27 October 2008

A possible sentence of 5 years for breaking, entering and killing a 'virtual' husband.

For those of us who still believe that actions on MMORPGs can never carry any repercussions in the offline world, the recent imprisonment of a Japanese woman who killed her 'virtual husband' online, should make us think twice.

The game in question, Maplestory, allows its players to participate in a number of games as well as social activities/relationships including marriage through avatars. The lady in question was virtually married to another player (who was not her husband in real life and lived 1000 km away from her). She was apparently angry when she discovered that her 'virtual' husband divorced her without informing her of the matter. She allegedly illegally accessed the log-in details of her 'virutal husband' and killed off his character.

According to BBC News, if the lady is charged and convicted, she is likely to face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5, 000. The BBC also reports that the lady has been imprisoned in a jail situated in the town of her 'virtual' husband.
On a technical plane, it would be interesting to find out how she was able to access his log-in details.

The legal issues posed by this case are even more interesting. Is the sentence in question proportionate to the crime? How is proportionality decided? Is the imposition of the sentence legitimate if the players are not aware of the possible consequences of their actions before / at the time they agree to take part in the game? Finally why does the town of the 'virtual' husband have jurisdiction over the matter? This case presents an interesting insight into the problems of legitimacy raised by the application of certain offline rules to virtual actions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cyberpanda, some game players really do have too much time on their hands (unlike the real world ;-)) Still it makes for interesting reading. What next??