Yet another country has come down on yet another side in the ongoing “virtual goods are property” debate. This time it’s the Netherlands.
The Leeuwarden District Court says the culprits, 15 and 14 years old, coerced a 13-year-old boy into transferring a “virtual amulet and a virtual mask” from the online adventure game RuneScape to their game accounts.
“These virtual goods are goods (under Dutch law), so this is theft,” the court said Tuesday in a summary of its ruling.
That’s interesting, and for better or worse, one small step toward more widespread recognition of virtual goods as something more than just mere ones and zeros owned by the company hosting them.
In the comment thread there are links to the original Dutch court papers and a Google translation of them. Among the points made by the court are that there are plenty of valuable goods in the real world that are not material — hardly a new observation. Ashcroft Burnham points out that the stock market is full of virtual goods.
One difference, of course, is that the stock market itself does not create these goods — people/companies do. In the case of these Runescape items, Jagex made them, and is just letting users play with them. We need a better real-world analogy than stocks.