First Case of Virtual Burglary

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Dutch police have arrested a 17 year-old and compatriots for stealing $5,800 in virtual furniture from other residents in the virtual game Habbo Hotel. Habbo avatars pay real money to decorate their own hotel rooms and interact with one another. As the Telegraph reports:

Dutch police are to charge five teenagers with "virtual theft" of furniture from rooms in the Habbo Hotel, a popular networking website for youngsters.

Officers believe that the arrest of one online thief, a 17-year-old accused of computer fraud and stealing, and the questioning of four other 15-year olds represents a first for policing on the internet.

An Amsterdam police spokesman confirmed that investigations began after one teenager was accused of stealing £2,800 worth of virtual furniture, paid for with real money but existing only as images on the website.

"We are trying to bring charges of theft. It is a little difficult and new. There has not yet been a judgment in a case like this," said a spokesman.

"The furniture may not be physical objects but because it represents a certain value we think theft is involved."

I agree. They took what did not belong to them. Putting the perps in a virtual pokey isn't a good enough punishment.

Whole Telegraph story here

Addendum: Here's a link to an interesting essay on the metaphsyics of property (mostly with reference to real estate).  

NEXT: Eminent Domain Gone Wild

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  1. If only they had engaged in virtual child porn while pilfering the virtual furniture, this case would be a slam-dunk (virtually).

  2. Who the fuck pays 2800 pounds for virtual furniture? They could have smoked a lot of real weed (legally!) for that money and dreamed of furniture. It’d be just as real, and a lot more fun.

    That said, stealing is stealing.

  3. “Putting the perps in a virtual pokey isn’t a good enough punishment.”

    I think maybe it should depend on the terms of service.

    …and I’m not entirely convinced that a minor should necessarily be bound by such things in the real world.

  4. Agreed, Episiarch. That’s ridiculous! (the furniture buying part).

    That said, I wonder if the teens knew there was monetary value in the “virtual” furniture.

  5. I could see if their parents agreed to the terms of service, then maybe the parents should face a fine, but if parents knew that by letting their kids screw around in a virtual world, they were opening up the possibility that their kid could face criminal prosecution in the real world, would they consent to that?

    If I send my kid to your summer camp, yeah, I’ll pay for the damage he does, but gosh darn it, aren’t you supposed to keep him under supervision?

  6. How did they do the stealing? Did their avatars virtually break into the rooms and remove the loot? Because that would be kind of cool. Not as cool as robbing the hotel itself, which would be like Ocean’s Eleven. Still, getting caught means going to jail.

  7. Would this be theft in the sense that downloading copyrighted music is theft? Would this be prosecuted as an issue of copyright?

    fwiw, I was in the Habbo Hotel several years ago and it is even less interesting than SecondLife.

  8. If my seventeen year old kid’s at your summer camp, and he goes and steals a chair out of somebody else’s cabin, and puts it in his own cabin, are you gonna call the cops?

  9. Putting the perps in a virtual pokey isn’t a good enough punishment.

    Punishment? Just have him return the property. His real-world state will surely determine that his theft has disturbed the King’s Peace, and do their own thing about that. As for Habbo world…

    <blink>HABBO PERSONAL PROPERTY INSURANCE<blink>

  10. If your seventeen year old kid is at summer camp, I’m calling child services, because you’re obviously raising a really dorky kid who will get beaten up every day at school, and that’s child abuse, I reckon.

    Here’s my question: are the laws of Habbo World legitimate, and therefore deserving of real world enforcement? What if Habbo World had a slave auction, where your character was “bought”, and then you had your character run away. Could you be arrested for theft?

    What if your Habbo World character goes around grabbing tits? Could you be prosecuted for that?

  11. Warren,

    To do the stealing, they hacked other people’s accounts. If it was all legitimate in game, I don’t think there would be any charges filed (outside of the game).

  12. I’m fairly sure that the title of this post is inaccurate, that there have been other virtual/game burglaries that have been investigated by real-world criminal prosecution organs.

  13. NWD, I wouldn’t necessarily call it “hacking”. Based on the article, they simply duped others into handing over their passwords. Just sayin…

  14. NWD, I wouldn’t necessarily call it “hacking”. Based on the article, they simply duped others into handing over their passwords.

    Yes, that is called social engineering.

    It is the most effective method of hacking/cracking.

  15. Damn, this is sooo stupid. BUT, as a supporter of IP rights generally, and an opponent of fraud, I have to go with the prosecution on this. To clain that this virtual furniture has only perceived value makes no sense, All things of value, like greenbacks, only possess perceived value.

