back to article Dutch court convicts teens for stealing pixels

A pair of Dutch teenagers have been convicted of theft for stealing virtual items from a classmate. Leeuwarden district court sentenced the boys, aged 14 and 15 to community service for punching, kicking, and threatening their 13-year-old victim with a knife until he agreed to transfer a virtual amulet and mask from the game …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Give me $500 Lindens or I'll blow this place sky high!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I agree with the judgement. The defence's argument is that because the items are not real they can not be sold. The same could be said for the billions of dollars of financial products bought and sold on the stock exchanges around the world. It's a silly argument.

    If the item has value, and particularly if those that stole the item ( whether tangible or not) can sell that item on and make a profit, then that virtual item exhibits the key properties of a real physical item and should be regarded as being the same.

    Same could be said for intellectual property, and that clearly can be stolen, so defence's argument was clearly rubbish.

  3. kain preacher

    Um theft

    Why is that not extortion, assault, assault with a deadly weapon

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Totally clueless

    As if to prove kids are dumb... Lord help them for they are dumber than a rock.

  5. Andrew Moore

    Can't happen now...

    Jagex have nailed down interplayer equipment exchanges.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    There's an even simpler test...

    >"The court rejected the defense's argument, stating that "these virtual goods are goods, so this is theft," in a summary of its ruling. It cited an earlier ruling the electricity can be considered a material object for the purpose of criminal law and that stealing electricity is theft. The same principle can be applied to virtual objects in this case, the court ruled."

    There's an even simpler definition: Anything that you can hit someone for and tell them you'll keep on hitting them until they hand it over is "goods", as far as the definition of "theft" need be concerned.

  7. Riscyrich

    <.... but then

    ...the young 13 year old gets out his "The Twin Blades of Azzinoth" (from WOW I'm told) and slays his foes like the pig dogs they are ! >

    <insert more sad MMORPG like type comments>

    FLAME ON !

  8. Matt
    Thumb Up

    Good call

    Could you imagine that defence being used if the kids had taken someones minutes / text allowance, or emptied his Paypal account? Is that really any different to *any* site that uses some kind of points allowance (regardless of whether it can be related to money, time OR effort?)

  9. Anonymous John

    Virtual items

    Couldn't they have been given virtual community service by a virtual court?

    Mine's the one that doesn't really exist.

  10. Mectron


    Because this particular item "the amulet" is transfered from on player to another and that the original owner cannot use it anymore after it is transfered, this is theft. But when something is only COPIED, it is not theft. (and hopefully never will).

    This distinction must be made clear so dangerous criminal organisations (such as the RIAA/MPAA) are using the "copy is theft' excuse to STEAL money from innocent peoples across the planet.

    a digital item can be stealed if the original owner cannot enjoy it anymore.. but if the digital object is only copied, it is no theft.

  11. Scott

    All well and good

    This is all well and good. Justice was served. However, the specific judgment opens the door for charges in the case that someone slays your character online and steals the item from your virtual carcass.

  12. Jaap Stoel

    So when I get ganked?

    Can I go to the police and demand to be compensated for the damages done to my 'goods' the armor I need to repair, lost time etc.?

  13. David Eddleman


    If you're going to mug someone for virtual items, at least do it for a better game, ferchrissakes.

  14. Charles Manning

    re: There's an even simpler test...


    I might knock the snot out of Jimmy to tell me who wrote "dickhead" on my locker. That gives me information which I value, but that would not constitute theft.

    It is surely only theft when the thief gains value and others lose value. In the case of the virtual items, the victim lost the life-enhancing pleasures that he would have gained from ownership of the virtual goods.

  15. Steve Spiller

    In game attacks don't count

    @Scott & Jaap:

    read the article - they attacked him in real life, not online. This ruling does not mean you can go crying to the police because you are attacked/killed and have your stuff stolen in a game.

    Mines the one with the Mace of Ultimate Thwappage +10 in the pocket

  16. Paul

    RE: In game attacks don't count

    Also, Scott, I take it you haven't played many MMOs, as you genraly can't "steal" items from other people in game. You can trade them but not steal them, unless they are BoP.

  17. Ash

    Punched, kicked, threatened with a knife

    All of a sudden, whinging about farmers and bots seems a little frivolous.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Has this guy not heard of RIAA?!?!?

