MMORPG dispute ends in tragedy

Shanghai man stabs fellow gamer to death following argument over item ownership.

A man has been stabbed to death in Shanghai following a row over the sale of a virtual weapon.

According to an article in the China Daily, partially translated by Reuters, 41-year-old Qiu Chengwei was furious when he discovered that fellow gamer Zhu Caoyuan had sold his 'dragon sabre', an item featured in MMORPG Legend of Mir 3.

Qiu won the weapon jointly with a friend and loaned it to Zhu. When he then discovered that Zhu had secretly sold the weapon for 7200 yuan (US$870), he reported him to the police.

But since there is nothing in Chinese law regarding the ownership of virtual property, the police told Qiu that no 'theft' had technically taken place. Qiu then went to confront Zhu himself.

"Zhu promised to hand over the cash but an angry Qiu lost patience and attacked Zhu at his home, stabbing him in the left chest with great force and killing him," the court heard.

Qiu turned himself into police and is pleading guilty to "intentional injury".

Talking to Chinese legal experts about the case, the China Daily was told that there is a great deal of confusion surrounding virtual property rights.

"The 'assets' of one player could mean nothing to others as they are by nature just data created by game providers," said a lawyer for a Shanghai games company.

But Wang Zongyu, an associate law professor at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, argued that "the armour and swords in games should be deemed as private property as players have to spend money and time on them."

A verdict in Qiu's case has yet to be announced.

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