  16. Virtual thefts and burglaries like that have been common for a long time in online games. Hacking accounts and looting them goes back at least 10 years.

    Also, exploiting bugs in the software — which is a bit more legally dubious.

    One of the tricks back in the days of Ultima Online was to kill your character and have him appear as a ghost. Then walk through the door of locked houses and resurrect inside. You could then open the doors from the inside and let your friends in to loot the place.

  17. Yeah, I guess I was actually working at summer camp by 14–still, you get the point? Most people don’t associated letting their kid use the credit card to play around in a virtual summer camp with the possibility of criminal prosecution in the real world.

    Selling pirated software? Maybe. Making terrorist threats? Okay. …but just because he stole virtual furniture? …furniture that never left the site?!

    Show me the terms of service. Take the furniture back and give it to its rightful owner. Erase my account and ban me forever. …but subject my children to criminal prosecution? Come on!

  18. BUT, as a supporter of IP rights generally,

    Weird that you’d mention ‘IP’, when Habbo furniture has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with copyright law, patent law, or trademark law.

    Language creates spooks that get into our heads.

  19. </b>

  20. When avatars are outlawed, only outlaws will have avatars.

  21. “I’m fairly sure that the title of this post is inaccurate, that there have been other virtual/game burglaries that have been investigated by real-world criminal prosecution organs.”

    Yeah, if you want to talk about a real “case of virtual burglary”, let’s talk about how much my ex-girlfriend cost me! Ugh.

  22. I realize the crappy punctuation and spelling in my last post. I guess I’ll have to stay after school.

  23. Julian, perhaps IP = Internet Protocol in that context? That was my first thought.

  24. Habbo Hotel is basically a glorified chatroom. And jimmydageek is right, they probably just used social engineering to obtain the passwords to otherwise protecte rooms. People on Habbo Hotel that are dumb enough to spend a fortune on virtual furniture are probably dumb enough to hand over their passwords, whodathunk.

  25. Anything ‘Virtual’ is a number.
    You can’t own a number.
    You can’t steal a number.

  26. Could you be prosecuted for that?

    Absolutely! The King’s Peace is a very fragile thing, considering the title.

  27. “To clain that this virtual furniture has only perceived value makes no sense, All things of value, like greenbacks, only possess perceived value.”

    So if I’m playing Monopoly and whoever’s playin’ the banker shortchanges me, can I call the police and charge him with embezzlement?

  28. whiskeyjuvenile: You could easily be right. If you find some cases, could you please pass along the links here? BTW, I think “burglary” means entering someone else’s property surreptiously and taking items that belong to them. Thanks very much.

  29. I bet there’s a lot of virtual tax evasion going on. Was VAT paid on the virtual furniture?

    If the virtual furniture was made by children, were child labor laws violated? Were they paid minimum wage?

    I suspect this virtual robbery is just the tip of the criminal iceberg.

  30. Bingo: Surely you’re not saying that it’s all right to steal from people just so long as they are stupid? 😉

  31. Ron, Bingo’s real name is P.T. Barnum.

  32. Weird that you’d mention ‘IP’, when Habbo furniture has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with copyright law, patent law, or trademark law.

    I’m not a copyright attorney by any means. Still a person paid for a digital creation. Another took it and used it without permission. I’m pretty sure it’s against the law. This may be applicable.

  33. There seems to be a lot of misinformation on this thread. They didn’t login to the game with their own characters and somehow “break in” to the room and steal the furniture. That would be a feature of the game if it were possible. These guys stole the passwords of existing users and took their “furniture”. It is the equivalent of stealing your bank password and removing thousands of dollars from your account.

    That said, that’s a ridiculous amount of money to spend on virtual furniture.

  34. Having never played (or even heard of) Habbo Hotel, I have to ask. What are the laws of Habbo Hotel? Is “stealing” a crime there? What makes the Amsterdam Police think that they have jurisdiction over actions in Habbo Hotel?

    CB

  35. I took Bingo’s comment as a response to the question of how it was done rather than whether it was okay.

  36. “These guys stole the passwords of existing users and took their “furniture”. It is the equivalent of stealing your bank password and removing thousands of dollars from your account.”

    I don’t think I have a problem with them being charged with breaking into a server and stealing account information if that’s what they did; it’s charging them with larceny for the furniture they stole that makin’ me scratch my head.

  37. You can’t steal a number.

    Habbo’s economy connects to real-world economy, in that virtual Habbo goods are bought with real-world money. Thus virtual Habbo goods have value.

    If Habbo had free in-game replication of Habbo goods, Habbo goods could not be sold — therefore Habbo lacks this, making Habbo goods exclusive and thus stealable.

