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Hacker Steals $12 Million Worth of Zynga Poker Chips

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the eyes-bigger-than-stomach dept.

Crime 99

Gamasutra reports that a 29-year-old British man has been convicted of hacking into Zynga's game servers and helping himself to 400 billion virtual poker chips. "'The defendant sold around one third of the 400 billion poker chips, and looking at the auction history where one can purchase such items, he was selling them for around £430 ($695) per billion,' said prosecutor Gareth Evans, according to a report from local newspaper Herald Express. Sold legitimately through Zynga, the full amount of chips would have brought in some $12 million. The prosecutor estimated that if Mitchell sold all of the virtual chips on the black market, he would have made a fraction of that, around £184,000 ($297,000). Evans admitted that valuing virtual currency can be difficult and that the company was not actually deprived of tangible goods, but he said that the theft could still affect the developer by indirectly causing legitimate online gamers to stop playing Zynga Poker or its other games."

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Prediction (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088114)

The next boom/bust cycle will happen with virtual currency. Hope that nobody's retirement savings will be invested in the virtual world.

Re:Prediction (4, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088164)

A lot of currency is already "virtual", ie there is no gold or even paper currency there backing it up.

Re:Prediction (3, Insightful)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088540)

Yes, I know... And this is scary: the fact Zynga can function as a "private mint", yet having their currency treated as it would be an official banknote (traded on black-market, valuated against real-world "virtual currency"... that is dollar... obtaining a conviction of a person for "stealing them"?).
Do you think Zynga will take care of the "inflation rate" on their currency? Do you think it is far the moment the "real-world persons" will start to be interested in different "virtual currencies"? How long 'til "real-world money" laundering/tax evasion and other schemes will get too tempting for the "Zynga's virtual economy" to refuse?
Being both virtual, how long 'til the financial will start trading real stock for "private virtual currency"?

Re:Prediction (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088594)

It's pretty much the same concept as buying a gift voucher for a store. If Zynga will honour their agreement, and the customer thinks it's worth the money, I don't see what the big deal is.

Re:Prediction (2)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088792)

It's pretty much the same concept as buying a gift voucher for a store. If Zynga will honour their agreement, and the customer thinks it's worth the money, I don't see what the big deal is.

Right... IF

IF the financial world would have honoured their agreement and would have not wrap toxic mortgages in triple-A bonds to be sold to customers that thought the triple-A rating is real, then we wouldn't have spoken now about world economic crisis.

IF the same financial world suddenly see Zynga-and-friends as a way to get around regulations and escape in an "unregulated virtual world", given that your salary in the bank and pension-funds is as "virtual" as the Zynga-dollars, what is going to happen them (your salary, savings and pension-fund) when "game" gets abused [wikipedia.org] ?
You think Zynga (the creator of ScamVille [techcrunch.com] ) will have any care about their "virtual economy" as long as they are profiting?... in a real-world in which other "virtual mints" compete for the "customer share"? You think the govts will bail-out again if the Zynga economy crashes and bury under the rubles a good chuck of real world "virtual-money"?

Since it already started [nytimes.com] , it scares the 5#!t out of me to see that a real-world judge protects them!

Re:Prediction (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 3 years ago | (#35101408)

You've got a choice. If you don't trust the dollar to have value - don't hold (significant amounts of) dollars.

Instead, buy something you expect will have value - or a combination of several such things for added insurance against one of them collapsing.

Think a kilo of gold will buy as much in the future as it will today ? Hold gold. Think that land will have value ? Buy land. Think that IBM is going to be a valuable company in the future ? Buy IBM. Think that the Yen is going to be worth something ? Hold Yens.

Yes, there's no guarantees. Everything that has value today COULD in principle, be worth a lot less in the medium future. (official ownership of a piece of land, for example, isn't worth squat if there isn't a functioning state that enforces respect for that ownership)

Welcome to the real world. Everything is a gamble. The only thing that is certain, is death (and possibly taxes).

Me, I'd not want it any other way.

Re:Prediction (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088624)

Yes, I know... And this is scary: the fact Zynga can function as a "private mint", yet having their currency treated as it would be an official banknote (traded on black-market, valuated against real-world "virtual currency"... that is dollar... obtaining a conviction of a person for "stealing them"?).

Why is that scary? I find it inspiring. It means that alternative currencies are possible today.

Re:Prediction (2)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088804)

Yes, I know... And this is scary: the fact Zynga can function as a "private mint", yet having their currency treated as it would be an official banknote (traded on black-market, valuated against real-world "virtual currency"... that is dollar... obtaining a conviction of a person for "stealing them"?).

