CCP still on the hook?

 *Edit by The Webmaster* For those who wish to follow the discussion on the forums (we use Eve Search) the discussion is up to 18 pages and growing and can be found here.

“My simple child reaction of what you did is that you are not funny. Funnier than you is even Stuart Schlossman, who is my friend, and is eleven, and puts walnuts in his mouth and makes noises. What is not funny is to call us names, and what is mostly not funny is how sad you are, and I’d feel sorry for you if it wasn’t for how dull you are. And those are the worst-tasting potato chips that I’ve ever tasted. And that’s my opinion from the blue, blue sky.” – Nick, A Thousand Clowns

 

If you are old enough, or are fans of old movies, you will remember a comedian name Buster Keaton, master of slapstick comedy. Move forward a few years and you will find a spiritual successor in the person of Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau in A Shot in the Dark, exemplified by the classic “billiard table scene ” But what if the pratfall, so common in physical comedy, results in a death?  Some will still find it fascinating and even amusing just so long as the misfortune isn’t theirs.

The buzz this morning around our corner of the internet is the Eve Online player who was flying a kestrel out of Jita loaded down with 74 plex worth of one thousand dollars U.S.  and had it blown out from under him – destroying the plex in the process.  The tendency by many players in Eve is to immediately start a round of laughter and touting such well and over used lines as “what a noob”. 

My co-host and sister, Fran, and I discussed the events outline above over breakfast this morning.  Her initial thoughts concerned the issues of ownership of virtual property and whether or not that property has real world value.  In this particular case there is no doubt at all whether or not the items destroyed have real world value and how much.  But when the issue becomes who owns the virtual property it becomes a lot less certain than people think.  Fran is of the opinion that whether or not the gankers where playing within the allowed parameters of the game that they stole something worth over $1,000 dollars from someone else and should do real jail time for it.  She likens the matter to someone who robbed a bank and in the process of making their escape lost the money they stole.  Doubtless that would never hold up in a court of law. However…

It is easy to point to the EULA and say CCP owns all the items and dismiss the whole matter offhanded remarks as are often heard…

“Eve is a dangerous place”

“Don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose”

 

Yet while the gankers in Eve are done braying like a jackass at the fate of the player who lost all that plex there are legal implications to be considered that go beyond even the consideration of whether or not virtual items have real world value. Say the words with me friends, and remember them:

Implied Warrantee of Merchantability

 

I will not claim to be a lawyer, and I don’t play one on television – and I am certainly not giving out legal advice.  There was a time, however, that I got paid for being the military equivalent of a paralegal (71D MOS for all you ex-military types out there).  In class one day the instructor pointed out that you can’t waive your own liability. This means, of course, that all those signs that read “we are not responsible for” in restaurants are not worth the paper they are printed on.  More important is the legal principle that says anything sold has to be fit to be used for the purpose for which it was meant to be used.  A merchant can sell a used refrigerator and put an “as is” sign on it all they want.  But when the customer gets home that refrigerator had better keep food cold or they will have to take it back regardless.
So the plex that CCP sold as something in game that can be convertible to game time must be able to be used for that purpose.  But CCP created the circumstances which meant the plex can no longer be used for game time.  Is it sufficient to say the player was warned?  Does that amount to attempting to waive your own liability? It will be interesting to see how far this goes.  Certainly there have already been emails to and from CCP about the situation.  Will CCP simply say “Eve Online is a cold and dangerous place?”  Will they restore the plex? Will this cause CCP to reexamine their traditional “that’s the way it goes” attitude toward high security/suicide ganking?

Unlike other circumstances someone (or several some ones) bank account will be short over $1,000 real world cash.  And before you are quick to point out that once they were sold in game (if that was even the case here) that the plex were already put to the use for which they were intended, consider the following from the source cited above. As you read it, imagine the in game seller of the plex as the farmer selling the horse feed.

“There is rarely any question as to whether the seller is the merchant of the goods sold. Nevertheless, in Huprich v. Bitto, 667 So.2d 685 (Ala. 1995), a farmer who sold defective horse feed was found not to be a merchant of horse feed. The court stated that the farmer did not hold himself out as having knowledge or skill peculiar to the sale of corn as horse feed, and therefore was not a merchant of horse feed for purposes of determining a breach of implied warranty of merchantability.” – legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com

So what, you may ask yourself, does the quote from A Thousand Clowns have to do with the situation. Well friends and readers (and I am sure this doesn’t apply to any of you) the following is directed at all those who simply brayed like a jackass and said “What a noob”…

“What is not funny is to call us names, and what is mostly not funny is how sad you are, and I’d feel sorry for you if it wasn’t for how dull you are.” – Nick, A Thousand Clowns

Further update:

Here is a bit more detail on what happened:

Jita, The Forge – On 112.08.07, a Kestrel frigate carrying 74 Pilot’s License Extensions [PLEX] worth about 22 billion ISK, was blown up just outside of the Jita 4-4 station.

The frigate, piloted by Aystra of SpaceMonkey’s Alliance, was destroyed by slickdog and Viktor Vegas of The 0rphanage Alliance as part of a CONCORD sanctioned war between the two entities. It remains unclear why the frigate pilot took the risk to move such a valuable cargo during an active war.

According to wilbongbe of the SpaceMonkey’s Alliance, we might never know the reasons behind the attempted move, as the weight of the tremendous ISK loss pushed Aystra to immediately put an end to her capsuleering days.