    Habbo goods are probably tradeable, and in trade you can have fraud. In clusmy anti-fraud systems you can have metafraud. But even if Habbo has a programming solution to the the problem, it doesn’t commit a crime by not pursuing it; it doesn’t deprive anyone of exclusive access to a legitimately purchased good by force or fraud.

  38. Although the purchase may have taken place in Amsterdam, it appears that the theft took place in Habbo. Again, the Amsterdam Police don’t have jurisdiction, any more than the U.S. does.

    Uh oh.

    CB

  39. I don’t think I have a problem with them being charged with breaking into a server and stealing account information if that’s what they did; it’s charging them with larceny for the furniture they stole that makin’ me scratch my head.

    People spent real-world money to buy that virtual furniture, so the theives stole something that (according to its owners, at least), has real-world value.

    If Hit and Run were subscription-only, wherein you had to pay actual money for an account that gives you posting privileges, it would be a real form of theft if someone hacked into my account, stole my password and made it so I couldn’t comment under the account I paid actual money for.

  40. “Again, the Amsterdam Police don’t have jurisdiction, any more than the U.S. does.”

    So where were the parties when they agreed to ToS? Where are the servers exactly? Where was the accused when he allegedly perpetrated the crime?

    …and there’s always Interpol.

  41. T-H-I-E-V-E-S.

    I knew that, dammit.

  42. Great now I can bring that wrongful death lawsuit against King Koopa for his part in the death of an Italian friend of mine. I know he will try to say it is in self defense, but I think that the evidence will clearly show that my friend was trying to jump over him since jumping on him would would cause instant death.

  43. J sub D,

    Copyright law, trademark law, and patent law have no special connection to ‘digital creations’ either. Tthat this is plain, physically explainable theft should be your first clue to it having nothing to do with ‘IP’. The victim bloody well owned the furniture he bought: it wouldn’t’ve still been his long after he died, it wouldn’t automatically stopped being his after some time; he didn’t have any positive obligation regarding other people with it — not to let them sit on small parts of it or to let them run off with it if they planned to use it only as a lamp instead of as chair or to let them sit and study it so that they could come up with novel superfurniture. He doesn’t need to justify his owning the furniture he bought as of some benefit benefit. When he bought the furniture, he didn’t have to prove that nobody’d before bought similar furniture. He and someone owning very similar and similary-used furniture would have no truck with each other. When someone stole his furniture from him, he didn’t have it anymore.

  44. “People spent real-world money to buy that virtual furniture, so the theives stole something that (according to its owners, at least), has real-world value.”

    They’re minors. …and that makes a difference to me at least as it pertains to the ToS. As it pertains to the furniture itself, I think they’re probably vandals at worst.

    “it would be a real form of theft if someone hacked into my account, stole my password and made it so I couldn’t comment under the account I paid actual money for.”

    Like I said, I don’t have a big problem with them being prosecuted for hacking in and stealing account information–if that’s what they did.

  45. s/benefit benefit/societal benefit/; arg.

    You could drop the whole metaphor, dismissing Habbo economy as incorporeal (even as a personal property insurer would probably make actual money in it), and say that this is all merely a violation of Habbo.com’s copyright over the goods in question. If you chew on that a bit, I think you won’t like the taste.

  46. Like I said, I don’t have a big problem with them being prosecuted for hacking in and stealing account information–if that’s what they did.

    Correct! And that can be handled in whatever jurisdiction they reside. But there’s still the matter of the furniture. I’m assuming that Habbo has some “no liability” disclosure in their TOS/EULA, so they probably won’t make the effort to return the furniture to the rightful owners. As there’s real money tied to the value of the virtual furniture, there has to be some accountability for it.

  47. “When someone stole his furniture from him, he didn’t have it anymore.”

    he never had it in the first place. there’s no “it” to have.

  48. What if they return the furniture but it has some suspicious stains on it?

  49. Um, they did have “it”, edna. It was theirs, in their “rooms” within the “hotel”, all paid for with real money. The “virtual” part does create some obstacles as to how it should be handled legally, but it shouldn’t diminish the victims’ ownership of said “property”.

  50. “The teenage gang are suspected of moving the stolen furniture into their own online hotel rooms after conning other users out of their login details and passwords.”

    They’re a “gang”? Okay.

    …so it doesn’t look like they “hacked” anything as much as they just took advantage of the same people who might try to help any given Nigerian with a bank transaction.

    And from what I can tell, it does look like they may have done it for the sole purpose of taking the furniture.