Why is that scary? I find it inspiring. It means that alternative currencies are possible today.

Because you may finish in loosing everything you worked for because the alternative currency is abused by a corporate you cannot even vote out every 4 years.

Re:Prediction (-1, Troll)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088922)

Because you may finish in loosing everything you worked for because the alternative currency is abused by a corporate you cannot even vote out every 4 years.

Alternative currencies are the only way to prevent this! You can choose what to put your money into. Using US or Russian or Chinese money only funds fascism and imperialism. The citizenry chose to elect SomeoneOtherThanBush and was ignored twice so your notion that we can vote someone out every 4 years is laughable at best. That was followed by the Republican party running an unelectable ticket so that they could drop Obama into office to make people believe that change had occurred. People are still talking shit about "poisoning the well" when you talk bad about the great black hope.

Corporations are using the US Dollar (hint: The Federal Reserve is a private organization, not a public one) to control us and take away everything we have under the current system, and you argue that a system which permits alternatives to the US Dollar will CAUSE us to lose everything? (Or as you have said, loose everything... Let slip the dogs of finance!)

Re:Prediction (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088986)

Because you may finish in loosing everything you worked for because the alternative currency is abused by a corporate you cannot even vote out every 4 years.

Alternative currencies are the only way to prevent this! You can choose what to put your money into.

In a world so volatile that, if you are 200 msec late, you risk losing the value of your investment or savings? Good luck "putting your money in something at your choice".

Re:Prediction (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35089700)

In a world so volatile that, if you are 200 msec late, you risk losing the value of your investment or savings? Good luck "putting your money in something at your choice".

Obviously you have to be cautious about who you do business with. But this is ultimately a good reason to avoid using US currency at all, or dealing with any major banks.

Re:Prediction (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35090720)

In a world so volatile that, if you are 200 msec late, you risk losing the value of your investment or savings? Good luck "putting your money in something at your choice".

Obviously you have to be cautious about who you do business with. But this is ultimately a good reason to avoid using US currency at all, or dealing with any major banks.

To me, sound like jumping from the fry pan into the fire. The govt is (theoretically) responsible for the good of its citizens, while for sure a corporate is only responsible (in a limited way, risks are always assumed in an investment) only to its stakeholders (not necessary its customers).
But who am I to object to the way you are dealing with your money?

Re:Prediction (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35090762)

Obviously you have to be cautious about who you do business with. But this is ultimately a good reason to avoid using US currency at all, or dealing with any major banks.

But, I admit, a credit union sounds better to me than a major bank.

Uh, troll? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102454)

I can see that this comment has been buried, but not why. That must mean I was right! Thanks for the feedback, I shall promote alternative currencies more strongly until the day I die.

Re:Prediction (1)

SaroDarksbane (1784314) | more than 3 years ago | (#35089970)

Because you may finish in loosing everything you worked for because the alternative currency is abused by a corporate you cannot even vote out every 4 years.

You're right, it's even easier than voting every four years and crossing your fingers that a politician gives a damn (they don't). Here's what you do: Simply don't accept pay in that form.

Tada! You are not required to accept payment in anything other than legal tender, which a dollar is but virtual currency is not.

I find it funny that to prevent hypothetical virtual money shenanigans, you want to call in the US government to fix things up. Because, you know, those guys have such a great track record when it comes to finances. I swear, the "Bring in the government!" crowd are like battered housewives; "This time will be different! Government really loves me! Government says it's changed!"

Re:Prediction (2)

sandman_eh (620148) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088776)

If you haven't already read "Halting State" by Charlie Stross .

It deals with these issues. And is an enjoyable read anyway - as you'd expect from Stross.

Re:Prediction (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088810)

If you haven't already read "Halting State" by Charlie Stross .

No, I didn't. Thanks for the reference, seems promising.

Re:Prediction (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35089062)

If you haven't already read "Halting State" by Charlie Stross .

It deals with these issues. And is an enjoyable read anyway - as you'd expect from Stross.

It's also a rarity in that it's written in 2nd person form.
While that is not a problem per se, the jumps between personae make it rather jarring, as you spend the first few sentences of each subchapter guessing who the narrator is talking to.

Re:Prediction (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#35089164)

Yes, it's a good book despite the writing style rather than because of it. Some of the chapters I never did work out who the "you" was, but eventually I worked out that it didn't matter much.

