Intellectual Property

SCT #11: Legal News Round up with Jas Purewal

SCT #11: Legal News Round up with Jas Purewal

This episode of Social Change Technology is a games and tech legal news roundup with solicitor Jas Purewal from law firm Osborne Clark. Jas is better known on the internet as @GamerLaw on twitter and editor of the Gamer Law web site.

In the show we look at three items of recent news: the Infinity Ward case, the state of free to play gaming and the UK courts ordering a number of ISPs to blocking the Pirate Bay website.

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Virtually Policy #5: The co-creators: audience, artists & the future of music

Virtually Policy #5: The co-creators: audience, artists & the future of music

Episode 5 is an extended interview with Robert Thomas, Chief Creative Officer of RjDj, and Jim Purbrick & Max Williams, who together are 100 Robots (the group which provide the theme music for the Virtually Policy podcast).

RjDj is a reactive music application for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that creates a unique sonic experience each time you listen to a ’scene’. 100 Robots combines analog music creation with live control of electronically generated sounds using drum interfaces and iPhones/iPads/iPod Touches.

Both RjDj and 100 Robots have experimented with enabling their audiences to be co-creators of the live performance experience. They discuss how advances in technology are bringing music back to its participatory roots.

In this episode, we discuss how technology has changed our relationship with music from the pre-industrial age, where music was often a communally created and consumed experience, through the twentieth century that emphasised passive consumption of a recordings by ’star’ artists, to the present, where technologies such as karaoke, SingStar and Rock Band have enabled people to re-connect with music making.

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RuneScape Theft – Dutch Supreme Court Decision

On the 31st of January 2012, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands found that items in the online game RuneScape had been stolen from a player. This is a ground-breaking case as it is the highest national court in the West to rule that taking virtual objects in this way is theft under national criminal law. This ruling may have broad implications for the online games industry.

The case dates back to 2007 when two youths used violence and threats of violence to forced another player to log into the game of RuneScape. After the victim logged in to the game one of the defendants transferred virtual items and virtual currency from the victims account to their own. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction for theft but reduced the number of hours of community service to be served (taking into account Juvenile detention served).

The appeal did not turn on the material facts, i.e. whether there were threats were made or items were transferred. Rather, the appeal centred on the question of whether what had occurred was ‘theft’ as defined by the law of the Netherlands.

Key Arguments

The key arguments against the incident being defined as ‘theft’ considered by the court they were as follows:

  1. Virtual items are not goods but an ‘illusion’ of goods made up of bits & bytes i.e. they are data
  2. Virtual items are Information
  3. The point of the game is to take objects from each other
  4. The virtual items are and remain the property of the publisher of the game not the victim or the defendant - hence they could not have been stolen
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Li Hongchen v. Beijing Arctic Ice

Li Hongchen v. Beijing Arctic Ice Technology Development Co. Ltd.,

This is generally is regarded as the first instance of ‘virtual theft’ being recognised by a court.  The case concerns virtual items taken from a player’s account through some form of account hacking. The case was brought by the victim of the theft against the game company (rather than the other player) as the company refused to re-instate the virtual items.

While the details of the case are slightly complex, the final judgment (over turning an appeal) found that the game publisher has a duty of care to its players, and specially that in this case its security systems were insufficient to ensure that virtual items could not be transferred out of players account through hacking and that this act constitutes theft.

Li Hongchen claimed that when he logged into his account “President” on 17 February 2003 he found that all the contents, including such things as: ‘2 poisons’, 1 God of War’ had been sent to account SHUILIU0011. He asked for the details of the account but Arctic Ice refused to provide these as it would breach the personal privacy of the other player, they also stated that the action had nothing to do with them as the security of the account is the player’s responsibility. It seems like some of the items in question were generated through game play and some through ‘pet cards’ individual payment for a given item.

When the matter eventually went to court Arctic Ice made a number of general and very specific claims:

  • the security of a player account is their responsibility (as defined in the ToS), hence any thefts form the account are the player’s responsibility;
  • players are obliged to maintain standards of security and loss due to failure to meet this contractual obligation is their liability;
  • operator obligations under Consumer protection law should be limited;
  • virtual items are a ‘pile of data’ and do not constitute a ‘thing’ under Chinese Civil Law;
  • there are three possibilities for why the items where no in the account: (1) stolen, (2) hacked at a network level, or (3) given away – and that the player could not prove that it was (1); and
  • the account in question was not the players as it did not have the player’s name associated with it.

Li Hongchen made a number of counter claims:

  • the account was his, and though he had used pseudonyms, the phone number on the account was his. Moreover he evidenced things such as game CD ROM, game cards and a whiteness; and
  • while the ToS were agreed to when he initially registered for the game, the ToS were no displayed during the account re-charge process

The court found for Li Hongchen in respect of the return of the virtual items and costs, including the travel costs of his witness. Li Hongchen’s claim of compensation for ‘mental damages’ was not held.

DISE:10 Games, Media Law

DISE:10 Games, Media Law


Digital Interactive Symposium: Edinburgh

27 August 2010 (10:00 – 16:00)

John McIntyre Conference Centre, Pollock Halls, the University of Edinburgh.

Overview

The Digital Interactive Symposium: Edinburgh (DIS:E) is an annual event organized by the Virtual Policy Network in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh.

The Digital Interactive Symposium: Edinburgh 2010 focuses on the legal issues of computer games, virtual worlds and the issues that arise from the convergence of new and traditional media. Speakers include both academics and practicing lawyers.

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Economics, Research and Virtual Worlds

One area of interest in virtual worlds is the study of their economies. Such studies tend to have two approaches: study of virtual economies for their own sake, and study of virtual economies as a method for illuminating external / hard currency economies.

This is a short guide to resources for those interested in either aspect of virtual world economics.

Contents

  1. Edward Castronova
  2. VERN
  3. Economics – questions and meta-questions
  4. The nature of virtual goods

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Virtual Policy ‘08: Policy Issues & Virtual Worlds – An Overview

Event: Virtual Policy ‘08
Session: Policy Issues & Virtual Worlds: An Overview
23 July 2008 09:30 – 10:15

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Virtual Policy ‘08: Intellectual Property

Event: Virtual Policy ‘08
Session: Intellectual Property
23 July 2008 10:15 – 11:15

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