you can't sell yourself into slavery, you can't legally work for less than minimum wage.

You don't get out much, do you? That's maybe how it works in rich countries, but not in the rest of the world.

(Using an example I have plenty of experience with ...)

In the Philippines it is the norm to pay (as a legal bribe) your first two months salary for the privilege of getting an overseas job. It is also the norm that the paycheck sticks to the fingers of the agency involved on the way through, so what is a minimum (or subminimum) wage in the target country, turns out to be much less for the poor sap doing the work. Since it's still better than living with nothing, people line up for the "opportunity".

Since the article mentions China, it ought to be noted that most of the people of China are even poorer than in the Philippines.

If it came down to, do you let your children (or younger brothers, sisters, parents) starve or sell yourself into slavery if you can ensure their existence I know which one I would choose. Sadly, that is the choice many people are offered. Even today.

Re:Who owns it? Ultimately, the game companies. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25365417)

This is why you make sure to sell them first.

Re:Who owns it? Ultimately, the game companies. (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | about 6 years ago | (#25365509)

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that these overseas jobs would not employ there if they couldn't get away with that practice. I assume you'd be OK with the locals starving instead, because at least there would be no "unfair" employment practices in play. Am I correct?

Re:Who owns it? Ultimately, the game companies. (1)

SL Baur (19540) | about 6 years ago | (#25365719)

I assume you'd be OK with the locals starving instead, because at least there would be no "unfair" employment practices in play. Am I correct?

Are you addressing me, or the guy I responded to? If me, you completely missed my point.

My sympathies are firmly with the locals and if ever I am in a position to do so, I will open an outsourcing shop on Mindanao, hire as many locals as I can, train them as necessary and pay them as much as is profitable. Or my sons will do so if they follow in Dad's footsteps.

Re:Who owns it? Ultimately, the game companies. (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | about 6 years ago | (#25365495)

I knew the left-wing philosophy would pop in here.

Ownership is less clear-cut than you are making it, because virtual worlds introduce the idea of virtual labor. In some ways, it is as if you were being paid in factory scrip. Virtual worlds have introduced a new category of activity: play-labor, which acts a lot like regular labor, even though it occurs in the context of leisure. That's why there's markets for virtual-world currency.

China has generally decided that you have first dibs on the rights of the product of your labor, even if its virtual labor in a virtual world. ...So? Doesn't mean it makes sense, or that it's right. Never thought I'd see "argumentum ad China" but here it is.


  There are limits to the rights you can give up even in a contractual setting: you can't sell yourself into slavery, you can't legally work for less than minimum wage. Blizzard wants the Chinese markets, so they, too, have to agree to the terms to "play" there.

Again, so? Doesn't make it right; doesn't mean it makes sense. You state simple facts but that's beside the greater point of whether the Chinese government should actually do that. China also forces, I believe, play time restrictions on these games, is that right, are you going to stand up for that ridiculous imposition too?

I find this talk of "labor" and such silly in an online game. Just as with what job you get, so too do you choose what games to play based on your own benefit. Your concern isn't with the success of the company you play for just like their concern isn't immediately or necessarily your fun, but for their own profit--the two, however, are linked, obviously.

Even doing away with the simple economical self-interest labor is based on.... IT'S A FRIGGIN' GAME! A game that would not exist had Blizzard not decided to make it and run it under their rules!

What next? Are people going to be advocating communism in MMOs next as well? We going to have MMO welfare where Blizzard will be forced to give a monthly stipend of gold to MMO players somehow physically (or mentally) incapable of making as much gold as other players...?

Re:Who owns it? Ultimately, the game companies. (1)

rich_r (655226) | about 6 years ago | (#25367623)

virtual worlds introduce the idea of virtual labor. In some ways, it is as if you were being paid in factory scrip. Virtual worlds have introduced a new category of activity: play-labor, which acts a lot like regular labor, even though it occurs in the context of leisure.

Best summary evar!!!11eleven

Re:Who owns it? Ultimately, the game companies. (1)

SL Baur (19540) | about 6 years ago | (#25364949)

Can you imagine people suing Blizzard for devaluing their online property because Blizzard nerfed a certain set piece, or introduced better items?

