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MP calls for MMO crimes to have real-life punishments

MP calls for MMO crimes to have real-life punishments

Mike Weatherley MP has outed himself as a World of Warcraft player and called for real-world punishments to be applied to perpetrators of virtual crimes.

A Conservative MP has called for the theft of in-game items to be punished with the same level of severity as the theft of real-world objects, despite their ephemeral nature.

In one of the rare instances of a member of parliament speaking up about gaming in a manner that doesn't excoriate them as murder-simulators corruption the nation's youth, Mike Weatherly MP outed himself as a World of Warcraft subscriber eager to see real-world justice for crimes that occur in Azeroth. In a speech aimed at Minister of State for Justice Mike Penning earlier this week, Weatherley is reported by the Independent to have compared virtual thefts to real-world crimes.

'The video games industry has raised concerns with me on behalf of gamers who have clearly being targeted by hackers and while I’ve not personally been a victim of online theft, but certainly sympathise with those who have had something stolen from them,' Weatherley, chief adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron on intellectual property policy, told the paper in a follow-up interview. ;Legitimate in-game theft of something with a real-world monetary value should be treated in the same way as people who steal physical items. Small individual thefts might seem trivial, but if targeted and carried out hundreds or thousands of times it does present a serious problem.'

The punishment of virtual theft under existing laws is problematic on several levels: the items in question exist merely as entries in a database, they have no intrinsic value and could be cloned or restored to their original owner quickly and easily should the company behind the game get involved. Weatherley argues that while the virtual items have no value as data, they have real-world worth thanks to the time and effort put into obtaining them - and, in cases where games have approved or illegitimate trading routes, often change hands for cold, hard currency.

Weatherley stopped short of stating the exact level of punishment he would like to see for the theft of a virtual sword, gun or suit of armour, but told the paper 'crimes committed online should not be treated differently from crimes committed offline, as I believe that it sends out the wrong message.,' suggesting real-life prison sentences would not be considered disproportionate.

29 Comments

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Stotherd-001 25th July 2014, 10:36 Quote
Eve would suddenly get a lot less - or more - interesting.
Corky42 25th July 2014, 10:58 Quote
I'm no lawyer, but how is theft of other digital "work" dealt with. i.e if someone hacked into a company and stole the only copy of some digital work, or caused other forms of damage.

Point I'm probably badly trying to make is, isn't theft and hacking already punishable by the legal system ?
Margo Baggins 25th July 2014, 11:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
I'm no lawyer, but how is theft of other digital "work" dealt with. i.e if someone hacked into a company and stole the only copy of some digital work, or caused other forms of damage.

Point I'm probably badly trying to make is, isn't theft and hacking already punishable by the legal system ?

That's firstly computer misuse act before it's anything else, and they would probably start with that. Most things are computer misuse act, accessing things you shouldn't etc. I don't know where digital theft falls, I assume you can get done for it. I am no lawyer either :) just speculating.
Gareth Halfacree 25th July 2014, 11:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
I'm no lawyer, but how is theft of other digital "work" dealt with. i.e if someone hacked into a company and stole the only copy of some digital work, or caused other forms of damage. Point I'm probably badly trying to make is, isn't theft and hacking already punishable by the legal system ?
There are laws - Computer Misuse Act 1990 is the most pertinent - but they wouldn't see the player as the victim. As a result, the company that owns and/or operates the servers for the game would have to press charges, and that's not likely to happen. The Theft Act 1968 is a difficult one to apply to the digital realm, as it uses the definition 'dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.' Is a Flaming Sword of +1 Ball-Stabbing 'property,' when it A) doesn't exist and 2) is only being licensed to the player for as long as they continue to pay a subscription fee? If I take it from your character illegitimately, do I have the 'intention of permanently depriving the other of it' when Blizzvendi could just create a copy of it back into your account at zero cost? Then we're back to 'belonging to another:' technically the sword isn't yours, it's Blizzvendi's; do we need them to press charges?

Interesting sidebar: this definition of theft is why we have the crime of 'taking without owner's consent,' or TWOCing: a joyrider that claims he or she fully intended to return the car to the original owner minus a little petrol and tyre rubber - or does, in fact, return the car and is caught post-facto - cannot be guilty of theft, as there was no 'intention to permanently deprive.'
Margo Baggins 25th July 2014, 11:10 Quote
Ownership is such a hard one these days, I think most of my digital things are merely licensed, most of my games, music etc. It's all subscription service. The law I feel maybe is a bit old fashioned in it's approach to safe-guarding consumers in this arena. I don't think the laws should be specific to mmo's, they should just make laws that better protect consumers with licensed material.
Nexxo 25th July 2014, 11:12 Quote
"Here, there can only be lies" --Pat Cadigan, on virtual reality
Umbra 25th July 2014, 11:29 Quote
Weatherly's older constituents are wondering why the hell their MP is wasting time with such pointless gaming nonsense, 'Won't be voting for him again!' and the younger gamers in his constituency are unsurprisingly, too busy gaming to notice what he's said and generally have little interest in politics and don't vote, so overall, he's not helped himself a lot
blacko 25th July 2014, 11:59 Quote
This explains why the country is the way it is...Dave and his mates are running raids instead of running the UK!

