The Dutch Supreme Court has determined that online video game theft is just as much of a crime as real life theft.
Two thieves who stole from a RuneScape gamer have been convicted and ordered to perform 144 hours of community service, after stealing another boy's online possessions.
The Telegraph reports that the un-named offender who was born in 1992, beat and kicked the 13-year-old victim and threatened him with a knife in 2007. He then made the boy log into the game and 'drop' the amulet and mask used by his character.
The Supreme Court determined that while the objects had no tangible value, they had intrinsic value to the 13-year-old gamer because of "the time and energy he invested" in winning them during the game.
The two thieves were both initially convicted in 2009, but one appealed to the Supreme Court.
While the successful prosecution may give hope to those fighting cybercrime or online intellectual property theft in the UK, a lawyer contacted by the Huffington Post says don't get your hopes up.
Therese Wallin of find a solicitor service Contact Law, said no English court would prosecute a similar case.
"The question of whether someone in the UK could be prosecuted for a similar crime, centres around how the victim acquired the amulet and mask during the playing of the RuneScape game.
In this case the boy spent "time and energy" winning them while playing and no English court would prosecute anyone and award damages to someone for a waste of time, that is, the time wasted by the person acquiring the goods in the first place, only for them to then be taken.
The case would be different if the virtual goods were paid for with cash.
"If the amulet and mask were bought for cash during the game and then someone took them from the purchaser without their permission, for example by impersonating that owner in the online game, then this is theft and they could be prosecuted.
The fact that intangible goods were purchased doesn't matter. For example, if someone owns the copyright of a game they've developed, and someone copies that game and starts using it, then there has been an infringement or theft of that copyright.
"Saying that, even if a virtual theft had taken place, and a criminal case could be brought, it is unlikely the police would proceed with such a case."
RuneScape recommends that players never reveal their personal details to other players,Suggest a correction