    Again, my issue is with the terms of service and the fact that they’re minors–it’s almost as if the virtual world is maintaining an attractive nuisance. I doubt their parents would have given them the credit card and the okay to “play” if the folks had known it could open them up to criminal prosecution for stealing virtual stuff…

    “Habbo credit can be purchased ‘simply’ by ringing a premium-rate phone number and their target market generally has easy access to a telephone line for which they don’t have to pay,” writes David S.”

    “It doesn’t really matter how much these things cost. Mum and Dad’s money is essentially ‘virtual’ anyway, and it can be weeks before the phone bill hits the mat and the dung-heap hits the wind-farm.”

    …and if their parents didn’t even know they were on the service, then, to me, the issue of their status as minors becomes even bigger.

  51. So if I’m playing Monopoly and whoever’s playin’ the banker shortchanges me, can I call the police and charge him with embezzlement?

    No, think of it like stealing chips out of your pocket when you’re in a casino in Vegas. The chips have no intrinsic value except that you paid for them with “real” money. Of course that would lead to the question of what value does “real” money have.

  52. They’re a “gang”? Okay.

    Actually they’re a “teenage gang” which is much, much worse!

    It’s a blackboard jungle, people–let’s be careful out there.

  53. What if they return the furniture but it has some suspicious stains on it?

    Say:

    1. Pink ripped, stained sofa: -L-5
    2. Pink ripped sofa: -L-7
    3. Pink stained sofa: -L-10
    4. Pink sofa: -L-20

    There’s real money backing this, and game mechanics add rips (from jumping on furniture) and stains (from having a hissy fit and throwing liquids around), which something you would’ve paid less for. If Habbo has trade, you’ve also lost out on selling the unblemished pink sofa at -L-15 to go towards your new drape-matching glossy blalk sofa. If Habbo had free sofa repair nobody’d buy #4, so it doesn’t have that; at best there’s some time-consumptive system that lets you ultimately only pay say -L-18 for #4. You’ll probably only have this if you’re already paying a subscription to access Habbo. Time is money.

    So yes, if the thief stole #4 but now only has #3 to return to you, you should be recompensed.

  54. they’re a “teenage gang”

    Were they wearing virtual hoodies?
    This place sounds creepy and dangerous.
    I’ll stick to Dewar’s on the rocks.

  55. Those of you preferring the it’s-just-Habbo-copyright interpretation should still be chewing, but I’ll pick this out:

    Q: Why can’t Habbo simply conjure up new furniture to give the victim as soon he reported the theft, rather than fuss about with finding a ‘thief’ to take the furniture ‘back from’?

    A: Habbo would create inflation by doing so, devaluing every purchase made by everyone in the game.

  56. The “virtual” part does create some obstacles as to how it should be handled legally, but it shouldn’t diminish the victims’ ownership of said “property”.

    I think it would be more appropriate to say that the “furniture” is a service, not a product. Whether denying the person who payed for it access to that service is “theft” or something else is the real question.

  57. Here’s my question:

    Since it seems to be theft to get someone’s password and use it to transfer the furniture, why WOULDN’T it be theft to take the furniture in-game?

    What is the exact nature of the difference? I think there is one, but when I try to write down what it is in my head it gets a little slippery.

    In both instances, gamers pay for furniture and then someone takes it from them.

    If there was some kind of online role-playing game where you had to use real money to buy the currency used in the game, and veteran gamers camped out at spawn sites and killed noobs and took their cash, would that be robbery? If not, why not?

  58. That’s why you shouldn’t carry cash…even in virtual world.

  59. I pride myself on my nerdiness, but I am not so libertine that I reserve judgment on everything people do: paying 5600 dollars for virtual furniture = lifeless and loserly. Come after me if you will, but virtual reality does not replace actual reality.

    That said, they bought it and someone stole it. I think it’s a case for Interpol.

  60. Fluffy,

    why WOULDN’T it be theft to take the furniture in-game?

    Because it is a game, perhaps.

    There is no “furniture” to steal.

    The money spent is to gain access to a service.
    If that service includes the possibility that your pretend furniture might be stolen by other players, then that possibility is part of what you payed for.

  61. The path is the light and the light is gray. Follow the gray light, Geno32345.

  62. This seems to me similar to someone “stealing” your view at a basketball game. When you bought your ticket, you payed for access to an experience. Then that really tall guy with a huge hat sat in front of you and denied you access to specific aspects of the experience.

    You could complain to the service providers and get them to move you or the tall guy (have them ask him to remove the hat or leave), but he hasn’t stolen anything. The possibility that a tall guy with a huge hat might sit in front of you at the game was an implicit part of the service you purchased.

