Thanks to BOING BOING for pointing out these recent stories.
Virtual crime is nothing new. We’ve been hearing about it for a while now, but mostly these stories focused on the relative difficulty of establishing fair criteria regarding issues of juristiction, IP rights and other facets of a virtual case. Recent events seem to indicate that the law is finally catching up to the tech, however. A Japanese woman, accused of murdering her ex-husband’s avatar, has been jailed in connection with the crime – she did not murder a flesh-and-blood person, but an in-game avatar from the online games called “Maple Story.” While there is no specifc law regarding virtual murder, the exact charge against her is inappropriate computer access, which carries a 5 year jail term and $5000 fine.
In a similar story of RL catching up with VL, a couple of teenage Dutch bullies were convicted of roughing up and stealing goods from a classmate within the virtual world of RuneScape. Under Dutch law virtual goods are goods, and this was clearly an act of theft. The teens were sentenced with 160 and 200 hours of community service – I wonder if they can serve their time in-game, or if they will be picking up trash along the dykes?
Naturally, MediaSapien finds this blurring distinction between V and R a natural progression, and wonders why it’s taken so long for legislators to catch up with the times. Wait… Did I just seriously say that? I must be high. At least they’re starting to get it now.