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Police Investigating Virtual Furniture Theft 103

Posted by samzenpus
from the someone-has-been-sleeping-in-my-virtual-bed dept.
krou writes "Finnish police are involved in the investigation of up to 400 cases of theft from virtual world Habbo Hotel, with some users reporting the loss of up to €1000 of virtual furniture and other items. Users were targeted using a phishing scam that used fake webpages to capture usernames and passwords. There is no mention as to whether or not the thieves made off with the bath towels, gowns, shampoo bottles, and soaps."

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Police Investigating Virtual Furniture Theft

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  • Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:37PM (#32433456)

    There is no mention as to whether or not the thieves made off with the bath towels, gowns, shampoo bottles, and soaps.

    What good are towels if the pool's closed?

    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by JayJay.br (206867) <<100jayto> <at> <gmail.com>> on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @01:05PM (#32433990)

      Hey, towels are the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have!

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by wwfarch (1451799)
        I love that this is insightful and not funny
        • by mcvos (645701)

          I love that it's informative and not insightful (which means little more than "funny, but in a good way").

      • Shh! If word gets out, then the towel will lose the immense psychological value it has over strags(strag: non-hitch hiker). They will no longer automatically assume that because a hitch-hiker has his towel with him, he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will no longer happily lend the hitch-hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch-hiker mi
    • Why is the pool closed? Did someone get AIDS or something?

    • by wo1verin3 (473094)

      The pool on the roof is open.

  • We must protect this house.
    • by d3ac0n (715594)

      Actually, I was waiting for the *chan/habbo-related memes to start popping up.

      Wasn't there something about a pool...

  • Here's my thing... If someone is, say, "persuadable" enough to spend 1000 euros on *virtual fscking furniture* then what's to say they will have the sense to protect any of it? The police need to issue citations for criminal stupidity.

    Oh, does anyone know if the pool is open?

  • They should (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheLink (130905) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:46PM (#32433638) Journal

    If someone stole your shares or "those bunch of digits" in your bank account, it's still theft. So it's the same in this case.

    Some years back someone in China lent someone his virtual sword and the borrower refused to return it and actually sold it (for quite a bit of money), so the lender went to the cops but they laughed at him, so he took matters into his own hands and killed the thief. ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4397159.stm [bbc.co.uk] )

    Not saying it was right for him to do that, but it's quite understandable. The sword was worth a lot of money at market prices (USD1000), and probably worth even more to the lender since he didn't want to sell it. I'm sure people get killed for far less than that in China (or many other places).

    p.s. reminder copying is not the same as stealing. These people lost access to stuff.

    • Also, regardless of what was or wasn't stolen, there's the whole unauthorized access thing.
    • by harl (84412)

      What does the EULA/TOS say? Most have a clause stating that you own none of items/characters/anything in the game. You are merely paying for access to the game.

      If you don't own it. Then it can't be theft.

      • Can they sell the stuff?

        Then it is de facto property. It has all the important facets:

        1. Worth something in real money.

        2. Transferable.

        3. Transferable for real money, in practice (and perhaps in the intent of the designers, perhaps even if they make a surface statement that you shouldn't, but rely on it for increased sales.)

        These things (like intellectual property) have all the important aspects of property so they can serve with the exact same benefit as real, physical property.

        So if you're going to have

        • by harl (84412)

          These things (like intellectual property) have all the important aspects of property so they can serve with the exact same benefit as real, physical property.

          No they can't. Users of Haboo signed a legally binding contract stating they were not property.

          This is not my opinion as this has already been decided in court. Twice.

          Habbo is run by a company in the States. In the States EULA are legal binding contracts. These has been decided by two separate districts. The cases are ProCD v Zeidenberg and Blizzard v bnetd (can't remember the real name of the defendant)

          If the EULA says you don't own it then you don't own it.

          • > In the States EULA are legal binding contracts.

            Sometimes.

            > These has been decided by two separate districts.
            > The cases are ProCD v Zeidenberg and Blizzard v bnetd

            Narrow decisions providing little in the way of precedent.

            > If the EULA says you don't own it then you don't own it.

            Nothing here to own.

          • by protektor (63514)

            Blizzard vs. Bnetd wasn't the case name, it was Vivendi vs. Bnetd and it had nothing to do with virtual property. It was only a small part about the ability to enforce the EULA, and it was much more about supposedly copying and reverse engineering, sections of the EULA, to make a compatible server.

            ProCD vs. Zeidenberg was also about EULA's and if a list of phone numbers can even be copyrighted, which they held they can NOT. The case was around the EULA's ability to limit people from redistributing the data.

            • by harl (84412)

              I never claimed either had to do anything with virtual property. They both clearly state that EULA are contracts.

              Ahh yes Bragg v Linden Labs. One sentence in one motion with no ruling. Quite the precedent there.

