One can only wonder who has been nipping at the cooking sherry when one hears about the recent BBC report of a Dutch teenager who has been arrested for stealing almost $6,000 (4,000 euros) worth of virtual furniture from “rooms” in the Habbo Hotel, a popular social-networking site. It seems absurd and it is, but it also really happened. The incident involved five 15-year old boys who are accused of moving the stolen furniture into their own Habbo rooms.
While the lines between virtual and reality may not be clearly drawn (and how could they be as they are always blurring), the fact remains that the boys did not pay for the furniture they took; other people did. In the land of both the virtual and the real, that is theft.
A Habbo Hotel spokesman told the BBC:
“The accused lured victims into handing over their Habbo passwords by creating fake Habbo Web sites.”
This constitutes phishing fraud, but the worth of virtual property needs new definition and scope. Inflicting harm must also be calculated, even though the charge of carrying a virtual firearm does not yet exist. The issue of virtual theft vs. real theft is still in its infancy, and thus needs direction and revaluation.
If you think about it, the whole thing is really pretty weird. Will virtual police handcuff virtual criminals and cart them to virtual jails? The legal system must decide if virtual theft is a violation of the law.
What do YOU think?
Read [Virtually Blind]