I can and obviously you have never browsed the online WoW forums. There were plenty of kids who were pissed off when Blizzard devalued the level 60 epic mount training. I'm sure there will be plenty more when they devalue the level 70 epic flying mount training after WotLK has been out for awhile.[1]

Not to mention the fact that all the folks who are now strutting around in top tier level 70 purples will have their entire wardrobe made obsolete in a couple of weeks.

Of course, if you take the constant deluge of whining on the online forum as anything like a group consensus, you're missing the point.

There has to be some middle ground here. The lock in to WoW is "I've invested all this time to get the stuff I've gotten, might as well keep playing ...". They have to provide at least the illusion that a player's stuff is his or hers.

[1] It's a pity they cannot have a realistic achievement associated with that. My first level 70 character had to borrow gold for each of successive higher levels of riding training (all paid back, with interest). My second level 70 did not and I'm kind of proud of that. Of course, by the time I first got to level 60, the riding training cost had already been nerfed ...

Re:Who owns it? Ultimately, the game companies. (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | about 6 years ago | (#25365445)

Actually, I have browsed the WoW forums; I used to play the game. People whined constantly there but no one has actually sued--the statement I made was actually based on the whining and all the tears I saw there.

Anyway, no, there is no middle ground, at least not legally, and probably shouldn't be. You choose to play in the first place. It's a game.

Re:Who owns it? Ultimately, the game companies. (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 6 years ago | (#25366121)

There were plenty of kids who were pissed off when Blizzard devalued the level 60 epic mount training. I'm sure there will be plenty more when they devalue the level 70 epic flying mount training after WotLK has been out for awhile.[1]

that's unfortunate but there's not really a strong grounds for complaint. It's like the people who buy an iPod the day before a price drop.

There has to be some middle ground here. The lock in to WoW is "I've invested all this time to get the stuff I've gotten, might as well keep playing ...". They have to provide at least the illusion that a player's stuff is his or hers.

Quite true. Of course, if you let people think they own something then it shgouldn;t come as a surprise if they think they own it.

Who owns it? Ultimately, the creators. (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | about 6 years ago | (#25365255)

Valid points however "other persistent environments" is mentioned. Like Second Life for example were the issue isn't so simple.

Re:Who owns it? Ultimately, the creators. (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | about 6 years ago | (#25365449)

In Second Life I believe Linden Labs specifically gives you the rights to your in-game property, to sell and do with as you please (with certain limitations). I did not forget about SL.

Re:Who owns it? Ultimately, the game companies. (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 6 years ago | (#25365985)

You don't really own your character; the game company does--your character is subject to the alterations and whims of the company as needed, and access is even based upon whether they let you or not. They can kick you off if you are selling gold, selling your account, being a jerk, or because they simply don't like you.

Very true. At least assuming that's what the terms and conditions say. But it's really not that simple. Real people don't base concepts such as ownership on abstruse legal documents. It's a factor, but it actually comes down to a more abstract set of social conventions. My email address belongs to yahoo. Yet I just called it "my email address". My car actually belongs to a finance company. If someone stole it I'd treat it as theft of my own property, as would most other people (possibly even the finance company). Many people "own" a house that strictly speaking belongs to a bank.

Online users have a similar claim to some form of ownership. They have put considerable effort into creating their character and a lot of work improving his stats and acquiring valuable items. Say what you want about the legal rights. People are going to be understandably pissed off if all that work goes to waste, and pointing at the T&C's isn't going to make it seem much less unfair.

I can imagine. Sadly. (2, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | about 6 years ago | (#25366183)

Can you imagine people suing Blizzard for devaluing their online property because Blizzard nerfed a certain set piece, or introduced better items?

Actually, sadly enough, I can easily imagine that. One constant in my MUD days was that there'd _always_ be at least one idiot threatening to sue over some imaginary rights that he either made up or grossly misunderstood. We even had a stereotype of the "my dad is a lawyer and I'm gonna sue you" kid.

