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     Five teenagers were arrested
by police for stealing virtual property called ‘furni’ from a social network
site online named Habbo. The
teenagers obtained log-in details and passwords of other Habbo users and stole £3000 worth of ‘furni’ and stored the stolen
amount into their own accounts. The Amsterdam Police found it hard to bring down
charges for theft as they had never faced a case like this before of ‘virtual
theft’. Even though the stolen properties were not tangible the value that the properties
obtained was the reason why they wanted to press charges of theft. It is not
known whether charges for the teenagers were ever brought, as there are no
further reports. The main point to take away from this report is that, the Dutch
police in their own power tried to press charges, according to the law that they
follow and apply in ‘real-life’.

 

      There was a case in
Leeuwarden due to virtual misappropriation. On the 6th of September
2007, a 15-year-old and a 14-year-old attacked a 13-year-old by forcing him to
transfer an amulet, a mask and some virtual cash known as credits, to their accounts
in the game Runescape. The victim
(13-year-old) was kicked and threatened with a knife to the point till he
transferred the virtual credits and goods. The teenage attackers were found
guilty of ‘violent theft’ and were sentenced to community service: 200 hours
for the 15-year old and 160 hours for the 14-year-old.

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Murray (2013, pp.105) quotes the ruling of the Supreme Court of
Netherlands:

 

 

‘virtual amulet
and mask in the online game Runescape can be classified as “goods” in the sense
of Art .310 of the Dutch Penal Code and are prone to theft.’

 

    The Court stated that, since a
lot of time and effort was invested in acquiring the goods, they concluded that
virtual objects should be considered as goods. In addition, The court also did some
findings that showed that the manner in which the goods were transferred by the
defendants, were in fact, objectifying the rules of Runescape. (Murray 2013). In Both of these cases, the Dutch police
apply general legal laws to a virtual world and they did not take the crime of virtual
theft lightly, especially when violence was involved. The aspect that it
resulted into violence shows how attached players of MMORG are to virtual games
and how virtual games can lead to violence outside of the virtual world. These
cases are strong evidence why virtual properties should acquire laws that are
specified to them.

Murray (2013). concludes that the oversea cases show that there is ‘a
demand for the propitiation of bits, not just for the application of
traditional copyright principles.’ (Murray p.108 2013)

 

How can the Dutch Civil Code and Criminal Code provide secure legal
protection to an intangible “virtual good”?

 

In the Dutch civil law, the most important property right is the right
of ownership. However, it must be a “thing”(movable or immovable). Within the
virtual property debate, a ‘thing’ is an important matter, deemed to be
tangible, according to Book 3 article 3:2 in the Dutch Civil code, which
states: “Things are tangible objects that can be controlled by humans”. Kleve
(date) suggests that electronic data could qualify as a ‘thing’ within the positive
law framework

 

 

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