In news that's been making the rounds today, eBay announced that they will be actively delisting auctions of in-game property for various MMOs. This would include, of course, WoW accounts, gold, and items. The Slashdot article that is the source of this story quotes eBay as having the following rationale:
- Mr. Hani Durzy, speaking for eBay, explained that the decision to pull these items was due to the 'legal complexities' surrounding virtual property. "For the overall health of the marketplace" the company felt that the proper course of action, after considerable contemplation, was to ban the sale of these items outright. While he couldn't give me a specific date when the delistings began, he estimated that they've been coming down for about a month or so. Mr. Durzy pointed out that in reality, the company is just now following through with a pre-existing policy, as opposed to creating a new one. The policy on digitally delivered goods states: "The seller must be the owner of the underlying intellectual property, or authorized to distribute it by the intellectual property owner." Given the nebulous nature of ownership in online games, eBay has decided the prudent decision is to remove the possibility for players to sell what might be the IP of other parties via their service.
I have to agree with comments I've seen around the internet that all this will probably do is stop individual users from selling their accounts. Gold farmers, powerlevelers, and other secondary industries have their own sites, and presumably will not be hindered much by this.
The other interesting wrinkle in this story is that Second Life is apparently exempt, presumably on the grounds that it may or may not be a game. I do think that user-created content has much more of a role in SL than in most other online worlds, so it makes sense to give users more control over it. If I recall correctly, Linden Labs (the company behind Second Life) even gives users ownership of the content they create. But this is more of a topic for our sister blog Second Life Insider.