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May 11, 2004



"Either one character just gives this big load of platinum to the other or they give it in exchange for some game item of much less value. This latter technique is the pure play because it complies best with Sony rules that allow bad bargaining and character stupidity."

Huh? I don't remember any limits on gifting.

By the way, anyone have a link to the obligatory message board threads?


You've really got to treat virtual property as real property. Regardless of what the older generation thinks, a sizable and growing number of people hold these virtual items near and dear to their hearts. They can be bought and sold, and they do have value.

Furthermore, if Paypal is the bump in the road here, it will be their loss. Some wise person is going to create a service that will handle these transanction and paypal will just miss out.

And as a closing point, if you look at a football, it has absolutely no use what so ever outside of the game of football (or perhaps catch). Yet it has value. Virtual items, despite what some would tell you, take time and effort to acquire, just like a football. Does the fact that a 'virtual' item is made out of bytes of data vs leather make any difference? Collections of data are bought and sold all the time. And a nerf football is still a football.

This can only end one way.


A football ball is worth about $20 and is sold over-the-counter.
A football match is woth about $20 million and is sold under-the-counter.

You are right in that it doesn't matter what the construct is made of, bytes or leather, but you are comparing apples to oranges. It is not the physicality of the object what is different, but what it represents and projects.

A football ball is made of leather and it represents a few inches of animal hide and a few hours of manufacturing sweat. A virtual Ball of Uberness is made of data, but it represents (in varying magnitues) tenacity, reputation, courage, teamwork, leadership, and many other attributes.

Which is it ok to buy or sell? That question is up to each one of us, and it is also up to each one of us how the act of buying/selling changes the intrinsic values of the matter in question. After all, a football your great grandfather gave you as a child has some extra value that a new shining ball doesn't have for you. And by the same token that Ball of Uberness projects unto you a whole lot less tenacity, less corage, less reputation, less team-playing and a whole lot less leadership if it was handed down via the IGE shopping cart. That is, if anyone finds out, which points to something at the core of this matter: Deception.


I argue that the value of both objects comes more from their usefulness than from what you say they represent. A football enjoys an increased value because you can play football with it. A value greater than the sum of it's parts. The same is true for the ball of uberness. It's value comes from cosmetic value and perhaps from any buffs it might bestow. I will grant you that bragging rights can be part of this, but there are many more reasons to desire a virtual object than just that.

And for that reason, I think calling it a deception is really taking it a bit far, unless someone is overtly making a false claim.

Having said that... for me personally, I spend enough money on these games in subscription fees. And I do see the value of building my character the old-fashioned way.

But these items are not military medals of honor only bestowed on a select few as our nation's highest honor... they are toys in a game. It's just an opinion, but I don't it matters much how you acquire them.


From the report: "PayPal asked ME to help them find Jonathan Yantis, for example. Here is a guy who has participated in more than 10,000 PayPal transfers and they don't know how to reach him. That 10,000 plus PayPal number is a big part of his marketing. But PayPal also told me that part of their difficulty finding him is that they have DOZENS of accounts under the name Jonathan Yantis. "

It looks like it is less a problem about virtual currency and more an administrative problem, in this case about PayPal. If we believe the author of the article, they are not able to locate one of the participants to the transaction. How can it be?
About the trade of virtual goods, the transfer of virtual goods seems to me something similar the transaction about a service like a fee for an account. It is something immaterial and virtual, and still there is a transaction going on. What is the difference? And how would Pay Pal act in this case?
For me the problem is that:
1. Pay Pal does not have administrative processes to ensure the seller is following a basic standard of recording audit information to be used in case of complaints.
2. Both seller and buyer in this case are handling illegally (at least about SOE ToS for EQ) so that the seller will have problems to get audit information from SOE about the ingame transaction.


Just to be posting to this thread too many times...

I don't pay any attention to the TOS of any game. It's a bunch of crap written by lawyers in a time and place where people are too quick to litigate. I'm not even sure software companies should have the expectation that people are reading those agreements (it is well known that most people don't read them). In the US at least, doesn't that affect its enforcability? And at any rate, they certainly don't have the authority to make anything illegal. To deny information on a transaction to a legitimately concerned party is probably a bad idea.(not to say it can't/won't/doesn't happen.)

Still...very sloppy on paypal's part.


