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When white collar crime goes virtual

James Egan

The writing is on the wall. Legislation of the virtual space is increasingly becoming the norm. Just look at the ways in which Sweden, South Korea, and China are looking into implementing virtual taxation. It stands to reason that this is only the beginning, and regulatory bodies in other countries will begin to take a closer look at what's happening, economically, on the virtual plane. The economic turbulence felt in the United States (and beyond) and the numerous problems this creates has more people eager to turn a buck, somehow, and eyeing the unregulated economies of massively multiplayer online games and virtual worlds... and their potential for unchecked exploitation. At least, this is the view of Mark Methenitis, who writes the Law of the Game on Joystiq column, which focuses on legal issues as they relate to video games.

Methenitis looks at the possibility of insider trading being applied to a virtual economy, wherein a developer has advance knowledge of a price fluctuation and takes advantage of this fact. The situation becomes far more complex, and serious, when an individual within a game company has control over the trade between real currency and the virtual currency in question, or has the ability to duplicate digital products. Methenitis doesn't cite any specific examples of this kind of financial manipulation, but explores the potential for exploitation on this level. More than anything, his observations are of a 'what if?' nature, but every scenario Methenitis outlines is certainly within the realm of possibility.

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