              The dutch teens ruling is immaterial as according to the news no dutch are involved.

        • So if you're going to have these things ape property, then ape the police/theft angle, too.

          Sure. Have the virtual police do a virtual investigation, try the perps avatars in a virtual court, and if found guilty, put them in virtual prison.

          Then return the virtual furniture to the virtual victim.

          The game company can do all of this themselves. No need to waste the real cops time.

          • by TheLink (130905)
            That might actually be fine with the players and the game companies. But the Government might one day wake up and realize that it has lost a fair bit of power.

            Trust me, after a while the Government will want in on the virtual property and cash stuff so that they can get taxes and control money laundering.
    • Killing another human being over an item in a videogame was "quite understandable"?! No I think that's more under the "completely insane" category
      • by TheLink (130905)
        If you were an online gambler and someone stole USD1000 worth of your online casino "chips" I'm sure you'd be rather upset about it.

        I'm not saying he should have killed that person, but I understand where he's coming from. Go factor in a typical Chinese wage and then multiply the USD1000 accordingly to get a comparison figure that's more appropriate for you. Then add in the element of betrayal - apparently he lent it to the other person. If you lend someone an item and he then sells it, it's not just about
    • by Stregano (1285764)
      Well this is different, because what the hell is Habbo Hotel?

      I know I can google it, but these pay-for-premium mmo's that are out there everywhere are in such huge numbers to where it is hard to keep track of them all.
  • Searches?? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dahamma (304068) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:47PM (#32433646)

    "We have done five home searches in five cities in Finland," he said.

    Unfortunately, the virtual furniture was nowhere to be seen.

  • How many people in Finland are getting away with real theft while the police are busy investigating imaginary theft?

  • Finnish IRS coming next?

  • by Noitatsidem (1701520) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:49PM (#32433710)
    I can only feel bad for the people of habbo hotel, losing their fake furniture that they paid a totally reasonable price for. I wish the for the police working on this case to catch those evil criminals, and of course for their safety. It's a dangerous job catching internet tough guys, and I can only hope that these police return to their families in one piece.
  • by rotide (1015173) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:55PM (#32433792)

    Ok, if someone takes a physical object from you without your consent, that's theft. If they break into your house to do it, that's B&E + theft.

    If you have an online account with "things" that are sellable/transferable out of it, is taking those "theft"? Obviously the B&E part is some form of computer trespassing, etc, but do the items exist in such a fashion to be considered "missing" if stolen?

    I get they are no longer accessible from your account, but if they can only be viewed through "the web" do they really exist?

    If I buy a physical book off amazon, I get a physical thing. If amazon goes the way of the dodo, I still have my book.

    If I buy a virtual couch from VirtualCouchGuys.com and they go out of business, my, as well as everyone elses couch, goes bye bye. Just the same as a cell phone service/plan would go bye bye if the company simply folds and turns out the lights.

    So wouldn't virtual goods be services then? It is a service to log in and see a blue pin striped couch more than it is an item. But what about the whole "theft" portion? How can you "steal" service? The only thing I can think of is akin to stealing bandwidth through WEP Wifi or cutting someones phone line and splicing yours into it or doing the same with cable.

    You're not stealing a physical object, you're stealing a service. I guess that's the only rational way to go after "virtual furniture" thieves. But, now, if I steal cable, can the cops arrest me? Apparently, yes [go.com]. The actual charge appears to be "unauthorized use of computer, cable, or telecommunications property" which seems to fit with virtual items as well (correct me if I'm wrong).

    Now, I know this is in Finland, but it seems it would apply here in the States too.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aladrin (926209)

      If someone steals money from your bank account, is that not theft? It's a virtual object in an account.

      These objects that were stolen can and are sold for money. It's theft.

      • by rotide (1015173)

        And I think you should notice that I came to the same conclusion. However, I take exception to your analogy to bank account information/funds.

        If you log into my bank account you can steal something from me that is linked to a direct physical object (in theory its gold). If you transfer a virtual couch from my Couchville account, there is nothing in real life that I could have used that virtual couch for.

        There might be a perceived value to it just like there is a perceived value to stealing cable televisio

        • If you log into my bank account you can steal something from me that is linked to a direct physical object (in theory its gold).

          I don't know where you live, but in many countries (most?), including the USA and UK, currency has no link to gold. There isn't enough gold in the entire world to cover the currency circulating in the USA alone.

          Even though the money in your bank account can be exchanged for currency, there's very little actual physical value in those small pieces of paper. They are only valued for what they represent, not what they are. Same thing with virtual goods.

          • by bazorg (911295)

            (IANAL)

            £1 may not be converted to 1 pound of sterling silver, but it is declared legal tender by the authorities, ie: worth something.

