In an international case that may prove to be pivotal in the area of intellectual property, the Dutch Supreme Court recently held that virtual property
is property that can be protected, and theft of such property is punishable by law.
In brief, the facts of the case are as follows:
In September of 2007, two kids around the age of 15 forced another teen, the victim, to turn over the passwords to his Runescape (a virtual community) account. Under the threat of violence, they forced him to take money and virtual goods from his account and transfer that property to their account. In particular an amulet and a mask were stolen.
The teen victim reported the theft to the police, who arrested the teen predators. A lower Dutch court in 2009 found them guilty of theft. The defendants appealed the ruling, which made it all the way to the Dutch Supreme Court. The primary question before the court was whether virtual property (intangible goods) is deemed property in the eyes of the law, and therefore can be the subject of a theft.
Well the Dutch Supreme Court said “YES”.
How might that court’s decision impact the way other courts view this issue? In particular, how might such a ruling affect a US court addressing the theft of virtual property in, let’s say, the Second Life?
Here is a link to Google translation of the Dutch ruling
What are your thoughts?
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