Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Should virtual crime mean real jail time?

I was reading this article in Scientific American that was titled: "Avatar Acts: Why Online Realities Need Regulation" Now before we start choosing up battle lines and boiling the oil, some facts. It's estimated that worldwide, some 100 million people have an online avatar that they use to populate virtual worlds like Second Life of World of Warcraft. These virtual worlds allow a user a real-time experience to say - wander around castles, deserted islands, battlefields either historical or totally fantastic. Through the use of "avatars", a user can meet, talk or in some instances, if you are so inclined, have simulated sex.

Such immersive activities can lead to real world problems - and not just the escape from reality. Take for instance a wife who filed papers for divorce on the grounds that she caught her husband being overly affectionate with someone else. Now before you say that is perfectly acceptable to sue for divorce consider: The woman found her husband's avatar having a relationship with another woman's avatar. The husband counters that he was driven to it by his wife's addiction to World of Warcraft. Mind you neither have had physical relations with anyone in reality.

Not real enough...try this then. One man lent a friend a sword that he had spent a great deal of money on and in fact was worth a great deal more. His friend promptly sold the sword. Now I should tell you that said sword was a item that can be purchased in the virtual world of warcraft and his friend sold the virtual weapon to another avatar, so you can say that nothing was really stolen and sold. However this is where it gets weird. The original owner decided to sue but found that there were no laws pertaining to purloining a virtual item so he was out of luck. In retaliation the owner of the sword went and killed the friend who sold it. So a man is dead and another will spend the rest of his life in prison. Over a virtual item.

Even stranger still:
  • A Brussels public prosecutor who had called for an investigation of a rape charge involving a Belgian user of Second Life.
The investigation died because all laws on the books pertaining to violent acts, deal with real people. Not that nothing is being done. South Korean courts now have several laws on the book pertaining to virtual property, but the U.S. has chosen not to act. Something is going to have to happen, as far as legislation is concerned. Virtual commerce is worth about $1 billion, and that is not virtual cash either.

Read complete article here

According to AOL News:
  • A Tennessee man is facing charges of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor for what authorities say are three pictures -- none of them featuring an actual child's body. Instead, the photos feature the faces of three young girls placed on the nude bodies of adult females........
Pornography it might be - but sexual exploitation? Questionable material most certainly but how can it be exploitation of a minor? What am I missing?


Anwalt said...

This post will help all the users who are using the internet they must not be committed this crime. Otherwise they face different consequences.

Beam Me Up said...

But that's just the point! It's easy to make a snap decision but the consideration here "is a virtual act in and of itself a real crime." If you take action in the real world that is of a criminal nature BASED on a cyber act, then that is clearly a crime. I have played many RPGs where I have killed many both computer managed and those controlled by real people, but no stretch of the imagination does that make me a killer in any real sense and far from one that would require jail time for the act. The real question is what crime and where......