Favourite imaginary or mis-understood rights to sue over were:

- First amendment. If he can't shout insults and obscenities at everyone, you're censoring his free speech, ya know. He'll take you all the way to the ninth circle over it. That he doesn't even understand that it's a private server, and freedom of the press actually applies to whoever _owns_ the press (or the forum, as a digital age equivalent), seems to be the norm.

- freedom to act like a fucktard. If you don't let him be a griefer, you're

A) making role-play impossible at all (and here I was thinking there were a gazillion roles to play that don't involve screaming "I FUK UR MOM, NOOB! LEARN TO PLAY TEH GAME!" as you bury their equipment), and apparently role-playing an out-of-character fucktard is a basic human right.

B) some form of slavery. Why, having to play nice or abide by your common courtesy rules while on your property, is nothing short of a nazi dictatorship and denying him his basic dignity as a human.

The fact that nobody's forcing him to be there, if he doesn't like the rules, or that being on someone's private property is a privilege not a right, are beyond his comprehension skills.

- property rights. If his treasured Sword Of Ganking +5 got broken for lack of repairs, or worse yet _nerfed_, why, you messed with his private property. He'll see you in court for it.

Etc.

And while most didn't actually follow through, I remember offhand someone who _did_ sue Second Life because, get this: his business plan was abusing a bug in the program to buy virtual plots of land for a dollar, and resell them closer to their real value. And apparetly he thought he had some kind of basic human right to do that. And if Linden Labs banned his account for it, why, they're cutting off his money making scheme. And by Jove he has a right to make money. Heh.

Re:Who owns it? Ultimately, the game companies. (1)

SylvanCyke (1375051) | about 6 years ago | (#25366501)

You don't really own your character; the game company does--your character is subject to the alterations and whims of the company as needed, and access is even based upon whether they let you or not.

Some of you may have an entitlement complex going on--"But it's mine! I am paying for it!" No, you are paying to RENT it, to have access based on their terms.

That's my beef with the current legal state of affairs. The government is already in it, supporting the companies rights; that's status quo. A player contributes to a game. The player should be entitled to vproperty. Gamers invest a great deal of time and emotion, to the games they play. That's real time, and real emotion, and should be represented by a real dollar value.

Re:Who owns it? Ultimately, the game companies. (1)

andy.ruddock (821066) | about 6 years ago | (#25366911)

Gamers invest a great deal of time and emotion, to the games they play. That's real time, and real emotion, and should be represented by a real dollar value.

I play football in my spare time, investing time and emotion. Are you going to pay me "real dollar" for that?
There's me thinking all along that the pleasure, and hence the value, was in playing the game.

Re:Who owns it? Ultimately, the game companies. (2, Insightful)

Kneo24 (688412) | about 6 years ago | (#25366627)

Ok, so you bought the game, don't want to accept the agreement. What do you do next? Stores love trampling on the rights of consumers here. "Oh, sorry, we don't take returns on opened computer games or software." Which equates into "Because there are some people out there who like copy the discs and return them for a refund, we believe everyone does this". So what are you left with? It depends. If the store gives you credit, you at the very least have that (although the store keeps their money regardless. However, if you can't even get that, you're stuck with a $50 coaster.

So really, its not particularly as simple as "if you don't like, don't accept the agreement". So my question remains, after not accepting the agreement, what do you do next?

Murder considered harmful. (1)

NickFortune (613926) | about 6 years ago | (#25367155)

Some of you may have an entitlement complex going on--"But it's mine! I am paying for it!" No, you are paying to RENT it, to have access based on their terms.

True. And that's one reason I don't play these games.

People seriously want to bring the government into this? If you don't like the terms, don't play.

Done deal :)

All the same, I think you're missing the point being made in TFA. The author cites a case of one gamer who stabbed someone he knew because of a theft in-game. The aggrieved party did try and involve the police and handle the dispute in a civilised manner, but there had been no law broken, and so nothing the police could do. The consequence was (again, according to TFA) that the man, lacking an non-violent recourse, resorted to violence and lethal force.

