Korea to Ban Sale of Virtual Items, Botting

Law-gavel-money-185x114We reported in 2006 that the National Assembly was considering something like this. However, later Korean Supreme Court decisions seemed to legalize some game-to-real market activity. Now however the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is pushing ahead a series of provisions that will criminalize virtual item sales and especially the use of automated programs to farm virtual items. This was first mentioned by Shander in our Diablo III comment thread, referencing this reliable source elsewhere (thanks Shander!). According to the source, maximum penalties are 5 years in prison and a 50m Won ($45,000) fine. Justifying the law, the government man said “The main purpose of the games is for entertainment and should be used for academic and other good purposes.”

One blogger thinks Diablo III is the cause. I would love to hear Mr. Yoon's thoughts. Judging from this site, Korea has been doing quite a bit legislatively to restrict game playing: Banning students from beta tests, prohibiting late-night play by teens, enforcing a cooling-off period.

One is forced to wonder, again, is Korea an odd case or a leading indicator? We have asked this for 10 years, but in that time it does not seem that the US and Europe have become as generally crazy about online games as Korean society seems to be. Here in Indiana USA, it does not appear that the intensity of online gaming has yet risen to the level it seemed to be in 2002 in Korea. Where once I was certain it would happen, lately I've begun to doubt. Something is happening, but not *that.*

Comments on Korea to Ban Sale of Virtual Items, Botting:

Rits says:

How do we measure intensity though? Its easy to measure by play time, money invested, total players over population. But what about the same game from Korea is released in US, but the management in US is terrible, the bots and farmers ruin the economy deeper, the connection is always unstable, and the culture of speech freedom allows negative prejudice on gamers to constantly bash the players... etc, how then do we compare the US players' intensity in terms of emotional attachment, commitment, devotion, loyalty, etc? How do we measure the depth of US players desire to a virtual life?

We can raise more questions about intensity like:
whether a role-play server player loves the game more than a world top guild's elite PvP players.
Does a player who pre-purchase every single game on the market loves gaming more than a player who only plays a few, but whenever he does, he aims for the title of world champion?
Does a player who think its right for everyone to line up in game taking turns to fight the quest boss love virtual world more than a player who thinks its only right to follow the rule of natural selection and kill-steals the weaker ones? (there are interesting screenshots of japanese players lining up in game out side of the quest boss's cave)

Some guilds out there today have a history that tracks all the way back to Everquest. I'm not sure if Korea have those.

Posted Jun 18, 2012 4:32:13 PM | link

Shander says:

The "degradation of youth" arguments and police involvement as stated in the article are alarming yet, it struck me that there is certain simplicity to adopting a premise that 3rd party sales of virtual items are illegal.

Given that I'm not a lawyer I shouldn't go too far, but I think I could brainstorm a couple ideas safely. I know that the sales of all sorts of goods are regulated for public policy reasons. You need to disclose prior accidents a car has been in for one example as even if the car runs perfectly well. The accident history is pertinent to value as it might mask unseen damage that makes the repair of other portions of the car difficult in the future. The drastically different environments virtual items are created in and by the uncertainties of jurisdiction create additional concerns. Perhaps a blanket ban, with limited exceptions, could be justified based on the basis of preventing misuse of limited government and judicial resources.

If the law were more like “It is illegal sell virtual items without the permission of the company maintaining that virtual item's existence”, all sorts of justifications on a consumer protection rationale come to mind. (Sale of an item subject to destruction due to Eula violation might be considered taking advantage of the buyer …. Selling the Brooklyn Bridge even?).

(Brainstorming further) “Safe havens” could be created for companies that choose to sell and allow the sale of virtual items as long as they include certain disclosures, maintain some level of auditable record keeping etc. . By having “approved” methods, the vastly different circumstances could be brought closer together easing the development of protections and conformance with banking treaties and there would be a far smaller open ended liability to the unknown.

I’d think that even a solid verification that the law aligned with EULA terms banning third party sales (unless specifically provided for) would be helpful both to maintain creativity and avoid court time being spent on dozens of EULA interpretations applying to very different circumstances.

Most of all, I just found it sort of funny that a prohibition might actually mean far less meddling in the specifics of the sorts of games we can play in the future.

Posted Jun 18, 2012 5:26:49 PM | link

Shander says:

Reading the article, I also had a flash impression that the law was written by a “purist” Korean gamer: someone at high levels of government feeling the RMT was ruining his sense of progress in the games HE played.

Maybe the extreme nature of the punishment sounded like a game forum rant ?

Posted Jun 18, 2012 5:28:12 PM | link