Re:Prediction (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#35127400)

it's a good book despite the writing style rather than because of it.

Yes, that's really made me want to read it, thanks.

Re:Prediction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35105294)

Establish a meaningful value. That's the problem here. Not if it's virtual.

Your car isn't actually currency, but if I steal it I've taken something that wasn't mine. Hell, if I steal monopoly money from you, that's a crime too.

I know this article is an excuse to bitch about the USD not being backed by gold, but let's stay on topic, eh?

Re:Prediction (1)

Phoghat (1288088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35105232)

About 20 years ago, my dumb ass brother-in-law told me that he read that someone had bought something (another company I think) for 4 billion dollars. He said to me that : "that's ridiculous. That amount of currency existed nowhere in the world" Sighing I turned my attention to my sister.

Re:Prediction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35116456)

Sighing I turned my attention to my sister.

Is how the Penthouse Forum letter began...

Re:Prediction (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#35127350)

Mod parent -1 for mentioning the fucking gold standard.

Re:Prediction (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35127782)

Why? I was pointing out how currency is basically already virtual.

Re:Prediction (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35088324)

The next boom/bust cycle will happen with virtual currency. Hope that nobody's retirement savings will be invested in the virtual world.

Yeah. That would be really bad if suddenly your money isn't worth anything anymore. I'm so glad that never happened up to now...

Re:Prediction (1)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 3 years ago | (#35089538)

The next boom/bust cycle will happen with virtual currency. Hope that nobody's retirement savings will be invested in the virtual world.

Yeah. That would be really bad if suddenly your money isn't worth anything anymore. I'm so glad that never happened up to now...

Unless you've actually, physically lived in a country where you worked all day to earn a wheelbarrow full of money and hoped that you'd be able to trade it for a loaf of bread in the morning... it hasn't. Not to you. Buying an overpriced house that you can't sell for more than 70% of what you paid for it is not at all the same.

Re:Prediction (1)

sglewis100 (916818) | more than 3 years ago | (#35089812)

The next boom/bust cycle will happen with virtual currency. Hope that nobody's retirement savings will be invested in the virtual world.

I hope it's a boom, not a bust that comes next. Still hoping to recoup some of the money I invested in Flooz [wikipedia.org] !

My sister stole 13 million worth of my monopoly $ (4, Insightful)

Rivalz (1431453) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088120)

I was selling my physical monopooly currency to her for $100,000 for every 100 monopoly bucks.
Sadly my news article never earned quite as much attention as this when I submitted it to /.
I hope to one day throw her in prison, even tho she has admitted to damaging my business model my lawyer is skeptical of a positive outcome at trial.
Something about suing a minor looking bad to the jury.

explain (1)

samjam (256347) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088402)

I can't relate your comment to the article or the insight score... but your comments are intriging... please explain

Re:explain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35088758)

I believe the OP was stating: Zynga isn't a freaking company and should forfeit all it's "profit" simply for wasting the courts time with this nonsense. They don't do anything positive, in fact the wasted money and lives can very directly be shown to degrade society as a whole. The hacker did a service if anything in this case, assuming it managed to make even a single addicted player forking over their hard earned money to these sick bastards. Now for farmville..

Re:explain (4, Funny)

Cederic (9623) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088800)

Rivalz and Zynga both sell an artificial currency (i.e. not 'legal tender' in any country) for 'real' money. Both have been the victims of a theft. If the thief in the Zynga case has been convicted then the implication is that there's now a precedent.

Rivalz' insight is that taking that precedent to its logical extreme, his sister's about to be forced to turn lesbian.

Re:My sister stole 13 million worth of my monopoly (2)

Seth Kriticos (1227934) | more than 3 years ago | (#35089108)

It's funny, most of the stuff you have in your pocket is not that much different. You bring it to a bank and it just becomes a bunch of numbers on your credit account backed by nothing. Banks and the goverment basically play the same game, with the difference that they get away with it.

Re:My sister stole 13 million worth of my monopoly (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35089278)

Actually the key difference is that the stuff in my pocket is backed by a government which also enforces laws and regulates commerce. As such it is recognized by that government as having a specific market value and standing in legal proceedings also recognized as official by that government. If governments were to allow private currencies to have the saem legal standing then companies like Visa or Amex could print their own money and let markets decide which held value or not. It's not a completely crazy idea given that we already allow them to sell stock worth many times what they as companies are worth but it comes with a bunch of regulatory issues and probably subjects currencies to wilder swings in value than they already endure. That said if a private currency became a reality then your comment would be accurate and there would be little difference.