So the argument is that if there were property laws for in-game objects, then this sort of murder would be less likely to happen, much as physical property laws reduce the occurrence of neighbours murdering one another over land disputes.

The question as I see it is whether the case cited in TFA is an isolated occurrence, or an early indicator of an emerging trend. Either way, the question of entitlement is a bit of a red herring.

It's a tightrope for both sides of the fence: (2, Interesting)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about 6 years ago | (#25364769)

For the games companies, this one is a nightmare. Think about some of the points that need addressing: (And I admit I have not RTFA)

If you own the virtual items, things like a rollback causes you loss. You can demand they be returned.
If you own an item, and the developers decide that it is too powerful, and they nerf it. Do you need to be compensated? Should you be?
If you can buy and sell items ingame legally as your own items you are actually selling something that is beyond your control. You are selling data, but in reality you are selling a virtual item - really messy around IP with that from a legal aspect.
If you own the goods in your characters inventory what happens when you find out that the game is really old, no-one plays it and it's going to be scrapped? Do they fax you a printout?
If it's items you own, what about your character itself? What about ingame houses and real estate?

Re:It's a tightrope for both sides of the fence: (2, Interesting)

SL Baur (19540) | about 6 years ago | (#25365191)

I think you're mostly missing the point, but this question is half-way reasonable.

If you own an item, and the developers decide that it is too powerful, and they nerf it. Do you need to be compensated? Should you be?

Maybe and no.

How was the item acquired? If you earned the item through painful grinding and doing whatever it was you had to do in-game to achieve it, then you might have a case.

If you bought it, like from an in-game auction house, it's murkier. You speculated on an item and you lost. I do not think any game guarantees that kind of value (nor should it).

In general though, I think the ultimate answer is just plain no. You have to trust the game maker on that one and if they are making many arbitrary and possibly unfair decisions of that sort, they will receive the death penalty - enough players will leave the game and the game will die. Sad, but life goes on and someone else will make a better game.

I suspect you're thinking about this from a Second Life point of view and I'm thinking about this from a WoW point of view. Second Life is such dangerous territory to enter I'm positive that it will create problems that no one in positions of authority will have the slightest clue in dealing with until they are dead and replaced by people who grew up with such games.

Re:It's a tightrope for both sides of the fence: (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about 6 years ago | (#25365389)

I do not think any game guarantees that kind of value (nor should it).

That's the exact point. If you go with item ownership, then you buy an ITEM. You do not but a speculative state of an item.

That's the whole issue with item ownership. It opens up a ton of murky brackish concepts that no-one has the real answers for. It also makes any legality around items that anyone could propose an utter nightmare.

I suspect you're thinking about this from a Second Life point of view and I'm thinking about this from a WoW point of view. Second Life is such dangerous territory to enter I'm positive that it will create problems that no one in positions of authority will have the slightest clue in dealing with until they are dead and replaced by people who grew up with such games.

Actually, not at all. I have never played Second Life. I have however played the following (roughly in order) Ultima Online. Everquest. Ragnarok Online. Star Wars Galaxies. Everquest Two. World of Warcraft. Warhammer Online.
Yes, I broke the EULA and generally sold accounts when I was done with them. Ultime Online dual account for $1600, Everquest for $700, Staw Wars for $800. Ragnarok for $200 I think. Now, each of these accounts had both great characters, but generally a LOT of valuable items. (I had a lot of server rares in UO for example. Not daily rares, but true server rares for those that recall back that far). Now, when I sold these accounts there was no item ownership at all. If there was though, consider that these are reasonably valuable items/accounts that someone has paid for - ergo if something goes wrong with them, said someone is likely to be rather miffed about it. Being that much of this sort of thing happens in the USA, said miffed person is likely to go running to a very understanding lawyer. Said lawyer sees nothing but $$$.

I don't have all the answers with this. I would really however recommend that before any case ever gets to trial with this sort of thing, all the questions and answers are laid out in black and white. Otherwise we are in all sorts of trouble.