    Might be cause for a civil suit, but criminal?

    The punishment for these kids should be banishment from the game. They don’t actually control the “furniture.”

    Now, if they used they sold access to the “furniture” service and made real world gains, the cops might have a fraud case against them.

    Hmm….

  63. The money spent is to gain access to a service.
    If that service includes the possibility that your pretend furniture might be stolen by other players, then that possibility is part of what you payed for.

    Read the article. That’s not the situation at all.

  64. “People spent real-world money to buy that virtual furniture, so the theives stole something that (according to its owners, at least), has real-world value.” . . .They’re minors. …and that makes a difference to me at least as it pertains to the ToS.

    What does the fact that they’re minors have to do with anything? Stealing from a minor is just as illegal as stealing from an adult. That virtual furniture had real-world monetary value, it was stolen, and those who stole it should face whatever the penalty is for stealing goods of that particular amount.

  65. Marcvs,

    I did read the article.
    I was responding to Fluffy’s hypothetical.

  66. What if they went in and just rearranged the furniture? Still a crime?

  67. Neu – I think you’re way off track. This is more akin to paying for premium blog space and add-ins: if someone hacks your premium myspace (or whatever) and steals your add-ins, you paid for them and you can’t use them.

    If that service includes the possibility that your pretend furniture might be stolen by other players, then that possibility is part of what you payed [sic] for.

    Erm – no. I somehow doubt that that was anybody’s idea of fun or the product they wanted. That’s like saying that buying a car in the real world comes along with the “joy” of it possibly being stolen.

    Just because something is not tangible does not mean it can’t be stolen: if somebody intercepts the stream to my XM radio, that’s a service I paid for that I cannot use, although there’s nothing that makes it “real” (as opposed to you using the derisive term “pretend”). It’s just a data stream, but one I paid for and am entitled to use.

  68. That virtual furniture had real-world monetary value, it was stolen, and those who stole it should face whatever the penalty is for stealing goods of that particular amount.

    The furniture is not an object that can be stolen. If I pay for an access code to unscramble a movie that Blockbuster is providing me access to and you trick me into giving you that code and watch the movie preventing me from watching it, you have not stolen the movie…you have denied me access to a service I paid for. The service provider can grant me access when I explain the situation (or can deny me access for being stupid enough to give you my password).

    I probably have a good civil case against you, but criminal? Certainly not theft.

  69. I’m stunned. This is a virtual world built on information. Information is infinitely reproducable with no loss of quality. You can’t “steal” information. You can violate the copyright on the information, but you simply cannot steal virtual furniture in the same why you can steal real furniture. This is hacking, not theft.

  70. Ayn Randian,

    Those premium add-ins are also a service.
    The furniture is an add-in to HH.
    The data stream is a service.
    It is not a “thing” any more than a massage would be a “thing.”

  71. Erm – no. I somehow doubt that that was anybody’s idea of fun or the product they wanted. That’s like saying that buying a car in the real world comes along with the “joy” of it possibly being stolen.

    Inapt in the extreme.

    Someone could easily decide to pay for a virtual experience and want it to include the possibility of experiencing theft,.

    Second Life, for instance, states explicitly that it is not to be used as a forum for experiencing virtual kiddie porn. If a website decided provide that service and it was deemed legal, would you be subject to criminal prosecution for rape if you participated?

  72. This is a virtual world built on information. Information is infinitely reproducable with no loss of quality. You can’t “steal” information. You can violate the copyright on the information, but you simply cannot steal virtual furniture in the same why you can steal real furniture. This is hacking, not theft.

    No, because in the case of information reproduction, if you make a copy of my CD I still have the original CD and can listen to the music. In this case, the people who bought the virtual furniture were no longer able to use it after it was stolen. So it’s not a mere copyright violation, and not simply hacking; it was hacking done for the purposes of theft.

    If I pay for an access code to unscramble a movie that Blockbuster is providing me access to and you trick me into giving you that code and watch the movie preventing me from watching it, you have not stolen the movie…you have denied me access to a service I paid for.

    You mean “you have stolen access to a service I paid for.” If you buy a paper movie ticket and I take it when you’re not looking, I have not stolen the movie, but I have stolen from you the ability to watch it, which you did indeed pay for.

  73. Jennifer,

    You mean “you have stolen access to a service I paid for.” If you buy a paper movie ticket and I take it when you’re not looking, I have not stolen the movie, but I have stolen from you the ability to watch it, which you did indeed pay for.