for the horde!
John_T 25th July 2014, 12:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Umbra
Weatherly's older constituents are wondering why the hell their MP is wasting time with such pointless gaming nonsense, 'Won't be voting for him again!' and the younger gamers in his constituency are unsurprisingly, too busy gaming to notice what he's said and generally have little interest in politics and don't vote, so overall, he's not helped himself a lot

No, I don't agree with that, I think that's too much of a sweeping generalisation. Older people are just young people who have been around a long time - they're not a different species! :)

While many of them won't understand the intricacies of online gaming, (some will of course) they'll understand perfectly words like 'targeted', 'victim' and 'theft'. I don't understand the finer points of brain surgery, but I don't dismiss it as pointless.

Going back to what other people (and the article) have said, there clearly is a real-world time and financial impact of this kind of thing, so it definitely needs addressing. I think Margo Baggins hit the nail on the head, in that the law needs updating for consumer protection of online services in general.
Panos 25th July 2014, 12:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by blacko
This explains why the country is the way it is...Dave and his mates are running raids instead of running the UK!

for the horde!

Hahahahhaa good one :D
maverik-sg1 25th July 2014, 12:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by blacko
This explains why the country is the way it is...Dave and his mates are running raids instead of running the UK!

for the horde!

Literally cried with laughter reading this, brilliant!!
XXAOSICXX 25th July 2014, 13:18 Quote
"corruption"

corrupting :)
XXAOSICXX 25th July 2014, 13:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Umbra
Weatherly's older constituents are wondering why the hell their MP is wasting time with such pointless gaming nonsense, 'Won't be voting for him again!' and the younger gamers in his constituency are unsurprisingly, too busy gaming to notice what he's said and generally have little interest in politics and don't vote, so overall, he's not helped himself a lot

I, for one, would prefer to see far more MPs taking action that isn't self-serving. This is a good thing :)
Corky42 25th July 2014, 13:46 Quote
^This^
MP's are meant to do what is right for us, not themselves.
IMHO it's why so many people dislike, distrust politicians, because they are perceived as being self-serving.
wolfticket 25th July 2014, 13:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by XXAOSICXX
I, for one, would prefer to see far more MPs taking action that isn't self-serving. This is a good thing :)
It would be even less self serving if he didn't happen to be a wow player :)
...

This article seems (or, by way of the title, tries) to give the impression that in game "crimes" and "theft" will end up in court.

In fact he is talking about people hacking accounts and taking digital properties that have value, which you would have though would be crime under existing law anyway, albeit one that is very difficult to enforce.
DLDeadbolt 25th July 2014, 13:53 Quote
Honestly, I do hope they atleast give some of the companies a bollocking (I'm looking at you Valve) about how they handle theft of accounts, theft of items, trade scamming, account bans, etc.

Valve's policy is simple: Go Fork yourself.
(except for account theft, then its jump through all of these 1001 hoops, before we try and help you. Then, IF you get your account back and your items are all gone, tough ****.)

Get banned for any reason, there is no way in hell you will ever see your account again. I've seen people being banned for downloading a mod of the goddam Steam Workshop get banned... and the mod is still up there!
iggy 25th July 2014, 19:55 Quote
Todays news: MP gets scammed in WoW, vows revenge.
PingCrosby 25th July 2014, 21:01 Quote
Hang em', the thieving little scrotes, I went back to a chest in Skyrim where I had put The Warhammer of Everlasting Winegums only to find it ad' been bleedin' alf inched. I'm bettin' it was her from number three Riften St. her eyes are way too close together and she's always hangin' around The Dodgy Geezer Inn pleedin' bleedin' poverty
Umbra 26th July 2014, 12:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by XXAOSICXX
I, for one, would prefer to see far more MPs taking action that isn't self-serving. This is a good thing :)

I agree, but the majority of his constituents will probably think he should be doing far more important things for his local area, with so many issues such as the bedroom tax, rises in council tax, combined with councils having less money to spend there are day centres, drop in centres and many facilities being closed and council services being stopped, what happens in the cyber-world of gaming is of absolutely no interest to people having serious life problems in the real world.
Umbra 26th July 2014, 12:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by John_T
No, I don't agree with that, I think that's too much of a sweeping generalisation. Older people are just young people who have been around a long time - they're not a different species! :)

While many of them won't understand the intricacies of online gaming, (some will of course) they'll understand perfectly words like 'targeted', 'victim' and 'theft'. I don't understand the finer points of brain surgery, but I don't dismiss it as pointless.