Re:My sister stole 13 million worth of my monopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35089154)

This case is bullshit. Whatever he did, it certainly wasn't "stealing" or "theft" under British law. The article says:

Mitchell plead guilty to four charges of converting criminal property [money laundering] and a fifth charge for violating the Computer Misuse Act ("unauthorized access with intent to commit or facilitate commission of further offenses").

All the charges depend on an unspecified crime. If assigning these chips to his account wasn't a crime in itself then there was no criminal property to be converted and he didn't make an unauthorized access with intent to comment an offense (because there was no offense). On the other hand, if "taking" the chips was a crime in itself, why wasn't he charged with it?

Re:My sister stole 13 million worth of my monopoly (1)

Grumbleduke (789126) | more than 3 years ago | (#35100292)

The case is fair enough - it is the reporting that is rubbish. Which isn't really surprising; journalists tend to ignore the details when anything legal happens.

From what I can tell, he pleaded guilty to 4 charges under the CMA 1990; and 1 under the Proceeds of Crime Act (2003?).

I would imagine he was charged under section 1 [legislation.gov.uk] CMA which makes it an offence to cause "a computer to perform any function with intent to secure access to any program or data held in any computer" provided that one knows "the access he intends to secure ... is unauthorised". I think it is quite clear he did this (if the facts are to be believed). There is no requirement under s.1 that he intends to do anything illegal once he has gained access, the unauthorised access is enough. I wouldn't be surprised if he was also charged with something under s.2.

Sadly I know very little about the Proceeds of Crime Acts, but I imagine there is an offence in one of them to profit from a crime; i.e. by then selling the imaginary chips he broke that law (possibly somewhere in Part 7 of the PCA 2003).

Either way, there wasn't any "theft" or "stealing". That requires property; and imaginary chips don't seem to count as property. Of course, the CMA has greater punishments available anyway...

Re:My sister stole 13 million worth of my monopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35102030)

Good points. I made the mistake of thinking that since the journalist had, unusually, bothered to give the charges, they might actually be correct. On the other hand, the police and CPS are quite capable of charging people with non-existent crimes, so the journalist wasn't necessarily wrong. But you're right, he was guilty of something.

Re:My sister stole 13 million worth of my monopoly (2)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#35090656)

My friend stole a few hundred trillion dollars from me the other day, as that's what I had valued my favourite pencil at had anyone wanted to purchase it from me.

The only difference between our situations and the ones in the article is that there are actual transactions taking place, right now, for such items. With so many of them going on, they have a bit of a competitive market, which forces them to be roughly equal in price. This means that, in practice, this virtual currency DOES have a value, as much as one could say a chocolate bar is worth anywhere between 1 and 2 dollars.

Stop being so smug with the whole "omg virtual currency has no value" bit because it obviously does - people spend their money on it. They're just 1's and 0's on a database somewhere, but then again, so is your bank account.

Re:My sister stole 13 million worth of my monopoly (1)

Travelsonic (870859) | more than 3 years ago | (#35096146)

Uh... no, you can say your pencil is worth whatever you feel like it, but you didn't have that money stolen from you - you didn't even have it to begin with. Hard to lose money you didn't have to begin with, isn't it?

You reckon that's bad... (1)

SimonTS (1984074) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088174)

...I'm currently looking at multiple life-sentences for committing mass-murder in (insert name of your favourite shoot-em-up).

Re:You reckon that's bad... (3, Funny)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088424)

...I'm currently looking at multiple life-sentences for committing mass-murder in (insert name of your favourite shoot-em-up).

Or when BFG-9000 are outlawed, only outlaws ...

Mint analogy (2)

Musically_ut (1054312) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088178)

From the article:

Judge Wassell asked if the case was any different from stealing notes from the Royal Mint. Mr Evans said in theory it was not because the mint could produce more but the thief would have something tangible he could use elsewhere.

This is interesting how artificially created scarcity [wikipedia.org] is being compared with actual scarcity. I am not an online game player who spends money on them, but seeing how easily poker chips are being sold in the black market by the chap, it seems to me that the poker chips one has is nothing more than a number written in a database field somewhere in the Zynga servers (unlike BitCoins [bitcoin.org] ) and there is no more record of them than the database transaction logs. So, as I see it, people pay Zynga to increase the value of a counter for them.

However, real currency differ from virtual currency here. Currency notes from real mints have an ID on them, they are real tangible things which cannot be as easily fooled around with. Hence, I do not think the analogy holds.