    If you steal my movie ticket.
    I go to the manager.
    Explain the situation.
    He lets me into the movie and I watch it.
    If he doesn’t, I sue him.
    I didn’t buy a movie ticket, I bought access to the movie watching service. I paid for it but he is denying me the service I paid for.

    If, on the other hand, I voluntarily give you my movie ticket, I may not have a very strong case in the civil suit. I might, however, have a case against you if you committed fraud to get me to give you the ticket.

  74. I might, however, have a case against you if you committed fraud to get me to give you the ticket.

    Fraud is indeed a criminal offense. What these people did was basically a phishing scam. By your logic, if I send you one of those fake e-mails pretending to be from your bank, and then you send me all your bank account information and I use that to clean out your account, I didn’t actually commit a crime because I didn’t steal physical coins or greenback dollar bills which I held in my hand; I simply had a bunch of numbers erased from your account and added to another.

  75. I have not stolen the movie, but I have stolen from you the ability to watch it, which you did indeed pay for.

    Bingo. And that’s why, Brandybuck, despite the fact that data is infinitely reproducible, we still charge for access to the movie: because somebody spent time producing that movie (or building that code, or making that website, etc.).

    Just because the end product is reproducible (like books – but we still charge for those too!) does not mean that the architect of that product, or those who pay for the enjoyment of that product, should be burgled at will.

  76. Let’s move this into the world of on-line banking.

    You hack my account and transfer funds to your account.

    I notice that my funds are not there and know that I have not transferred them.

    In a perfect world where I am able to prove that I did not transfer the funds, the bank is obligated to credit those funds back to my account. My funds have not been stolen, my account information has been altered. The remedy is entirely in the realm my account information being corrected.

    If, however, I can only show that I knowingly gave you the access needed to transfer those funds to your account, the bank is not obligated to return the funds to my account. Instead, I must now go to you to get my funds back. If you committed fraud to get the funds, there is a criminal case to be brought against you. Otherwise, I would have to take you to civil court.

  77. I knew my economics degree would kick in at some point:

    This is the case of a nonrival but excludable good, akin to a magazine or cable subscription. Infinitely reproducible (well, the magazine itself is probably half-a-cent) but still requires pay to access.

    I suppose, Neu and Brandybuck, that you’re A-OK with cable television piracy?

  78. Jennifer,

    By your logic, if I send you one of those fake e-mails pretending to be from your bank, and then you send me all your bank account information and I use that to clean out your account, I didn’t actually commit a crime.

    Yes you did, by my logic. You committed fraud.
    This is distinct from theft in a meaningful way. That is why we have two different words for the two distinct concepts.

  79. Ayn Randian,

    cable television piracy?

    In this case are you stealing a good or a service?

    Who is the victim?

  80. I just love the fact that the police are pleased with themselves for catching a bunch of teenagers for what is almost a victimless crime.
    Of course fraud, deceit and crime by organised grown-ups goes unsolved.
    Great use of tax payers money.

  81. I just love the fact that the police are pleased with themselves for catching a bunch of teenagers for what is almost a victimless crime.

    “Almost” a victimless crime? The teenagers who were robbed of several thousand dollars’ worth of virtual property were not victims?

  82. Yes you did, by my logic. You committed fraud. This is distinct from theft in a meaningful way. That is why we have two different words for the two distinct concepts.

    In this case, I committed fraud to get your bank account information, and then theft when I cleaned out your account. And these hackers committed fraud when they got the passwords, and theft when they used the fraudently received passwords to steal something that, while intangible, nonetheless had a tangible real-world value; the people paid real money to buy the furniture, and could have sold it for real money had someone not stolen it from them.

  83. The teenagers who were robbed of several thousand dollars’ worth of virtual property were not victims?

    The teenagers that were denied access to the virtual experience of having furniture in their pretend apartment because someone tricked them into giving out their access codes are, indeed, victims…of fraud.

  84. Jennifer,

    In this case, I committed fraud to get your bank account information, and then theft when I cleaned out your account.

    You didn’t commit theft until you turned the information in your account into actual cash, or used that information to buy something. In either case, within the parameters of my hypothetical, you committed fraud against me, and stole from the bank. Two separate acts with two separate victims.

  85. NM, fraud is a crime. Why your semantic insistence that it is not?

  86. Brandybuck,

    Information is infinitely reproducable with no loss of quality.

    Not by the players in the game; they can only get it by trade, and the market is based on real money given to Habbo for specific game objects. So no, this is an economy without infinite reproducability, and with theft, and Habbo can only hurt it and themselves by engaging in such. It’s a real market in a virtual world, which only makes sense: it has real humans.

