Virtual Theft: Should this mean virtual jails?

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Virtual Hotel

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]

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  • Chuck

    I think the theft is more akin to cheating at a game than steeling.

  • tman

    this is no different than credit cards. they represent "virtual" money that really doesn't exist. virtual and real transform back and forth.

    the same is true with this webspace… in other words, one has to use real money to purchase virtual items. one can then sell their virtual items for real money. so, even though the furniture was only virtual, they can still be sold for real money… therefore they stole the original owners ability to sell their virtual furniture for real money….

    no different than stealing someone's credit card and using their card for your own financial benefit… even though it's just a plastic card that represents virtual money, it translates into real money

    so does this webspace.. virtual translates into real money… so it's a real theft…

  • Rosie

    It's real theft.