Re:Mint analogy (4, Informative)

declain (1338567) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088416)

Do you really think that all US dollars that are in circulation have physical representation? We are already paying with virtual money that is nothing more than a number written in a database field somewhere in [insert name of your bank here] servers.

Re:Mint analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35089170)

Absolutely they do. Mostly it is morons who like to play at being libertarian but do not understand it say such moronic things.

Re:Mint analogy (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35091000)

And yet M1 > M0. And of course M2 > M1 and M3 > M2...

Re:Mint analogy (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35092260)

The US dollar is not backed by a gold standard, but rather by "the full faith and credit of the U. S. government". Online game tokens are backed by the full faith and credit of the game's marketing department. You tell me which is more reliable.

Re:Mint analogy (1)

fregare (923563) | more than 3 years ago | (#35093646)

Online game tokens of course!

Currency does not have to be anything physical. (1)

just fiddling around (636818) | more than 3 years ago | (#35090854)

That's a common myth: gold-backed currency has "real value" and fiat currency has no "real value". The thing is: money serves as an exchange medium of value. Since the usefulness (or value) of gold (or just about anything else physical) depends on many factors, the only sane option is fiat.

Here is an example: how much of your work is one ounce of gold worth? The most certain amount could be construed by the work you would have to spend to mine and smelt it. Possibly as much as gold is worth to you *right now*. You may be inclined to offer less work next year to get an ounce of gold; maybe none at all since you have no need for it at the time. Ergo: gold has no fixed, intrinsic value. This can be extended to anything: iron, oil, grain, meat, pretty shells, etc.

Whatever serves as currency, including bits, serves as an exchange medium for value; it's form is not important.

Re:Currency does not have to be anything physical. (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35091064)

It's not a "common myth", you're just ignoring what "real value" means in that context.

Can arbitrary amounts of the currency be created out of thin air? If so it has no "real value", if not it has "real value".

And yes, there's no need for a currency to have "real value" as long as people are willing to use as an exchange medium. A currency with nothing restricting its creation has a higher chance of people deciding not to be willing than one that does though.

Re:Currency does not have to be anything physical. (1)

Peeteriz (821290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094118)

On the other hand, having "real value" is not nearly enough or sufficient for something to be useful as currency - say, both gasoline and iPads have 'real value'.

So, as currency doesn't imply 'real value', and 'real value' doesn't imply currency, they are orthogonal, mostly unrelated concepts, so it's not of much use to use them in the same sentence - money is money and that's it, and stuff with 'real value' is something completely different.

Re:Currency does not have to be anything physical. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35093786)

"That's a common myth: gold-backed currency has "real value" and fiat currency has no "real value". The thing is: money serves as an exchange medium of value. Since the usefulness (or value) of gold (or just about anything else physical) depends on many factors, the only sane option is fiat."

Read "Making money" by Terry Pratchett, it's about exactly that... paper, virtual credits, or for that matter anything that isn't worth it's selling price as a good is given a value by the society in question, depending on how much they trust the printer/creator of the credits... In theory this is how it should work, but to some extent people believe in a currencies value because they're told to believe it's that.

Re:Currency does not have to be anything physical. (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094734)

> That's a common myth: gold-backed currency has "real value" and fiat currency has no "real value".

That's because people don't understand (hyper) inflation or what causes it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zimbabwean_dollar [wikipedia.org]

> The thing is: money serves as an exchange medium of value.

Ok, you understand the first meaning of money ...

> Since the usefulness (or value) of gold (or just about anything else physical) depends on many factors, the only sane option is fiat.
... but not the 2nd or 3rd meaning.

With all due respect, you are either insane, an idiot, or ignorant of history. Try google "Local Currency", and research specifically, "LETS", for one.
e.g.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_Exchange_Trading_Systems [wikipedia.org]

Second, read this white paper:
"What Has Government Done to Our Money? " by Murray N. Rothbard
http://mises.org/books/whathasgovernmentdone.pdf [mises.org]

Third, at least watch "The Corporation"
http://www.thecorporation.com/ [thecorporation.com]

May I remind you of a famous quote:
    "Permit me to issue and control the money of the nation and I care not who makes its laws. â" Mayer Amsched Rothchild, a prominent European banker in the eighteenth century"

Other links that may be of interest ( I don't particular agree with them, but they do provide some perspectives.)