            Now the virtual couch (or the right to use a picture of a couch in a game) was bought with real money and the owner of the game has protections in place to ensure that the couch is associated with the holder of the game account. If someone breaks in and takes the virtual couch, it may not be a theft, but it should be treated as any other computer fraud.

            • £1 may not be converted to 1 pound of sterling silver, but it is declared legal tender by the authorities, ie: worth something.

              One has to wonder what the people in the southern half of the United States thought of the value of their government's legal tender after the government that authorized it collapsed. I have heard anecdotal stories of it being sold for toilet paper.

              I'm stretching the point, but money isn't valuable, it merely represents value. The same can be said of gold or silver; they're rare, but not particularly valuable in and of themselves.

            • but it is declared legal tender by the authorities, ie: worth something.

              The government's declaration of fiat money as being legal tender does not in and of itself make the money worth anything. See: Germany in the 1930s, and Zimbabwe in the past few years. In both cases, currency proclaimed by the government as legal tender became absolutely worthless anyways.

        • If you log into my bank account you can steal something from me that is linked to a direct physical object (in theory its gold).

          WRONG! No major currency these days is backed by ANY physical assets. The gold standard was abandoned by just about everybody back in the 1930s.

      • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @01:31PM (#32434370) Homepage

        Pretend for the sake of argument that today's money is NOT imaginary... a stretch, I know, but work with me here.

        If someone breaches your bank account, takes out your money, they have money. They can use that money to buy stuff.

        If someone takes your virtual furniture, they have virtual furniture. You can't do shit with virtual furniture unless you find another cretin to buy your virtual couches in exchange for MONEY. There's a big difference.

        If I go get obscenely drunk tonight and invent "virtual bear hugs" and a web site where they can be traded, and someone "steals" a bunch of virtual bear hugs, it's still just mass hysteria built atop a pile of bullshit. The fact that there are some seriously deranged people willing to pay for this bullshit, does not mean it should be a matter of public interest worthy of police oversight. At the heart of it all, these people are arguing over nothing.

        Ultimately, if anyone can do something about the "theft", it's the sysadmins of Habbo Hotel. Check the logs, find out who "stole" the shit, and return it. Maybe ban the user if this is considered grief-play. If we let this kind of thing get out of hand, next time we'll be throwing twelve year olds in PMITA federal prison for ninja'ing in World of Warcraft...

        • by treeves (963993)
          As long as there are people willing to pay money or trade real goods or services for a thing, then that thing is "worth money" no matter how worthless it is to you. That said, I'd never pay for a thing that I didn't have a good understanding of how it could be or needed to be protected from theft.
        • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @02:55PM (#32435678)

          You seem to think there is something magic about the word "money". When you call it "money", that makes it automatically of intrinsic worth. Don't work that way. The only difference between virtual furniture in an account and virtual money in an account is that one is more widely accepted.

    • by WNight (23683)

      If you steal virtual objects in a game they shouldn't do anything outside the game. If you cheat outside the game (phishing) then it seems more reasonable.

      That said, those people, ROFL! If you'd pay money for virtual furniture you're shit stupid.

      What's the difference between the thief who gave them pictures of furniture for 1000Euros and the thief who took the pictures away? Why are the police only after one of them?

    • by harl (84412)

      According to most EULA/ToS for games the end users own nothing. They are paying for the access to the game.

      The people running the game had ownership before the event. They had ownership after the event. Theft is impossible.

      tl;dr fake things are fake.

      • by rotide (1015173)

        That is a very interesting point.

        Say, I purchase the right to use a fictional item in a fictional universe (say WoW) and in the EULA/TOS Blizzard explicitly states that the items have _no_ "real world" value, they own the item in question, and you're merely paying for the service to use said item in their fictional world for an amount of time they dictate. What is it considered if you log into my account without my consent and you transfer the item to your account and then _sell_ it on fleabay for $100?

        It

        • by harl (84412)

          You nailed it. Legally Blizzard would be the only wronged party. This isn't even that theoretical. The company in question is located in the the States and there have been two separate cases that have decided that EULA are legally binding contracts in the States' legal system.

          Now if the group installed malware to get the login info that's obviously a completely different story.

          Some bits of their ToS

          "The activities and games on the Site or on other Services are just for you to play with while on the Site.

          • by zoward (188110)

            ...And what if I find a way in WoW to steal someone's virtual horse, which Blizzard themselves sold to that person for $25 of US currency? Is it still worth $25? Who owns it - Blizzard, the buyer ... or me?"

            • by harl (84412)

              According to the EULA blizzard owned when you had control. Blizzard owns it after you had control. You didn't buy it you paid for access to it.

              From http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/legal/eula.html [worldofwarcraft.com]

              Ownership.