Re:It's a tightrope for both sides of the fence: (1)

SL Baur (19540) | about 6 years ago | (#25365663)

I see. I'm the noobsauce here. My apologies.

I would really however recommend that before any case ever gets to trial with this sort of thing, all the questions and answers are laid out in black and white. Otherwise we are in all sorts of trouble.

Agreed.

Re:It's a tightrope for both sides of the fence: (1)

cgenman (325138) | about 6 years ago | (#25365907)

Just to make the absurdity a little clearer, how would this rule effect interactive dinner theater? Say you pay to access dinner theater, and from the painful sweat of your brow within the night you have hammered out a nice little role for yourself as owner of a jukebox joint in Chicago and ruler of most of the Chicago maffia. Maybe one of the other guests offered you 20 real dollars for you to abandon the post so that they could take it. You were having fun, so you turned them down.

And suddenly, the dinner theater is over. Everyone thinks it was a great game, and you all go home.

Nobody in their right mind would argue that at that point the dinner theater company is liable and must pay you back for the 20 dollar position of power and authority that you earned in the game. Why is it that when the rules are migrated to a server suddenly people lose their sense of perspective?

Re:It's a tightrope for both sides of the fence: (1)

Splab (574204) | about 6 years ago | (#25365399)

I've personally experienced the first two cases, first one in DDO and the second one in EVE, both times I've stopped playing the game.

DDO had to do a rollback; the reasons for it sounded very fishy, took them almost a month to figure out how to compensate people, and when they did those getting the compensation wasn't the necessarily the same being hit by the rollback (they rolled back data from a single day holiday (a Thursday) and the compensation also happened to be on a Thursday.

EVE (rightfully) decided some guns was way too powerful back in the early days, however, there was no warning, the servers went down for usual maintenance and when they came back up your guns had been replaced, now this might not seem to be such a big deal, and it wouldn't have been if they had warned us - what happened in my case was I was in a 0.0 system where I could defend myself with the old guns, the new ones was woefully underpowered compared to the pirates in the area, I had no chance of getting away from the area and lost my ship.

Both cases left me unimpressed with their handling of problems and let me to go play other games.

I'm on the fence... (4, Insightful)

Mad Merlin (837387) | about 6 years ago | (#25364787)

Even though I've created a purely browser based online game (Game! - The Witty Online RPG [wittyrpg.com] ), I'm on the fence on this matter.

On one hand, many people put a lot of real life time into earning said virtual property, and in many cases it clearly holds actual monetary value in the real world.

On the other hand, should I be liable if I accidentally delete a player's data in Game!? I don't think that's realistic, especially when you keep in mind that Game! is completely free of cost. So does that mean they really own the things they've earned, or no? I'm not sure.

Do I own this Slashdot comment? Slashdot says I do, and they don't claim any responsibility for it, but what happens if Slashdot deletes it on me? I've lost something I own, and there's nothing I can do about it. That doesn't seem right.

Ultimately, I think we'll see that virtual property is legally blessed to have real life monetary value, in much the same way that software is.

Re:I'm on the fence... (2, Insightful)

FLEB (312391) | about 6 years ago | (#25364911)

I think you hit on the tough point right there. Virtual property is a snarl-- not just as regards legality, but as regards the nature of what possession and even existence mean-- virtual "property" is both a "property" in the sense of a tangible good and a "property" in it being a mere setting state in some database, and who owns that?

Even traditional IP, though, has more groundedness in its meaning than this sort of property. Even things such as this comment have intrinsic value outside their environment. It is just as valuable in a printout as it is on Slashdot, for instance. "Virtual property" however, doesn't work outside sustained reality it was created in. When the hypothetical MMORPG wishes to close its doors, should it simply email each player an inventory list? A database dump? Screenshots?

It's almost like the collapse of a company or country, with the property being the hyperinflated currency or worthless bonds. Does the company or country owe the bondholders anything beside the paper they're printed on? Derived value be damned, they got what they bought. Does the MMORPG owe the player anything besides screenshots and memories?