Money as Debt by Paul Grignon
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-9050474362583451279 [google.com]

The Corruption that is Modern Banking - Money as Debt
http://bsalert.com/news/2085/The_Corruption_That_Is_Modern_Banking_Money_As_Debt.html?r3 [bsalert.com]

You don't need fiat currency, and you don't need usary to have an economic model. The only reason economic systems fail is for one reason only: greed.

Until we either have 1 global currancy,

Re:Currency does not have to be anything physical. (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 3 years ago | (#35095470)

{Post got cut off}

Until we either have 1 global currancy, or people actually learn the 2nd and 3rd meaning of money, we will have this nonsense of poverty, inflation, and people arguing over multiple meanings of the SAME DOLLAR ammount.

Re:Currency does not have to be anything physical. (1)

just fiddling around (636818) | more than 3 years ago | (#35100070)

I am quite surprised that you are refuting my thesis by refering to a text that says exactly the same as me. Currency is not a means of storage of value or measure of value (I assume that those are the mysterious "2nd and 3rd meanings" you talk about). Storage of value is the same as having a defered exchange. For example: "I give you one pound of meat today for an iPod in a year" is the same as "I am selling you this meat for X simoleons and next year I buy an iPod for X simoleons". Measure of value is iffy at best, for the exact reason I described in my original post: the value of things fluctuates for many reasons and for no reason at all (aka whim or fashion).

Also, I cannot fathom why you would bring Zimbabwe hyper-inflation in a discussion about value and money. In fact, I am surprised a gold bug like you did not bring up the Weimar republic [wikipedia.org] instead. It is self-evident that bad actors, be they governments or corporations, can ruin a whole economy. But Zimbabwe was never a credible government anyway.

Backing a currency on gold, at best, makes the operation of printing money more tedious because a government has to find more of the stuff before, and at worst strangles an expanding economy because value is created but gold cannot be. The only applicable patch would be deflation: since a finite amount of gold represents an expanding economy, everything must keep being "worth less" in gold for everything to balance. And since gold-backed currencies have worked by the principle of "fractional reserves" for a long time, they were a sham anyway.

As for a unique currency resolving poverty, I present you the perfect counter-argument: Rome, Medieval Europe and Renaissance Europe were full of poor people, even as currency was made of real commodities (mostly metals) and was directly convertible in useful objects in your smithy's backyard.

Re:Mint analogy (1)

Peeteriz (821290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094034)

Most of money supply for major currencies (say, US dollars or Euro) is virtual - there aren't nearly as much physical cash banknotes as the money in circulation, as most of money is not issued by Federal reserve or central banks of other countries not by running a printing press, but by lending it in the electronic money transfer system.

If you somehow change a number in a database system holding your personal bank account in Bank of America or whatever other bank, there is no more record of it than the database transaction logs; however by increasing that counter you have effectively stolen money and that has some jail time in store for you.

Re:Mint analogy (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 3 years ago | (#35101378)

Nah. Most dollars only exist as numbers in a database somewhere too. Sure, a small fraction exists as physical bills, but that's a tiny fraction.

Value (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35088188)

And nothing of value was lost.

Or gained. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35088306)

Or gained.

Halting State (1)

Permutation Citizen (1306083) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088286)

This remind me of "Halting State" by Charles Stross. Story starts with a bank robbery in a virtual game, with real business impact. Excellent novel.

Re:Halting State (1)

slackbheep (1420367) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088326)

Thank you for the reminder to read that book, I read Accelerando a few months ago and ended up on a William Gibson binge after which had yet to return me to this section of my book shelf.

Re:Halting State (1)

jurgenaut (910416) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088612)

It's an interesting book indeed. Also one of the few stories told from a second person perspective. It's not as bad as it sounds.

I'm curious (4, Interesting)

goose-incarnated (1145029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088420)

What exactly can one do with Zynga Poker chips, even if you won them legitimately? Can they be exchanged for cash and/or prizes?

Re:I'm curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35088562)

How about selling them for real money, like the summary suggests?

Re:I'm curious (1)

goose-incarnated (1145029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088598)

I suppose that the "exchanged for cash" bit of my post was missed, right? What I'm curious about is this: There is a site that lets you play a game and win/lose in credits (which you pay money for). If these credits can be exchanged for cash directly, then the site is no different from online casinos. If, otoh, these credits only have value on the site (say, 1000 credits gets you a teddy bear + postage, or something similar), then they bypass laws and licenses which govern actual casinos.

Perhaps my original question was badly phrased ...