  87. Jennifer,

    the people paid real money to buy the furniture, and could have sold it for real money had someone not stolen it from them.

    And they still can as soon as their account information is corrected by the service provider.

  88. Jennifer,

    NM, fraud is a crime. Why your semantic insistence that it is not?

    When did I say it wasn’t?

  89. If you steal my movie ticket.
    I go to the manager.
    Explain the situation.
    He lets me into the movie and I watch it.

    In this case, the manager loses a bit of money. In the following case, inflation happens:

    If you steal my furniture.
    I go to Habbo admin.
    Explain the situation.
    He magicks up 20USD worth of furniture for me and makes no further action.

    Of course, in both cases you can have fraud at this level.

  90. Julien,

    In this case, the manager loses a bit of money.

    Actually, he just provides the movie service for free to Jennifer. More like a loss of potential money than an actual loss. His account will not go down by the price of one ticket…it just won’t go up by the price of one ticket.

  91. And they still can as soon as their account information is corrected by the service provider.

    If this correction corresponds to the deletion of the stolen property (and what about trades based on it?), then– great! You got robbed, thief got caught, you get your stuff back. Law and order.

    Otherwise– look: Habbo can just wave their arms around like of you are and say, forget this, we’ll give everyone everything they want for free. And then the teenagers would really be out on all that money. Is that hard to understand? They’ve made actual investments that they can actually enjoy and, until the sky collapses, actually sell back to other players to get real lets-buy-pizza money.

  92. Julien,

    I don’t know wtf you are talking about.

    Temporary denial of access to the virtual experience of having furniture in their apartment is the harm done here. That might entail a loss of some potential gain they may have received if they had been able to trade access of that service to someone else. That is why the fraud committed against them harms them. But no “property” was stolen. Only a service.

    I steal your movie ticket.
    You now don’t have access to the ticket and can’t scalp it to make a profit.

    Have I stolen the profit you might have made from selling it?

    Can I actually steal potential profits not yet realized?

    If so, is that theft, or something else.

  93. Neu,

    Unless it’s a sell-out show. In this case the manager sells one ticket, eats your ticket, and has 99 paying customers for 100 filled seats. I don’t know where movie-ticket prices come from, but some tickets (certain amusement-park tickets, plane tickets) surely have a mean per-ticket cost.

  94. Neu,

    I’m talking about inflation. If the property is simply returned to you: great! If Habbo ignores the stolen property and simply creates new property for you, they’ve taxed you and everyone else in the economy for the privilege. The “Habbo says prices for everything are now zero” is an extreme example that destroys all the real money everyone had invested in the game, and I don’t know how you’d calculate the value loss in light of probably fixed prices from Habbo, but surely it’s easy to see that if you decide to sell your property to other players you’ll be competing with your own fenced duplicates.

  95. Temporary denial of access to the virtual experience of having furniture in their apartment is the harm done here.

    Neu,

    You’re assuming that the Habbo Hotel actually provided this furniture and that they can magically reproduce it for the clients. That may not be the case. In many cases, there are third-party developers that “build” and sell the furniture which can then be imported to the Habbo Hotel (or SecondLife, etc). Once that “furniture” is sold, it no longer becomes their responsibility. Conversely, once someone takes possession of the furniture (by paying for it), it is their property, for which they are now responsible. Therefore, if someone steals it, it is theft.

  96. To add to my previous post, even if Habbo did provide the furniture, I would assume there is also a disclosure stating that the owners of Habbo are in no way responsible for lost or stolen property, so they’re not obligated to replace your furniture. It’s more than simple fraud.

  97. Not to detract from the fraud vs. theft discussion, but I still don’t see how this doesn’t set a precedent for in-game theft to be considered theft – whether or not the game is designed to allow theft between players as part of the gameplay.

    If the virtual furniture is property that can be stolen, on what basis can we say that theft can only occur if it’s the result of hacking or deception?

    The game world owners can’t waive real-world laws for game participants. If I used avatar to avatar chat to communicate an extortion demand, I can’t defend myself if arrested by saying that Habbo World has no law against extortion. Games contain “in-game” murders and “in-game” thefts that aren’t crimes because the characters aren’t really alive and the objects in the game aren’t really property – but now, in this case, we’re being told that the objects in the game REALLY ARE property. Well, if they really are property, then someone stealing something from me in-game should be a theft, and the thief shouldn’t be able to say, “Well, the rules of Habbo World allow me to steal.”

    I realize that this seems fairly absurd, but the only way I see to resolve the absurdity is to back up and say that the furniture isn’t property, and that hacking someone’s account is cheating at the game, but not stealing – just as cheating at an Olympic event isn’t stealing, even though someone else would have gotten the gold medal [which has a very real dollar value] if you hadn’t cheated.