A proper way for the game-runner might be to frame the issue in terms of "upgrades to the account" as opposed to "property". In-game property, in the greater framework of the real world, is more akin to an enhancement to a service than a physical good. In such a framework, such "upgrades" are sustained at the will and whim of the dependent service provider.

Re:I'm on the fence... (2, Insightful)

ThosLives (686517) | about 6 years ago | (#25367093)

It's almost like the collapse of a company or country, with the property being the hyperinflated currency or worthless bonds. Does the company or country owe the bondholders anything beside the paper they're printed on? Derived value be damned, they got what they bought. Does the MMORPG owe the player anything besides screenshots and memories?

I think this is quite insightful actually. I would agree that "items" in "virtual worlds" are really more like a form of unofficial currency than a form of property. "Virtual property" has no intrinsic value from what I have observed: it cannot be used to increase crops, keep out the rain, store energy, etc. It's more like a piece of currency: you can use it to gain entertainment, but it's useless without some context; which in this case as FLEB noted is the construct of the virtual world. When that world is gone, the virtual goods have no meaning, just as currency has no meaning for nations which no longer exist.

This is vastly different than real property, which has intrinsic value: a hammer is always a hammer regardless of what nations exist. A house is always a house; a piece of land is always a piece of land. I will even admit that intellectual "property" has some intrinsic value, because an idea always contains some bit of information which allows the transformation of physical goods and so enables the creation of wealth.

As far as "rights" go, just like currency, the "rights" should mostly be controlled by the nation whose currency it is: the game companies. The US government, for instance, does not really guarantee anything about the Euro, so why should it (or any national government) be involved with the "rights" associated with the foreign currency of a virtual world? If anything, all I could see happening is something like rules associated with the foreign exchange market - not property rights.

Re:I'm on the fence... (2, Interesting)

Dun Malg (230075) | about 6 years ago | (#25365113)

Do I own this Slashdot comment? Slashdot says I do

"Ownership" in that case means copyright.

what happens if Slashdot deletes it on me? I've lost something I own, and there's nothing I can do about it. That doesn't seem right.

It's not their problem if you're stupid enough to store the only copy of your valuable written insights in something as unsuited to the task as the slashcode system. Save to your local computer, fool.

Now, in the case of online virutual worlds, you didn't create that Godslayer of Hit Points sword your character carries. If you did, you'd have a local copy of the 3D vector file used to draw it. No, the GoHP sword is just an in-game milestone. It doesn't matter that it took you three years of 12 hour a day gaming to get your character's weapon byte set to that value; the "sword" still isn't yours. It's no more something someone can own than a high score on an Asteroids coin-op game is.

Ultimately, I think we'll see that virtual property is legally blessed to have real life monetary value, in much the same way that software is.

How is a token in a database somewhere "property"? It fits neither the definition of real property, nor even the hogwash definition of "intellectual property". Software is "owned" via copyright. Treadmilling in WoW doesn't give you copyright over an integer value in a database representing how much "gold" you have in-game. Such a thing may have value in its transferability, but only inasmuch as the operators of the virtual world permit the transfer of the value. If they want to prohibit transfers for meatspace profit, there's nothing you can do about it. Even in weird online worlds like Second Life, where you can actually create things (vs simply discovering things the content provider created), the value of your "ownership" of them is wholly dependent on that virtual world continuing to exist.

Re:I'm on the fence... (1)

SL Baur (19540) | about 6 years ago | (#25365201)

Ultimately, I think we'll see that virtual property is legally blessed to have real life monetary value, in much the same way that software is.

In which case it will be regulated and taxed.

The income tax, which was a stupid idea to begin with, will either be dismantled in the face of virtual property age, or virtual property will wither on the vine.

Re:I'm on the fence... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25365243)

On the other hand, should I be liable if I accidentally delete a player's data in Game!? I don't think that's realistic, especially when you keep in mind that Game! is completely free of cost. So does that mean they really own the things they've earned, or no? I'm not sure.