I am pretty sure that the owners assume that the ToS and EULAs are being followed to the letter, and that they would be very comfortable instigating a court action against anyone who does not, if it were in their interest to do so. And unless there's some compelling reason, the courts would enforce it. It's contract law.


I’ll go ahead and use the football analogy as well. Show me any football in the world and I’ll bet that if it was really important to find out who owns that football, a court could do that. You can invent scenarios where ownership may be difficult to determine, but the law regarding ownership of physical items dates back hundreds of years. The courts know how to do this.

On the other hand, who owns a sword, or character, or platinum in a game? You can tell us that you know who owns it because you have certain ideas or opinions on the matter based on your experiences and such. But if it came down to having to really seriously legally determine the ownership of a virtual item, how are courts going to make that decision?

The answer lies in part to all those TOS’s and EULA’s and other crap that the lawyers write and that you apparently disdain. Just because you have some great insight as to how ownership and property law should apply that the unenlightened members of the “older generation” lacks doesn’t make the answers any easier to come by. Commerce and community require laws to operate and to rule on disagreement, not analogies to footballs. Arguing that virtual items have value because people desire them is still a far cry from putting virtual items in the same place as a football, or to argue that the same laws and regulations show apply equally to both.


Perhaps what it being argued is not that they do apply, but that they should. Of course the cannon of law that applies here isn't well defined, that's why this is interesting.

People create property laws to protect things they value. People value virtual items. I'll let you conclude this syllogism.


My football comment here is pointed at distinguishing that there are very significant differences between a real football and one of the virtual sort. More specifically that you can't just compare buying an online item to buying the physical item. Why? Because there is a fine but well-defined line that has to be crossed: It is the line of the game rules. In physicality you break no rules of any sort by buying a football ball, in many of these games the expectation is that the game is wholesome and thus the rules are followed. That is why buying a football in the physical realm is just buying a football, but buying a virtual football is different - it is stepping outside the rules of the game and silently breaking the contract, normally also justifying the means to an end by whatever rationale a player is able to put forth.

Furthermore, what a real vs virtual football represent and project are different, coming from the same statement that these are not comparable. They have different rules of acquisition and use attached to them and thus for the same actions (buying or using) present very different things.

Lets see if I can sum this up: The differences in the contracts attached to two objects makes them different.


Paypal is rather notorious amognst some who do online business - they "lose" money and payments, have horrible customer service, and frequently don't back up whatever protection schemes they have in place. Horror stories abound.

What some sellers are having to do is: open up a bank account where the only thing you do is business with Paypal. When you get a sale and money deposited into your account, immediately transfer it to your bank account. As soon as your bank acknowledges receipt, you transfer the balance out of account, preferably through a cash withdrawl. Go put the money someplace else. I suppose the other alternative is to have Paypal send you a check.

This may not help if the buyer renegs on the payment six hours later, but it'll sure help avoid many Paypal pitfalls.


Rules don't determine what gets bought and sold. Only consumers get to decide that. It means nothing that a sale may be 'against the rules' if there is a buyer. Drugs and guns are two such examples (the illegal variety).

The way I see it, this isn't going to go away. The numbers of people trading in this fashion can only increase, since it's already against the rules, and the numbers are growing. Eventually, a critical mass will be reached where you have no choice but to allow people ownership*. I believe that ownership of virtual items is a certainty. And a not too distant one at that.


*Remember, some people are already making a living at this. It's hard for lawmakers to cut people out of jobs. Especially when the best argument against it is that people in some game don't think it's fair.


There are many legal strategies people with money and time can use to develop a case law on this matter.

One concept is economic value. If it has a market-defined value (eBay may qualify as market defining), it as a visible economic value that the court can put their arms around.

Like... in a divorce settlements....


Let me try to summarize how I see the whole problem (I base my scenario on German laws but I assume it could be applied also for other countries too(correct me if I am wrong)).
The actors:
“Service provider”: a company providing a service, in this case a massively multiplayer online game
“End User A”: End User 1 subscribing the particular service
“End User B”: End User 2 subscribing the particular service

Before the End User A can use the services offered by the service provider he has to acquire a license to use the particular software that allows him access to the service. At this stage End User A has to agree to the End-User License Agreement(from now on called EULA) before being able to access the service.
The EULA in question clearly states that the service provider retains all the rights about the software, the game, relative data and information.
There are many EULA examples for Game Service providers (for example
SOE Everquest EULA and Mythic DAOC EULA). End User A agrees to the EULA of the service provider and access the service. At one stage he decides to engage in a transaction with End User B outside the service to transfer part of game items and objects to the End User B for a particular fee so based on a Contract for Sale of Goods.
During the transaction between End User A and End User B, the game items and objects are transferred to End User B but End User B fails to fulfil the contract as no payment is made.

