According to a report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a local World of Warcraft player is suing a gold trading firm IGE for damaging the game's economy and ruining the game experience.
Antonio Hernandez, a former assistant manager at a game shop in Orlando, is seeking certification of the case as a federal class action suit. It's thought to be the first case brought by a player seeking to ban real-money trading in an online world, and if certified, it would be the first class-action lawsuit involving MMO gaming.
As such, it could establish precedent in the fledging field of online property rights. "The real significance of this case is, 'What are the rights of the [virtual world] community members when they go online?'" said C. Richard Newsome, the lawyer acting for Hernandez in the suit.
Hernandez has Blizzard's support in the case, at least vocally. Chief operating officer Paul Sams said, "We believe that shutting down gold farming and real-money transfer is in the interest of all World of Warcraft players, and that a victory in this case would have a positive long-term effect on the online gaming industry as a whole."
IGE's lawyers contend that Hernandez has no ownership or property rights within the game, and cannot show actual damages. It was for similar reasons that Minnesota police refused to prosecute a case of gold theft two months ago. Newsome counter-argues that IGE is breaking the game's terms and conditions.
Bizarrely, IGE's attorney, James M. Miller, also told the Sun-Sentinel that IGE is no longer involved in the virtual gold business. The company's website would seem to suggest otherwise, what with it featuring large amounts of virtual gold for sale, but we're sure there's a loophole in there somewhere.
The Florida Attorney General's Office is opening a consumer protection investigation into IGE, but the company is fighting off its subpoena.