Personally, I see a fence that holds a referee box. If I ran an online game, I would explicitly point it out to players from the point of creation that items/characters/etc can be nerfed/removed/altered/etc. And while in practice I would likely rarely ever do that unless it was someone cheating with established game rules or the items itself were defective in some way, they would then be free to go about selling and trading at their own risk. Knowing that the time can be removed at any time for any particular reason would in itself (in theory) lower the value to where it should be - nothing. And anybody cashing in on it outside of the game is doing so at their own risk.

Rights? You have none. (0, Redundant)

Bieeanda (961632) | about 6 years ago | (#25364905)

There's been precedent for this for years, starting with Bun Boy's class(less) action suit against Origin for Ultima Online not having 24/7 uptime, and going on through SOE's agreement with eBay to pull auctions of Everquest characters and equipment. The data, the servers, and even the client software belongs to the company. Your $15 per month is an access fee for playing with their toys. That's the long and the short of it.

"property" is just a story we made up (4, Insightful)

drDugan (219551) | about 6 years ago | (#25364915)

Property - the mapping of resources to individuals, and more recently, to organizations and groups - is just a story: a virtual mapping that most everyone is told and most everyone agrees to. It is an extremely useful story we've come up with that has roots in both biological nature (territory, mating, food gathering) and in legal and social precedent (commerce, deeds, titles, etc). . . and to date there are no other means of organizing scarce resources that reduce conflict more effectively than property. Property makes clear which person or group has control over a thing and most everyone agrees with the story. Modern societies have also extended the concept of property to information in a few ways, and those have worked pretty well too: those IP protections motivate and reward creative expression.

However, when it comes to organizations and companies creating information things that are simulations of physical things, (just database rows existing in virtual environments) - it is not so clear that the benefits of the property story outweigh the costs. Simply put, within virtual worlds, the reason to also have the property story on virtual items is usually to artificially maintain scarcity - so some virtual items have more value to the people who want them, and to make the virtual world have characteristics like the physical world, and not because the virtual "items" are in any real sense scarce.

This disconnect is where the conflict will truly emerge. Even people who understand why we need property in the real world may still not accept or acknowledge or follow the ideas of property regarding virtual items if there is no compelling reason to need the property mapping/story to allocate scarce resources or to motivate and reward creative expression.

"effort" is just a story we made up (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | about 6 years ago | (#25365657)

Yes we have this confusion, don't we? One thing to keep in mind is that it takes "effort" to acquire/create property. That applies not only to physical property but virtual as well. The scarcity comes from the fact that effort is a scarce resource. The fact that others can make infinite copies of said property doesn't make the effort any less spent.

Game Companies Own It But... (1)

Auxis (1341693) | about 6 years ago | (#25364981)

I think most MMO companies have a EULA stating that the items in the game are owned by the company, however, most people who "sell" those items don't really sell them at all. The sellers disclaimer mostly states that the customer is simply paying for a service. The customer is paying them for the time it took to obtain that item, and they're simply transferring the item to the customer's account.

The down side to owning stuff is the TAX part and (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 6 years ago | (#25364997)

The down side to owning stuff is the TAX part and under IRS rules you may still have to pay even if you just keep it in game.

Also that will more load on the game back end to log all that stuff as well as having a roll back log.

Re:The down side to owning stuff is the TAX part a (1)

Broken scope (973885) | about 6 years ago | (#25365295)

Yeah, whenever someone complains about losing an account because they were banned for hacking, and how they should sue the company for the money they lost. I always have to ask them if they plan on declaring all the gold they earned(in terms of real money) on their taxes.

Re:The down side to owning stuff is the TAX part a (1)

NovaHorizon (1300173) | about 6 years ago | (#25365311)

They can legally tax it too.. -.-'

It takes place over communication lines, which are federally regulated, and therefore you'd be taxed for it.

However.. They could only tax you if it's data traveled over the net. If you threw it into storage and never even looked at the storage box you put it in, you could not be taxed for it during that time.

Analogy alert! (Golf) (2, Insightful)

pizzach (1011925) | about 6 years ago | (#25365551)

This is just like a golf membership. The main difference is that as part of that membership, the golf-club supplies the clubs you can use. In other words, you don't *own* the clubs. But you can still beat the crap out of another golfer to get their borrowed clubs. If you actually owned the clubs, doing that might be considered a felony or something...