              A. All title, ownership rights and intellectual property rights in and to the Game and all copies thereof (including without limitation any titles, computer code, themes, objects, characters, character names, stories, dialog, catch phrases, locations, concepts, artwork, charac

    • If you have an online account with "things" that are sellable/transferable out of it, is taking those "theft"?

      How about if those "things" are dollars? An online account with dollars that are transferable out of it is how most of us store our savings these days...

  • I can only shake my head at someone who spent around 1000 euros, dollars, etc on some string of 1's and 0's in a database for virtual furniture and/or pets. At least my real dogs will have a shot at chewing up a thief before they get out of the house unlike the virtual counterparts. :)
    • by Jedi Alec (258881)

      At least my real dogs will have a shot at chewing up a thief before they get out of the house unlike the virtual counterparts. :)

      Or your couch, or the neighbour, or they'll get sick and crap on the carpet.

      Don't get me wrong, I'd never spend a grand on digital items, but some of them do have their advantages compared to their analog counterparts ;-)

    • Virtual money too (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tepples (727027)

      I can only shake my head at someone who spent around 1000 euros, dollars, etc on some string of 1's and 0's in a database

      What is your checking account balance other than "some string of 1's and 0's in a database" at your credit union or bank?

    • by badfish99 (826052)

      It's just as crazy as paying money for a string of 1s and 0s in an mp3 file.
      So maybe these criminals were not thieves at all. They must have been pirates.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pclminion (145572)

      If you think that's stupid, you'll go nuts when I tell you that I actually sit at a desk for 40+ hours a week instead of hanging out in the sunshine, just so I can see some digits appear inside some account I have somewhere.

      It's not the virtuality of the item that makes this story ridiculous, it's the fact that the item could easily be restored to its rightful "owner" at the push of a button. We're not talking about money where there are, you know, laws against just synthesizing money at will. But here, the

    • by Zen Hash (1619759)

      I can only shake my head at someone who spent around 1000 euros, dollars, etc on some string of 1's and 0's in a database for virtual furniture and/or pets. At least my real dogs will have a shot at chewing up a thief before they get out of the house unlike the virtual counterparts. :)

      Why would they store data in a string [wikipedia.org] consisting of only of '1' and '0' characters?

  • Pool's closed... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bragr (1612015) *
    Due to theft.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They should have bought a dog.

  • Socialist Europe denying its citizens the right to protect themselves and their property. If those Habbos had been armed this never would have happened.
  • is it that I couldn't even get the cops to come out to the scene of the crime when my "reality" based car was broken into.
  • If that is a punishable offense, then I should be doing hard time for my exploits in early Ultima Online. It was like the wild west online.
  • Don't have much to add other than Halting State [wikipedia.org] by Charles Stross is a great read if you're interested in this sort of thing.
  • Easily fixed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Robotron23 (832528) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @03:07PM (#32435846) Homepage

    How the fuck can there be theft in a world where the game administrators can reinstitute the accounts WITH THE PUSH OF A BUTTON? It's not like these people "deprived" anybody of anything that can't be instantly recreated. Hell, applying the word "create" is even too generous.

    The lunatics who spent €1000 on "virtual furniture" needs to be committed to small, padded cells until they can get a grip on reality. And if the game admins refuse to give the furniture back to them, toss them in jail for fraud.

    This isn't cute. It's fucking nuts, and it scares the crap out of me that people are losing their grip on reality and people might go to prison for it.

    • by DragonTHC (208439)

      While I mostly agree with you, people can spend their money on what they want.

      What should happen is the police should call the developers and server operators and say, refund their money or duplicate their purchases.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)
      Not everything has fraud protection. Banks should be so kind that in the advent of fraud you may get your money back. But how is this any different from phishing internet banking passwords and emptying users accounts?

      If you give someone your login and 1000 Euro magically disappears from your account the bank manager isn't legally obliged to give you your money, no fraud has been committed.

      Or a more physical example. You rent a space at a local storage depo with no light. So you buy a light for your s
  • Funny story, back when I as a young-mid teen, I made a simple little phishing site aimed at habbo. Made accounts, told people to visit it. Filled rooms with furniture, used the acquired accounts to tell all their friends... I'm sure I could've worked out how much it was all worth, but who's stupid enough to spend money on virtual furniture anyway?
  • They call non-destructive duplication of (multimedia) data theft..

  • I'm almost tempted to re-create the items, Tell the police I found them on the interwebs and they should return it to the owner. I'm being serious, but then i'd probably be done for IP theft against the games creators. Sad that this has come this far. P.S. I wonder if I'd get a reward?
  • Unfortunately I heard that the pool was indeed still closed.

I tell them to turn to the study of mathematics, for it is only there that they might escape the lusts of the flesh. -- Thomas Mann, "The Magic Mountain"

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