So what does End User A do now?
Assuming End User A knows the identity of End User B (something that isn’t always true if we believe to the Pay Pal case), End User A could take legal action against End User B as End User B did not fulfil the Sale of Goods Contract.
Lets assume End User A proceeds to initiate a lawsuit against End User B. He first needs to proof that the transaction of the game items or objects took place. That is the first obstacle. How do you prove it? For sure there are some ways, but the most reliable is to use the audit log information of the service provider. That brings us to the next problem: a request to the service provider about the audit log information has to be motivated and it is reasonable to assume the Service Provider will be notified about the litigation and that based on the information received, the service Provider will revoke the license and terminate the account as the End User A has breached the EULA.
Lets assume that after the account termination the service provider provides (without a litigation) the requested information to End User A. End User A has enough information to prove that the transaction of game items and objects took place. At the same time End User B, would show that the items transferred have an illegal provenience as the End User A was not entitled to transfer, sell or auction the particular game objects as he did not own the rights. That would nullify the Contract of Sale of Goods.
The only chance would be for End User A to initiate a litigation with the service company about the EULA (in particular about the property of game items, characters and related). I doubt the chances that such a lawsuit would be successful are not too high at this stage

The scenario is just an hypothetical scenario and there are many unevaluated variables. But is that so far away from reality?

One interesting link is one of Jessica Mulligan articles: I Own YOo, dOOd
Here two examples of EULAs:

SOE Everquest EULA
„8. We and our suppliers shall retain all rights, title and interest, including, without limitation, ownership of all intellectual property rights relating to or residing in the CD-ROM, the Software and the Game, all copies thereof, and all game character data in connection therewith. You acknowledge and agree that you have not and will not acquire or obtain any intellectual property or other rights, including any right of exploitation, of any kind in or to the CD-ROM, the Software or the Game, including, without limitation, in any character(s), item(s), coin(s) or other material or property, and that all such property, material and items are exclusively owned by us. “


A. Ownership of System, Game and Game Content

You acknowledge and agree that Mythic is the sole and exclusive owner of the System, and that Mythic or its suppliers are the sole and exclusive owner(s) of all right, title and interest (including, without limitation, all intellectual property rights), code, programs, routines, subroutines, objects, files, data, characters (including all items, currency, objects and attributes comprising or associated with a character and an Account), and information uploaded to, downloaded from, and accessible through the System, including, without limitation, graphics, sound effects, music, animation-style video and text, some of which may be provided to Mythic under license from independent content providers (collectively, “Game Content”). You further acknowledge the Game and the Game Content is protected by copyrights, trademarks, and other proprietary rights owned by Mythic or its suppliers, title to all of which is expressly reserved, and that you acquire no rights in any of the same, express or implied, beyond those granted specifically in the current version of the EUALA.


B. Mythic Owns Accounts, Account Attributes, Characters, Items and Objects; Assignment

You acknowledge and agree that your Account(s), and all attributes of your Accounts, including all guilds, groups, titles, and characters, and objects, currency and items acquired, developed or delivered by or to characters as a result of Game play through your Accounts are part of the System and the Game Content, and are the sole and exclusive property of Mythic, including any and all copyrights and intellectual property rights in or to any and all of the same, all of which are hereby expressly reserved. As to information you transmit to the System through your Account, except as otherwise provided herein, you hereby irrevocably and without additional consideration beyond the rights granted to you herein, assign to Mythic any and all right, title and interest you have or may have, including copyrights, in or to any and all files, data, or information comprising or manifesting in a manner perceptible by any means guilds, groups, titles, characters, and other attributes of your Account, together with all objects and items acquired or developed by, or delivered by or to characters, in your Account. Provided, however, that the foregoing assignment shall not include the content of messages posted by you to user-to-user areas, but that the following terms and conditions shall apply to such content.


