US police refuse to investigate MMO theft

Nicked FFXI items worth nearly USD 4000.

Friday's edition of Minnesotan local rag, the Pioneer Press, carried this heart-rending report of one massive multiplayer's quest for justice.

20-year-old Final Fantasy XI player Geoff Luurs had his account broken into. All the items and currency collected by his character Sots (a "tiny magician", according to the paper) over four years of play were looted. He suspected a fellow player, but local police declined his request to look into it.

Luurs says the items were worth 75 million Gil, which according to current exchange rates, is about USD 3800 in real money (that's GBP 1924 in even more real money). He argued that 'Ayri' - the player he suspected of the theft, and a former friend - could easily sell them through a site like ige.com.

But despite grey markets in the sale of high-level characters, currency and items being common with popular MMOs, police claimed that game points were "devoid of monetary value", therefore no theft had taken place.

Associate professor of law Joshua Fairfield disagrees. "What happened here is somebody stole almost USD 4000 and got away cold," he said. "This is just a matter of zeros. The first time IBM loses USD 10 million, we're going to see some police action. The argument that a magic sword isn't real, that doesn't make sense to me. You can ask the question, why would somebody buy that? But you can't say it's not worth real money."

Theft of virtual items is already a crime in MMO-mad South Korea, but at present, no legislation exists in the US or EU to help Luurs and others in similar boats. With the increasing popularity of these games worldwide, it's surely only a matter of time.

However, the suggestion is that Luurs gave 'Ayri' his account details, in which case he probably violated the terms and conditions of his account. Also, you could argue he got what was coming to him. Is it a burglary when you hand the robber your house keys?

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