- Registration time
- Last login
- Online time
- 122 Hour
- Reading permission
This post was edited by blueeyes.yu at 2012-10-8 09:54|
Virtual entertainment sites let you chat, dress-up, feed the dog and shop in a way that feels real. In fact, it`s all just a mirage, a lot of pixels on a web page, but these little pixels are the gateway to a whole universe – of real-world trouble.
Last week, several netizens went to Tencent`s headquarters in Shenzhen to file a complaint, accusing the company of not adequately protecting their accounts. They`d had their QQ Show avatar, clothes and accessories stolen. One victim lost 1,800 virtual items, worth 60,000 yuan, reported Southern Metropolis Daily.
Virtual property, which you gain through Web games, social networking sites and virtual worlds, is a billion dollar global industry. For instance, fantasy worlds like Secondlife, Entropia and World of Warcraft issue their own currencies, and players can make a profit by trading in real estate or setting up clothing stores. The currencies are bought with hard cash and profits made online can be converted back into real-world money.
And, surprise, even in imaginary worlds, property ownership can go hand-in-hand with property theft.
"Virtual property theft is occurring today all over the world," says professor Greg Lastowka, an American specialist in Internet law.
Although a few cases have managed to make it to the courtroom, most of the time they`re unreported or not followed up. "Local police are often confused by claims of virtual theft, thinking it has no real value," says Lastowka. "But virtual items can be sold easily for real money, making it a lucrative opportunity for criminals."
In case of theft, "users in China whose virtual property is stolen can report it to the Internet department of the local public security bureaus," says Tencent`s Mao Xiaofang. "We can cooperate with officials and offer technical support."
Users themselves are advised to protect their virtual property. Mao suggests "not accepting files from strangers, or going to websites with a dubious reputation". Changing passwords every three months can also help.
Reports of stolen virtual property are becoming increasingly frequent, but the law is slow to respond. China has no specific law to protect virtual property, says Yang Lin, of Beijing’s Yingke Law Firm. "Without explicit legal provisions, players cannot prove ownership, so the public security offices might not bother with the case," says Yang.
In 2006 in China, 44 people were arrested for stealing more than 700,000 yuan worth of virtual items. Eleven were jailed for six months to one year, for "infringing upon citizens` right to correspondence freedom".
Virtual property may appear to be just a lot of pixels on a web page or invisible data in a server, something that only has meaning in an imaginary world. Yet somebody has spent real-world time, and money, on making it their own. To them, it has value, and if someone else takes it – that`s theft.
"Stealing virtual property, including someone`s identity, is a crime," Yang Lin warns. "People should understand the nature of this act. You should not break the law for fun, or you`re at risk of ruining your future."