  98. Fluffy, you lost me. I don’t know whether to agree with you or not!

    Can you rephrase your statement? lol

  99. “What does the fact that they’re minors have to do with anything? Stealing from a minor is just as illegal as stealing from an adult. That virtual furniture had real-world monetary value, it was stolen, and those who stole it should face whatever the penalty is for stealing goods of that particular amount.”

    They were unsupervised minors. Would that matter if this was a car they’d stolen? Of course not! Would it matter if they’d robbed a liquor store or beaten somebody with a baseball bat? Of course not!

    …but it wasn’t any of those things. These kids had no business being in that virtual world anyway, not without their parent’s permission. And if they were there with their parents’ permission, then their parents’ should take the responsibility for their behavior. Adults take on virtual responsibilities in that world when they agree to the ToS.

    Minors by definition, I would argue, cannot willingly take on those responsibilities. …just like they can’t take on the responsibilities for any other contract–unless it’s for necessities. When we’ve discussed that unmentionable topic in the past, that’s why I’ve argued that women under age, at the very least, should be given an exemption and allowed to have the procedure. That’s why statutory rape is rape regardless of whether the minor consented–minors by definition cannot consent.

  100. Jimmy,

    Sorry, I’ll try again.

    Many online games involve violence and theft. You shoot other players, and take their stuff.

    These acts aren’t considered crimes, because none of it’s real. Everyone is playing a game. You don’t really die or get hurt when your avatar catches a bullet. You don’t really have swords or gold pieces or health packs or whatever gets stripped from your avatar’s corpse.

    However, this prosecution changes that equation. If the objects you have in-game are actual property now, due to the fact that you’ve paid for them, any game where you can purchase content is chock full of property. That would imply that ordinary in-game acts are now crimes.

    The distinction Neu tried to make was between a hack into the player’s account [which is a computer crime] and between stealing an item in a game, which is considered “part of the game”. But that doesn’t seem to me to work.

    The argument that game rules allow players to steal from each other doesn’t seem adequate, once we decide that game items are actual property. The game publisher can’t just declare the game space a law-free zone. If it’s property, it’s property, and theft is theft. Just like you would still be guilty of extortion, if you used a game character to deliver a real-world extortion threat to another player, if you steal property from another player it’s theft whether it’s possible within the game mechanics or not.

    Since this is absurd – and since we can’t possibly make it theft to have someone take a weapon off a dead opponent in a deathmatch game, whether that weapon was purchased with real money or not – we need to reject the argument made by the Dutch police here, and declare that the furniture in Habbo’s world is NOT property. We can only be consistent by completely eliminating the concept that taking a game item can be theft. There are plenty of other computer crimes they can charge these kids with instead.

  101. Many online games involve violence and theft. You shoot other players, and take their stuff.

    And in the real world you could have Murder Park, or more topically Thievery Park, a sort of amusement park that you enter knowing that you may steal from other people who may steal from you, without the interference of outside police agencies. Within Thievery Park, theft is still theft; the property you bring in or buy within it is still your property; the uncoercive trades you make within Thievery Park are still trades. You can for instance still have personal property insurers within Thievery Park, although their premiums would be understandably high. The only difference is that, by entering, you can’t run off to outside-Thievery-Park and whine about thievery.

    There’s nobody ‘deciding’ whether this virtual property is property or not — that it is such derives from its properties. Habbo can change these properties, by forbidding trade and by not buying back virtual sofas — in which case there’s no market, no money, and the issue is indeed an issue of service, of buying extra channels from your cable company.

    If Habbo has a real market, all these other interesting considerations — of inflation where Habbo doesn’t buy back property and where Habbo simply gives you replacement furniture; of foreign capital injection where Habbo does buy back property and where Habbo simply gives you replacement furniture — fall automatically into place.

  102. I think I understand you now, fluffy. However, it was Habbo never intended for anybody to have their furniture stolen. It is not part of the game.

    You mention taking “a weapon off a dead opponent in a deathmatch game”. I think you’re confusing the issue at hand. In your scenario, that would be a part of the game and a risk that you would take. Again, that’s not the case in HH. The “property” belonged to someone. There was no way they could lose the property by theft / coercion / etc. The victims got scammed and gave out their passwords and subsequently lost their “belongings”.

  103. “The argument that game rules allow players to steal from each other doesn’t seem adequate, once we decide that game items are actual property.”

    Who decided that the rules of the game make children subject to the criminal justice system?

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