Re:I'm curious (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088690)

They would be the same since the laws dealing with online casinos giving out cash also cover it by including products or anything of value.
Otherwise you could just create an on-line site and allow people to exchange thier in-game money for anything where the casino would purchase it for you.
As for thier chips they hold no real world value except that other people want them to play poker with so you can sell them for cheaper then what Zynga sells them for an get real world money that way.

Re:I'm curious (2)

fooslacker (961470) | more than 3 years ago | (#35089330)

They would be the same since the laws dealing with online casinos giving out cash also cover it by including products or anything of value. Otherwise you could just create an on-line site and allow people to exchange thier in-game money for anything where the casino would purchase it for you.

Actually this is not true in the US. It varies wildly from state to state. Gambling laws are not federal and in many states gambling for prizes is perfectly legal where as gambling for money is not. You see charity poker tournaments that give out prizes in many locations precisely because of this. In other places it's ok to gamble in private places but only if the house doesn't take a rake and all participants have an equal chance of winning. In other places it's ok to gamble up to certain monetary limits. Don't assume that just because logically it's the same the law treats it the same.

Re:I'm curious (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35089120)

Had to make it to the 2nd sentence: "Sold legitimately through Zynga, the full amount of chips would have brought in some $12 million."

Re:I'm curious (1)

Yaos (804128) | more than 3 years ago | (#35089268)

Just think if had stolen a billion chips, or 1 trillion! Can their servers handle that many 0s? I heard there's a usage based billing on zeros this days from the keyboard makers.

Re:I'm curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35091898)

I believe goose was asking what they could get FROM Zynga for these chips, not what they would pay for the,

Re:I'm curious (1)

Yaos (804128) | more than 3 years ago | (#35089264)

You can use them to make your fake dollar amount go up.

Re:I'm curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35089352)

Far as i know the poker chips are free. Its the tokens that cost money and you use to purchage little bonuses.

Re:I'm curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35089824)

One word: e-peen

Zynga poker chips have absolutely nothing that you can do with them in game other than gamble with other players.

Re:I'm curious (2)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35092288)

Zynga Poker chips are yet another metric for measuring the length of your ePeen...

Re:I'm curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35093766)

No. Selling them is as almost as big a problem as stealing them, since allowing people to exchange their chip winnings for cash turns the game into real-money gambling, and people can be prosecuted for that.

There was a case in Korea a year or two ago where a judge had to rule that an online RPG was not gambling, because someone had been arrested for selling game items, which would constitute gambling for money if the game were a gambling game. They guy was acquitted, but if he had been selling poker chips he would have been convicted. Gaming companies are also on the hook if they allow third-party trading of chips.

stupid show (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35088496)

ba-zynga

May I be the first to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35088506)

Bazinga!

If you look at the post before yours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35100116)

you'll see that you're the second to say it. FAIL.

Zynga are even bigger crooks (2)

Quick Reply (688867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35088568)

Well I think that it's ironic, considering that Zynga steal from everyone else.

Re:Zynga are even bigger crooks (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35092216)

Yeah, I hate it when they put a gun to my head and force me to play!

Re:Zynga are even bigger crooks (1)

scot4875 (542869) | more than 3 years ago | (#35093350)

I believe that GP is referring to Zynga shamelessly making blatant copies of other people's games. Then, on top of that, using their already-established base of players to build up a userbase for the new game (e.g. "Molly's building a new burlesque house in WhoreVille and needs 5 silk stockings! Go play our new game Sweat Shop Hero to make some stockings for her!")

--Jeremy

Re:Zynga are even bigger crooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35102564)

It's not the players that he is talking about.

It's the fact that zynga has never come up with a real idea. All they've ever done is copy (almost exactly) someone elses work when they're a small developer. And then force them out of business using their own product. The small developers don't usually have enough capital to pursue a lawsuit, so zynga wins.

You should probably think about who you deal with, the next time you fire up a zynga game.

http://www.joystiq.com/2010/09/09/zynga-employees-speak-out-on-doing-evil/

Ban alternante currancies (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35089142)

If Zynga were to go bankrupt, or change their service in such a way that significantly modified the value of their currency I think their argument about just how "REAL" it really is would change quite a bit. It's only a matter of time before something terrible happens with one of these online currencies and the feds have to step in an regulate. And by regulate, I mean ban outright.

Re:Ban alternante currancies (1)

Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) | more than 3 years ago | (#35089318)

You seem to have misspelled "tax heavily" there. Because if there's one thing any congressman who actually wants to balance the budget needs, it's something new that they can get tax money from.

