Stealing virtual goods is a crime, according to a ruling handed down by a judge in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, this week.
The decision came in the case of a 16-year-old boy charged with beating another teenager in the victim’s room and stealing virtual property. On Sept. 6 last year the defendant forced the 13-year-old victim to log in to RuneScape and hand over the money and virtual goods he possessed in the virtual world, according to the charges.
The victim resisted and ended up in a fight with the suspect and a friend who was also in the room. The defendant was charged with kicking the victim’s head and body and trying to strangle him. The victim claims he was threatened with a knife and said he would have been killed if he didn’t obey.
After the fight the defendant took the victim’s virtual money and goods, moved it to his account, then logged out, according to the charges. The lawsuit only dealt with the theft of the goods — a virtual amulet and a virtual mask in RuneScape — but it’s the first time a judge in the Netherlands has ruled that the theft of virtual property is illegal and should be treated like stealing real-world objects.
It was clear the goods were stolen because the items were owned by the victim until the incident, after which the defendant had possession of the property, according to the judge, who ruled the goods have value. The judge ruled that “goods don’t have to be material for the law to consider them stolen.”
The prosecutor demanded 180 hours of unpaid work or 90 days of jail time. Although the defendant is denying the charges, the judge sentenced him to 160 hours of unpaid work, or jail time of 80 days.