    "A lawyer representing the culprits argued that legally, the items don't exist and therefore can't be stolen"

  19. Anonymous Coward

    This is as ridiculous as...

    the company that is now sending cease and desist letters to hospitals/clinics that are testing womens pre-disposition to breast cancer.

    when will we wake up and realise that we have truly fucked this world we live in by trying to pass laws on things that are blatantly wrong.

    give the kids punishment for threatening, hurting etc the victim but for stealing virtual possessions hell THEY DIDN'T EVEN EXIST!

    what's next?

  20. Franklin
    Thumb Down


    ...lemme get this straight. A couple of people assault, beat, and threaten the life of another person, and the bit the courts are concerned about is whether or not you can steal an item that's not made of physical stuff? Surely that's an irrelevant footnote, right? Surely the assaulting, beating, and threatening of another person is already against the law, right? Right? WTF kind of justice system is this, anyway?

  21. Moss Icely Spaceport

    @ Mectron

    "a digital item can be stealed if the "


    Must be a new word made for online?


  22. nobby


    this was just a case of the perpetrators incorrect understanding of the game's instructions.

    they read the sentence "if you kill the character you can nick his stuff" as "if you kill the player you can nick his stuff", simple easy mistake for anyone to make.

  23. Richard

    This wouldn't have happened

    If Runescape made their items BOP!!

    Mines the one with GEEK written across the back

  24. paul
    Thumb Up


    Damm right.

    Copy != Steal - If someone copied my car/house I would be a lot less pi*sed off than if they stole it.

    I dont give a monkeys if the Oxford English Dictionary disagrees with me (it will when they get their claws into it) its what I believe.

  25. CharleyBoy

    In the real world

    Sounds like they got exactly what they deserved. Time spent away from their computers amongst real people. Admittedly, when I was younger, I had quite a few of those moments when you look up from a game and notice that is now light again outside [later on that tended to happen with programming ], but that's no excuse for giving some one a thumping offline instead of on.

  26. Madeye

    Virtua Sweeper

    So they'll be spending their couple of hundred hours sweeping the streets in Second Life then?

  27. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    The irony...

    I had a mobile phone nicked and the twit that did it racked up £50 on phone sex lines before dropping it in the laundry basket where his mum found it and returned it to me. Do you think I could claim anything back? No. Apparently if it was a landline phone or stealing electricity, yes, but not mobile airtime.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ehh wait...

    So I don't understand, why did they prosecute the theft and not the assault + knife threat?

    Talk about a messed up world, where nicking something (virtual or not) is worse then beating someone up and threatening their lives (unless they're brown - then they're terrorists).

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what a lot of you are saying is

    That its OK for someone to threaten you with a knife, so long as they only steal virtual things? I'm not following you here.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Under British Law, at least...

    Theft is the act of deliberately taking something from someone with the intention of permanently depriving them of it.

    And, theft with use of violence is robbery.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Erm so....

    and if it were a virtual knife in a virtual world for a virtual item?

    PVP is dead?

  32. P. J. Isserlis


    1. the article does not say that the culprits were not also prosecuted for assault and battery (in English law, "assault" is, basically, a threat with the ability to carry it out, the act is "battery", no idea what Dutch law says). I think that carrying a weapon can make it Aggravated Assault. I imagine that they were done for the Dutch equivalent AND for the theft or

    2. as in English law, prosecuted for robbery, which is theft accompanied by violence or the threat of violence, in which case I suppose that one would have to prove the theft part as well as the violence.

    Theft, by the way, at least from what I remember from some years ago, is basically, the appropriation of property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it, with exceptions covering such things as a reasonable belief that one has got a right to it, finding it and being unable to trace the owner etc.. So, in English law, it comes down to the defintion of property in this case (leaving aside the assault).

    The poster talking about "extortion" needs to get out a bit and realise that not the whole world is under USA law, yet.

  33. Wize

    Even if they upheld the "can't steal something virtual" bit...

    ...holding a knife to someone and demand they do something is still illegal.

  34. Mike Crawshaw

    @ Mectron "copying isn't theft"

    "...a digital item can be stealed if the original owner cannot enjoy it anymore.. but if the digital object is only copied, it is no theft."