Man, great post. It is hard to argue with stuff like that. But I think it misses something important.

I don't about you guys... I'm not a scientist or a even a teacher. I like to play these games and I've played them ever since any incarnation was available to the common man. So when I tell you I feel like I own these virtual items, I'm telling you as a regular guy.

It is ENTIRELY possible that I'm crazy and that I'm too attached to my virtual items (all kind's of weirdos out there). And if that's the case, then you are 100% correct. But if I'm not crazy, and everyone feels so attached to their virtual items, then as soon as you get enough gamers in congress (in what, 30 years?), somebody will pass a law. Is that too far from reality?

And who knows, maybe the only way to secure it would be too big-brotherish to be accepted. But you really are talkin' about about stealing in the scenario... because B still has A's money. And folks will get angry about it.

I guess that's later, rather than sooner. But still..



There is very little consumer protection for End Users at the moment.

If the items could be mailed, then mail fraud laws may apply. If the items are investment securities then security fraud laws may apply.

So, no luck for End Users.

In regards to EULA, the EULA arguement may be weak if I as End User argue that I claim no ownership of the virtual item, but in-game possession of it which I am passing on to another End User to use for a service fee. But of course, I won't be expecting the Service Provider's assistance in my suit.



MM: But if I'm not crazy, and everyone feels so attached to their virtual items, then as soon as you get enough gamers in congress (in what, 30 years?), somebody will pass a law.

Does a law solve the problem?

I think it is less a problem it can be solved with a law or with a legal litigation. You expect a specific service and the ownership of specific data resulting from your ingame activity.
If there are enough customers demanding for the same service and ownership, it will become a new “unique selling point”, that is a special feature that makes the game stand out in the eyes of potential customers. And more companies will try to adopt it. I suppose There and Second Life goes both in that direction.


Frank:”In regards to EULA, the EULA arguement may be weak if I as End User argue that I claim no ownership of the virtual item, but in-game possession of it which I am passing on to another End User to use for a service fee. But of course, I won't be expecting the Service Provider's assistance in my suit.”

That is a good point. A strong EULA would have to include that too.
Paragraph 9 of SOE Everquest™ includes for example the following:

...You may not buy, sell or auction (or host or facilitate the ability to allow others to buy, sell or auction) any Game characters, items, coin or copyrighted material...

That should cover any item transfer for a fee.
In any case, it is just a question of adding some more restrictions. I agree with you when you say:
“There is very little consumer protection for End Users at the moment“

I suppose that will also become a unique selling point for game services. And the one who will discover how to realize it and at the same time limiting risks and maximize profits will get a new MMOG blockbuster out :)


From the most recent press from Sony and EA, they appear to have done the due dilligence to make the virtual item trading an asset.

And for Everquest EULA, I admit that I'm one of the many that don't read it line by line.

"...You may not buy, sell or auction (or host or facilitate the ability to allow others to buy, sell or auction) any Game characters, items, coin or copyrighted material..."

Hmm, can I argue that I'm not buying, selling, or auctioning, but, um, renting? Well, like any other "regulation", there gonna be some loopholes.




Interesting update:

From World of Warcraft official boards :
Auction House will be placed in each major city (Stormwind, Ironforge, Darnassus, Ogrimmar, Thunderbluff and Undercity). These Auction Houses will be faction specific, allowing Alliance to trade with Alliance and Horde to trade with Horde. Additionally, there will be one non-faction based Auction House in Booty Bay. The Booty Bay Auction House will have the same functionality as the aforementioned faction based Auction Houses, with the additional capability of allowing trade between Horde and Alliance characters.

The mechanics of the Auctions are still being created, however some details are available:

Sellers will be able to place their items up for bid.

Buyers will be able to search for items.

Sellers will be able to set minimum prices on their items.

Buyers will be able place bids on items.

Item’s won will be delivered through the new in-game mail system for pickup.

Please stay tuned for future updates regarding Auction Houses and when they will be implemented in the game .We look forward to hearing your comments once they have been implemented.

Could it be used in the future also for transactions in real currency? Something to think about for the future...


Seems like the Paypal fraud scheme is not possible any more? However, did some other "secure" payment method for virtual assets come up? Some competition to Paypal? One attempt I heard of was "YowCow.com" (or something like that), but they quickly went out of business (as GOM did, who wanted to strike a deal with them).

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