Should the theft of virtual items be punishable by law? This varies from country to country, but today's ruling in a Dutch court emphasizes that virtual crime is actual crime under their country's laws, regardless of whether the individuals involved are minors. Associated Press reports: "These virtual goods are goods (under Dutch law) so this is theft," the court said Tuesday in a summary of its ruling.
The court did not reveal the identities of the minors, but they are 15-years-old and 14-years-old, respectively. They apparently coerced a younger boy into giving them a 'virtual amulet and virtual mask' in RuneScape. The offenders have both been sentenced to community service -- 200 hours for the 15-year-old, and 160 hours for the 14-year-old.
Do you feel this is too steep a penalty for virtual extortion, or not steep enough? Should it matter if the items or currency involved are real or virtual?
Update: It's been communicated to us by our readers in Holland that the crime in question was not, in fact, a virtual one, but involved actual violence. The victim in question, according to this source, "was kicked and threatened with a knife." The original Associated Press source omitted this detail, which obviously changes the tone of the discussion below. To clarify, this was real world violence inflicted over virtual items, hence the community service sentences for both of the offending minors.