When I first read about the woman in Tokyo who is in jail for killing her virtual husband I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh my ass off or bang my head against the keyboard over the stupidity of the whole thing. I had intended on writing something up about the whole thing but ended up being laid out due to some medical issues. I figured that by the time I was back in shape to write some coherent thoughts (ya ya I can hear you in the peanut gallery laughing) the virtual episode would have passed us by. Little did I know that during the same time a couple of Danish youths were convicted of stealing a Runescape amulet and mask from a fellow teen.
However this wasn’t a theft that happened on a street corner or schoolyard. This was a theft in a virtual world and the goods don’t even exist outside of this virtual world they were a part of. As for the Japanese woman in jail for murder well that to only happened in a virtual world where she got pissed that her virtual husband had virtually divorced her so she virtually murdered him.
WTF is going on here. It’s bad enough that parents are being held accountable for the actions of their children in a real world where any real control they have over their children has been legislatively; or socially, been taken away from them. Now we are suggesting that any actions taking place in a make believe world are chargeable offences in the real world. I totally get how things like cyberstalking or cyber bullying are things that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law but there is a big difference here between the two. With things like cyberstalking the Internet is the intermeditary but with the first cases it is all imaginary – it has no validity in the real world.
What’s next – being charged for following someone too often in Second Life or seeing jail time for virtually handling virtually stolen goods in some other virtual world? The idea that what we do when we step foot in a virtual world and has absolutely nothing to do with our real world can have some sort of legal ramifications in our real world is incredulous. As Mathew Ingram asked in his post about this today
The fascinating thing with virtual theft and other “crimes,” of course, is that there are so many different ways of stealing money and property and engaging in all sorts of other bad behaviour inside Second Life or some other virtual world. You can hack the game to generate money or credits, you can run scripts that copy artefacts and property (which you can then sell inside the game), and you can sell the money you got illegally to noobs and then virtually mug them to take it back inside the game. The possibilities are endless. Should they all be real-world crimes too?
What will we see next – ads for lawyers specializing in virtual reality law?