BEIJING, April 3 (Xinhua) -- A recent online theft case in south China's
Guangdong Province has stirred concern over the definition and protection of
virtual property, as more and more people log on to online worlds, to interact,
play and socialize.
Laws are called for to be formulated to define and bind virtual properties
and to protect them from theft and plagiarism.
A man in Guangzhou, the privincial capital of Guangdong, was found guilty
of online theft last week, becoming the first person to be punished by the
courts for stealing virtual property in the province.
The man, Yan Yifan, 20, started playing an online game "Dahua Xiyou" in
In 2004, he was invited to work as a temporary employee by the game's
publisher, NetEase.com, Inc, when it was celebrating the second anniversary of
"Dahua Xiyou II."
During this time Yan gained more than 30 players' personal information and
counterfeited their identity cards (ID cards).
Saying that all the players' passwords had been stolen, Yan faxed the counterfeit
ID cards to NetEase and changed all of their passwords.
Taking the new passwords, Yan sold the players' game IDs and pieces of
their game equipment to other players, making a profit of more than 4,000 yuan
(500 U.S. dollars).
NetEase's game was inspired by an ancient Chinese fairy tale "Journey to
Yan was sentenced to a fine of 5,000 yuan (617 U.S. dollars) bythe court of
Guangzhou's Tianhe District in the first trial in December last year.
Yan lodged his appeal to the higher-level Guangzhou Intermediate People's
Court later, claiming virtual property should not be protected by laws.
According to the court, online game players have spent time, energy and
money to gain the game's equipment, imparting value anduse value to the virtual
Moreover, Yan gained money from selling the equipment to the other players.
The court affirmed the original judgement.
While disputes about stealing virtual property soar, a legal explanation
about the ownership of virtual property should be released to the public, Wang
Xiaodong, a lawyer on intellectual property rights (IPR) from C&I Partners
(Guangdong), told the Beijing-based China Daily on Sunday.
Wang said he was pleased with the court's judgement.
"As Chinese Criminal Law doesn't have a definition on what virtual property is
and whether it is protected by laws, it leaves a loophole for the lawbreakers
to exploit," he said.
He said he believes the Supreme People's Court will soon make aspecific law to
protect virtual property in the future, as long as similar cases continue to
be heard by the courts. Enditem