    I imagine you'd probably think differently if someone made a complete copy of all your personal information, HDD contents etc for their own enjoyment, and possibly profit? How about your ISP copying all your online actions and selling that - after all, it's to help you have a better online experience!

    In neither case have you lost anything, but I'd still consider both cases to be theft. By railing against the RIAA etc, be careful you're not giving more ammo to the Phorms of this world....

  35. Chris Cheale


    > Also, Scott, I take it you haven't played many MMOs, as you genraly can't "steal" items from other people in game. You can trade them but not steal them, unless they are BoP.

    ... *sighs* Bring back Ultima Online in the pre-Trammel days when "thief" and "murderer" were career choices </nostalgia>

  36. Bill Gould
    Gates Halo

    This does not bode well

    It sets a precedent for when governments attempt to dip into virtual earnings for tax purposes. The US (shocking no?) has already made rumblings about wanting to do this.

    By allowing these items to have 'value' that 'value' can then be taxed as income... allegedly.

    Oi. When will the Stupid stop?

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Too bad

    it wasn´t WoW and he does not have a omfgret pally. Since patch 3.0.2 every time I Divine Storm + CS + judge + HoW someone I hit so freakking hard that even that players descendants feel teh pain!!

    Anon, cause I am ashamed of being so nerd.

    Mines the plate one with the purple [Brutal Gladiator´s Scaled Chestguard] tag on it.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    they get a virtual slap on the wrists?

  39. Giovanni Coia

    @ P. J. Isserlis

    @ P. J. Isserlis

    Your definition is almost spot on - except the property taken must be COPOREAL moveable property. This is why cases regarding the theft of virtual goods in the UK (to my knowledge one hasn't been reported yet) will be very interesting.

    Courts in England and in Scotland have previously held that stealing customer data on a floppy disk (case is starting to date!) did not satisfy the corporeal element of the crime of theft, thus the only crime committed was the theft of the physical floppy, not of the data on the disk. Of course you could sue for damages, but the theft of the data is only theft in the moral sense, not the legal one.

  40. Daniel B.

    Something is wrong...

    No, I don't mean about stating "theft of virtual goods". My concern is that they didn't charge them with "assault with deadly weapon" as well, being mugged is a much more serious threat than the theft itself!

  41. David Gillies


    The intent of intellectual property rights law is to render a non-rivalrous good (such as an image of an audio CD, or a copy of a digital photograph) excludable. Non-rivalrous goods are those for which possession by one person does not prevent possession by another (rivalrous goods tend to be tangible, e.g. a car or a hamburger). Non-excludable goods are those by which there is no mechanism to prevent those who have not paid for them enjoying them. Non-rivalrous, non-excludable goods (AKA public goods) tend to be things like a beautiful sunset or a free concert in a park (the park itself is non-rivalrous and non-excludable, up to a point). The purpose of IPR is to assign a more-or-less temporary monopoly on a non-rivalrous good in an attempt to make it worthwhile for content providers to continue making new content.

    If the artefact in the RPG was non-rivalrous, then (other than the assault and battery) the perpetrators would have been guilty of copyright infringement, which is usually treated as a tort (although in some jurisdictions it is liable to criminal sanction). But since the original owner relinquished his ownership of the artefact and could not subsequently enjoy it, it was rivalrous, and thus the perpetrators' actions constituted theft with violence, i.e. robbery.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    Just for the FreeTards

    Ok, let me get this's ok for someone to make a digital copy of music on the internet and then transfer that for yourself and then listen to it over and over again and never pay anyone, right?

    So by that reasoning, it should be ok if I make a digial copy of your bank card and transfer your money to me so I can spend it over and over again. That's alright now, innit? And what's best; I never have to pay for it!

    By the by...the judge should have had the older kids locked in stocks and let the younger one kick them in the 'nads a few times (in addition t their time for theft).

  43. michael

    Mike Crawshaw

    "I imagine you'd probably think differently if someone made a complete copy of all your personal information, HDD contents etc for their own enjoyment, and possibly profit? How about your ISP copying all your online actions and selling that - after all, it's to help you have a better online experience!"

    I would feal up set BUT it is not steeling it is a diffrent offence I do not nkow what but it is nt stealing

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