Link to original blog: here
We've talked a lot about pirating content from the web. Pirates that are caught are harshly punished (way too harshly). The concept of punishing pirates for stealing songs or music or other such content makes sense, however what about items that are purely virtual? Such as items in an online game. If someone were to steal something from you in a game, should that person be punished (in the real world)?
One Dutch court said yes. The case was that two boys threatened a third to give them his virtual items in the on-line game Runescape. The third boy did end up giving them his items and then ended up suing them for the theft. The dutch court ruled in favor of the third boy and sentenced the other two (thieves) to about 200 hours of community service each.
The idea of punishment for theft of intangible things on the web brings an interesting idea to mind. If the law starts to branch out to cover things that are intangible then online thieves would start to be punished more often and maybe more harshly.
This mindset would support the way that record companies have been pursuing pirates. If a pirates downloads an entire CD then that is the same as if that pirate had gone to a music store and stole a copy of that same CD.
I completely disagree with this concept. If you 'steal' something on the web you are taking a copy of it. So the copy you have would not exist if you had not gotten it, so no loss has been made from the seller of that CD. However the pirate should still be punished, but on a much smaller scale. Like in the example of the Runescape case, the administrators of that game could have merely given the third boy his items back and deleted the items from the first two boys and then given them some sort of suspension or ban from the game. The threatening that the two boys did is something that is deserving of a harsh punishment like community service, but the punishment from the Dutch court was merely for the theft of the virtual items not the threatening.