Re:Ban alternante currancies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35100276)

Raising taxes or even increasing revenue will never balance a budget. Only cutting spending will do that. There's always some pet project to buy citizen's votes and someone else willing to add it to a bill to buy a Senator or Representative's vote on the horizon. Some idiot focus group and bored out of work researchers are trying to figure out how to raise funds for a 3 year experiment evaluating mouse farts versus gerbil burps right now. You just wait and see, by the year 2020 that will get minimum $400k.

Its virtual, does not count (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 3 years ago | (#35089540)

I thought I read the heading as real chips were stolen then being sold, but now that I see they are just virtual chips...I imagin you can just trace them back and delete them and start over.

Re:Its virtual, does not count (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35092198)

Either the chips have value and he is guilty of theft, or the chips have no value and he is guilty of fraud for selling them.

Re:Its virtual, does not count (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35092360)

Or another possibility: the act of theft is independent of the value or lack therefore of the item in question.

Not entirely clear on what the courts should do... (1)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 3 years ago | (#35089798)

Evans admitted that valuing virtual currency can be difficult and that the company was not actually deprived of tangible goods, but he said that the theft could still affect the developer by indirectly causing legitimate online gamers to stop playing Zynga Poker or its other games.

...So, what you're saying is that we should give the "thief" a medal?

Rob

Re:Not entirely clear on what the courts should do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35092322)

We're arguing about 8 bytes on a server somewhere. Maybe Zynga should fix their bugs!

Bet the judge will have a field day (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 3 years ago | (#35090140)

trying to understand this one. Stealing virtual money (chips) from a virtual world does not make it a virtual crime. I hope the judge is some old guy that can't even comprehend virtual worlds. If anything this should make for an interesting trial.

Re:Bet the judge will have a field day (1)

Shimbo (100005) | more than 3 years ago | (#35090880)

If anything this should make for an interesting trial.

Not really, because the defendant pleaded guilty.

Been done before, but not illegally? (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#35090186)

How is this really any different from, say, exploiting a dupe bug in a MMOG? That sort of thing has been done before, but most people would consider being banned from the game to be an appropriate punishment. Why does this case escalate to the level of criminal charges of fraud?

Re:Been done before, but not illegally? (1)

Joshua Fan (1733100) | more than 3 years ago | (#35091072)

Because Zynga (for now), just like Facebook, has the clout to throw its weight around and manipulate the law to serve as its private enforcement arm.

Re:Been done before, but not illegally? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35091206)

He broke the law by "hacking" their computer system. And then when he sold the results of that he's now converting criminal property and hence gets done for that too.

Exploiting a dupe bug in an MMO and sell the resulting items is different because you haven't committed the initial criminal act and hence the sale isn't converting criminal property and so neither charge can apply. If you hacked into the WoW database server and gave yourself items that way, then it would be the same situation and you'd have some legal issues.

Re:Been done before, but not illegally? (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 3 years ago | (#35091226)

Assuming he hacked/cracked into their servers (and TFA certainly implies it), that's a crime under the Computer Misuse Act here in the UK so he can potentially do gaol time just for that.

Re:Been done before, but not illegally? (1)

Peeteriz (821290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094320)

It's very simple - just the same as cracking any other system to get some service for free that's usually sold for $x.

Unauthorised acccess / cracking of computer systems with direct losses = crime.

Reselling the service (chip counters in a virtual poker game) for financial gain = aggravating circumstances.

If you defrauded a $1000 per haircut hairdresser into giving his services w/o paying, the court will bill you $1000 - nobody cares how valuable the service is in your mind.

Regarding your example with dupe bugs - i'd say that in some of such incidents the guilty ones could be criminally persecuted, the companies simply choose not to for PR purposes - but if you would intentionally dupe and resell for real money some premium items that are being sold by the game store and are a major revenue stream, then you would have to be far away in lawyer-inaccessible countries to get away with just a ban.

At the risk of sounding like an elitist... (1)

MakinBacon (1476701) | more than 3 years ago | (#35090518)

"but he said that the theft could still affect the developer by indirectly causing legitimate online gamers to stop playing Zynga Poker or its other games."

Zynga never had any legitimate online gamers.

I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35091118)

So he had enough brains to somehow get into the server. How does he not realize that there will be logs, or that selling billions of chips will obviously bring attention to the matter?

And nothing of value was lost... (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35092176)

"...the theft could still affect the developer by indirectly causing legitimate online gamers to stop playing Zynga Poker or its other games."

You say that as if you think that's a BAD thing!
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