Cybercrime must be considered on two levels within the virtual platform of the Internet. Firstly from a legal perspective cybercrime has historically been referred to as an action online that causes harm to someone offline. Secondly as the popularity of online multiplayer games has increased the stakes have risen above the goal of fun and entertainment. The possibility of monetary gain has given some players and/or criminals a motivation to cheat and intimidate others for personal gain. (Gřivna, 2008, 98) Online crime that causes harm offline is covered under criminal law whereas the legal precedents for crimes with virtual games have not been agreed upon. The laws for protecting online users from online cybercrimes in virtual worlds are still being developed throughout the world from Australia to China to America.
A general example of a crime that can take place in a Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) is that of stealing virtual furniture in order to sell the furniture online or to keep. An incident took place in the MMOG titled Habbo Hotel; virtual furniture was stolen from one room in the virtual hotel to another. During the fall, 2007 a seventeen year old boy was arrested in Holland because he had stolen the furniture that had been originally been purchased by the owner with Habbo credits. Interestingly the Habbo credits are gained by purchasing them with real money so the monetary value for the theft was estimated to be $4000. The Dutch police found that other teenagers were also involved in a scheme to steal a login and password and in that way the teens gained access to the owner’s virtual furniture. This type of cybercrime can be dealt with under existing criminal law. (Brenner, 2008, 1)
A more dangerous criminality may be exhibited when one avatar rapes another avatar. This is a virtual crime that does not involve money that is used in the real world. The act of violence by one avatar to another may be considered rape if human beings were involved but if the act took place in the virtual world the question is, can it be criminalized? Susan R. Brenner, NCR Distinguished Professor of Law and Technology at the University of Dayton School of Law, Dayton, Ohio has analysed and evaluated what she terms “fantasy crime” (Brenner, 2008, 1). What is the necessity and propriety of criminalizing fantasy crime not only today, but also for the future is the question Brenner posed. (2008, 1) The answer to that question will be further explored in this essay. Three types of 3-D virtual environment harm identified by the Australian Institute of Criminology purely “in-world harm,” “inter-real harm” and “criminal harm.” will be used as references (Tomison 1993). The question to be answered in the essay is, do you think it is possible for a person to be sexually assaulted in a virtual world?
Buddenberg, Doris. (2010). Freedom from Fear. Magazine United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute. (UNICRI) <http://www.futurecrimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/MG_United-Nations-Article.pdf>
Brenner, Susan W. (2008). Fantasy crime: The role of criminal law in virtual worlds. Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, 11(1): 1-97. http://www.jetlaw.org/wp-content/journal-pdfs/Brenner_FINAL.pdf
Grivna, Tomas. (2008). Virtual Crimes. Masaryk University of Journal of Law and Technology, p.97-104. http://mujlt.law.muni.cz/storage/1234798801_sb_08_grivna.pdf
Tomison, Adam. (1993). Crime risks of three-dimensional virtual environments. Australian Institute of Criminology, Trends and issues in crime and criminal justices, http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tandi/381-400/tandi388/view%20paper.html