If all someone has to worry about in their life is the security of their online gaming items, then they are very lucky, and of course older people will understand words like targeted, victim and theft, but they will be far more concerned about those issues in the real world and how those issues will affect them, get targeted and mugged in the street, come home to find you have been a victim of burglary, these things will have greater consequences to them than theft of some gaming items in cyber space, really, why would they care?
Anfield 26th July 2014, 15:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Umbra
If all someone has to worry about in their life is the security of their online gaming items, then they are very lucky, and of course older people will understand words like targeted, victim and theft, but they will be far more concerned about those issues in the real world and how those issues will affect them, get targeted and mugged in the street, come home to find you have been a victim of burglary, these things will have greater consequences to them than theft of some gaming items in cyber space, really, why would they care?

They should care, because that basement dwelling 12 year old low life who is now hacking WoW accounts may well get the idea that crime pays if he doesn't get punished resulting in increased chances of him moving on to real world crimes.
greigaitken 26th July 2014, 16:02 Quote
Whats the value of Super Warhammer of Nail Destruction?
50p?
then whoever nicks it gets the same punishment than they would for stealing a mars bar.
and i think official warning is whats dealt these days.
hacking into account etc... that the same as breaking into somebodies shed?
Umbra 26th July 2014, 17:58 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anfield
They should care, because that basement dwelling 12 year old low life who is now hacking WoW accounts may well get the idea that crime pays if he doesn't get punished resulting in increased chances of him moving on to real world crimes.

That's the 'Darkened basement dwelling low life loner' let's get the stereotype correct, and you could say the same about any one that's pirated anything, 'That was easy and I didn't get caught, let's try that in the real world'.

People want to see cops on their streets, tell them that the police don't have the resources for that because they are trying to catch kids hacking in their bedrooms because they might be a potential criminal in the making is not what most people want to hear, it doesn't win votes, besides, hackers have a history of getting themselves caught because they have to tell someone what they have done or they are not as clever as they think they are and leave a trail which the companies hosting the games could well follow if they could be bothered.
Gareth Halfacree 26th July 2014, 18:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by greigaitken
Whats the value of Super Warhammer of Nail Destruction?
50p? then whoever nicks it gets the same punishment than they would for stealing a mars bar.
and i think official warning is whats dealt these days.
Depends where you are. Stealing a Snickers can get you 16 years in a Texas jail - although, in defence of the sentence, it was a king-size bar. Here in the UK, a multi-pack of Mars bars and a block of cheese could get you a week in chokey, while £3.50's worth of bottled water could mean six months in gaol.
Corky42 26th July 2014, 19:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by greigaitken
Whats the value of Super Warhammer of Nail Destruction?
50p?

IDK what the price is for a Super Warhammer of Nail Destruction, but this top 10 shows some virtual item go for as little as $2300 all the way up to $70,000
Anfield 26th July 2014, 20:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Umbra
That's the 'Darkened basement dwelling low life loner' let's get the stereotype correct

Nah, the white skinned ones trying to impress the orange skinned ones are the most dangerous.

Or maybe its showing that I'm in Belfast where you fear the locals and befriend the immigrants.:D
John_T 27th July 2014, 12:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Umbra

If all someone has to worry about in their life is the security of their online gaming items, then they are very lucky, and of course older people will understand words like targeted, victim and theft, but they will be far more concerned about those issues in the real world and how those issues will affect them, get targeted and mugged in the street, come home to find you have been a victim of burglary, these things will have greater consequences to them than theft of some gaming items in cyber space, really, why would they care?

People can be worried about more than one thing at a time you know - and I was rather hoping that an MP in office for five years would be able to tackle more than just one issue in those five years...
John_T 27th July 2014, 12:35 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42


IDK what the price is for a Super Warhammer of Nail Destruction, but this top 10 shows some virtual item go for as little as $2300 all the way up to $70,000

SEVENTY GRAND!!!?

**** me, I've been playing the wrong games! :)
Anfield 27th July 2014, 16:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by John_T
SEVENTY GRAND!!!?

**** me, I've been playing the wrong games! :)

Unless you can actually control if you get the valuable items or not it is not worth attempting to play the games for profit, for example in D3 it is so random you might as well go buy lottery tickets.
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