Been there, done that... as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25365595)

Little tired of seeing these so called "new" issues when they have existed and have been dealt with for a while.
You may all hate Second Life but it has a lead on these issues.

http://secondlife.com/corporate/tos.php Section 3.2
http://secondlife.com/corporate/dmca.php Applying the DMCA

Example of a Third-Party (Unofficial but perfectly within Linden Labs Terms of Service) online market of virtual goods
http://www.xstreetsl.com

Re:Been there, done that... as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25365609)

(Unofficial but perfectly within Linden Labs Terms of Service)

You make it sound like it's a dirty thing, such innovation is encouraged by Linden Labs.

More than one crime here (1)

easyTree (1042254) | about 6 years ago | (#25365733)

Shh, don't tell anyone - I rtfa..

One level down from tfa: In November 2007, a teenager in Amsterdam was arrested for stealing Habbo Hotel furniture valued at approximately $5,500 [bbc.co.uk] :

The 17-year-old is accused of stealing 4,000 euros (£2,840) worth of virtual! (ffs) furniture, bought with real money.

Ok, given that real money has changed hands, the thief should be prosecuted in real life.

It occurs to me that there's been another crime though. When people are paying thousands for virtual furniture, their weaknesses are being exploited and whoever runs the virtual world should be prosecuted. Where do I sign to get this action started?

As if you could hold it (1)

toxygen01 (901511) | about 6 years ago | (#25365963)

All owner rights start and end when vgremove command is introduced into the story.

all virtual (1)

Tom (822) | about 6 years ago | (#25366093)

Well, how about a virtual right to your virtual property in the virtual world of your choice?

Another game (4, Insightful)

laron (102608) | about 6 years ago | (#25366397)

How is a fancy sword in WoW different from a hotel on Broadway in Monopoly?

Re:Another game (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25367145)

Agreed, and how is taking your virtual "property" any different than losing all of your weapons/ammo at some plot event in FPS games? I always have a habit of stockpiling weapons/ammo, only to lose it all :(

I WORKED FOR ALL THOSE MINES/AMMO, DAMN YOU CRYSIS

Most MMOs you own nothing on the servers, SL ... (1)

Hellershanks (1315357) | about 6 years ago | (#25366691)

In Second Life you own the ip rights to your creations. You agree to a limited use license on their servers though. Key thing is in games where you pay real cash, things can be valued a good bit. But, all that virtual wealth is non-taxable as the exchange rates from the virtual to the real fluctuate. Much like stocks, you don't pay taxes on it till you cash out and have real assets in the cash. Games like WoW and EVE where the buying of things for real world money is against the rules, the game company owns everything meaning you pay to play on the servers with the understanding you really own none of the virtual goods your characters posses. The games with the pay to buy perks are iffy, as is sony with their markets for EQ

What's the big deal? (1)

databank (165049) | about 6 years ago | (#25367297)

To apply RL concepts on virtual property is silly.

You cannot "OWN" virtual property.

You can only "VIRTUALLY OWN" virtual property.

(in other words, YOU do not own anything. Your character/avatar in the game owns it.)

Related Quote - "Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon."

LMAO at the Ogre (1)

Mike_Entropian (1379935) | about 6 years ago | (#25367491)

Thats like my favourite WC3 creep. Did you know he has the same HP as a tiny Forest Troll Trapper and 7 less average damage?

Prove It. (0, Flamebait)

DragonTHC (208439) | about 6 years ago | (#25367541)

With the rise of MMOs and other persistent environments over the last decade, the trafficking of virtual game property has become a multi-billion dollar industry

I'm calling bullshit. Prove it or retract it.

That being said, I'm a hardcore gamer who's been playing for over twenty years. and I think these MMO weirdos need to get a fucking life.

It's a goddamned game. And you're acting like it's a job and treating it like it's life.

I played SWG for approximately 3 months when it first came out. That was my first and last MMO. I noticed the pattern right away. As I'm not a fucking moron, I saw the carrot.

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