The attacking pilots were unaware of the precious cargo and they immediately eliminated the wreck to deny any theft by scavenger pilots.

“I would probably be kicked out [of the alliance] if [PLEX] were to drop… I was the one that killed the wreck,” concluded slickdog.

source:

 Update:

If you don’t read The Ancient Gaming Noob you should. The reason we are pointing it out this time, however, is for one of the comment made by Brian Green.  I am surprised he hasn’t put it on his own site as an article (it should be).  For those of you who don’t have access to that site here is the comment in full:

Saithir wrote:
@Psychochild – why should CCP compensate anything?

Because if they don’t, they open up a whole lot of uncomfortable issues, as others have pointed out. The difference between PLEX and ISK is that you buy PLEX directly with money, so it has an actual monetary value. ISK cannot directly be bought with money and (much more importantly) a player is not allowed to transfer ISK back into cash. (Turning PLEX into cash is a more complex issue, but at the very least one could request a chargeback from their credit card company if they decide they didn’t want the PLEX; this might lead to CCP punishing you for what could be considered fraud.)

When I was running Meridian 59, we had a rule that you were solely responsible for your own account security. “Being hacked” was always your own fault and we would take no responsibility for any losses. Did this mean we never helped people out who were “hacked”? No. But, it meant we had the ultimate escape clause in case we thought something fishy was going on, because the rules said we weren’t obligated. I suspect this is the same thing as what CCP has.

The other issue at work here is the law, as Julie Whitefeather points out. Although one can argue that PLEX are purely an in-game item, I don’t think you can say that exactly. They deal with an issue external to the game, paying for the game service. This sets it aside from other “virtual items” like in-game mounts that only deal with aspects in game. I think one of the big worries is that the courts won’t see this distinction, and complicate “virtual items” for everyone.

It’s also important to know that there are a lot of laws that exist for “cash equivalent” type items. In California, there are some specific rules concerning gift cards, such as they (generally) can’t expire, can’t have inactivity fees, etc. There are even laws concerning frequent flyer miles as well since they can be used to buy something of value. I think it’s entirely reasonable to consider that governments might start considering laws for virtual items that have an obvious cash equivalent such as PLEX. But, as I said above, it might be a bit more harmful if the governments decide to apply this to a wider class of virtual items; I don’t think that’s in anyone’s best interest except in corner cases.

However, the more I think about this the more I wonder if this isn’t a setup by CCP. Seems funny someone would carry so many PLEX in one go and would have that many without taking EVERY reasonable precaution. It makes sense that CCP might stage something like this to get some more PR for their game. It seems people really love schadenfreude type stories coming from EVE.

 

[posted for Julie Whitefeather by The Webmaster]

26 Responses to CCP still on the hook?
  1. Beowolf Schaefer
    August 9, 2010 | 11:22 am

    You’re fridge analogy falls apart at the point where you ignore that the player who bought the plex COULD have exchanged them for game time. He CHOSE not to. Sure if I buy a fridge and it turns out to be broken then I have a recourse with the vendor I bought it from. However if they sell me a perfectly good fridge and I decide to tear apart the compressor for kicks, they are not responsible for replacing or repairing the item.

    CCP did not create the circumstances for the loss of these plexes, the pilot did by undocking. CCP delivered the plexes to a station where they were nice and safe. What happened after that was the pilot’s choice.

  2. Anonymous
    August 9, 2010 | 12:51 pm

    If a player were to trash the plex himself would ccp need to give them back?

  3. sid67
    August 9, 2010 | 12:54 pm

    I agree that’s it is an intriguing legal case. But I think the real question is what is it that the player is purchasing?

    Are they purchasing game time, or virtual currency which when redeemed can be used for game time?

    I think the distinction is important. Because virtual currency is NOT game time. When buying PLEX, you aren’t buying game time but a virtual item that can be traded for virtual goods OR redeemed for game time.

    I think CCP can easily argue that PLEX is first and foremost a virtual item and subject to the in-game rules. And because it has value as BOTH a virtual good for other virtual goods AND as game time, PLEX is not a promise for game time services until it is redeemed.

    Additionally, the link between real world currency and PLEX is entirely one directional because PLEX can’t be redeemed for real-world cash. Only game time or traded for other virtual goods. So it’s not even comparable to an alternate currency like casino chips which have a real dollar value.

  4. Kirith Kodachi
    August 9, 2010 | 12:57 pm

    I think your comparison falls down in that the purchaser bought a time code that was converted to a PLEX, thus the item purchased (time code) was put properly to a use (converted) and thus not defective. That the player lost the PLEX through incompetence or malice of other players does not impinge on the functionality of the PLEX itself. I.e. the sold goods were perfectly fine.

    From another angle, all items in game have a real world value just like the PLEX, and can also be destroyed through incompetence or malice of others. The only difference is that the PLEX can be converted back directly into game time (while all other items would be converted to ISK and that ISK used to but a PLEX to convert to game time).

    I guess I see it like this: if I buy a sandwich and walk outside the restaurant and some bully knocks the sandwich on the ground ruining it, I cannot go back into the store and ask for my money back because I didn’t get to eat the sandwich.

    The only question is the store legally/ethically liable for allowing the bullies to exist, and in Eve’s case, I say no.

  5. Braying Jackass
    August 9, 2010 | 1:07 pm

    The player who lost these items made a choice to leave a safe protected environment when he/she undocked with those PLEX cards inside his frigate, if he/she was buying them simply to add existing gametime to his account, it could have been done while docked in the station.

    Now while I don’t agree with CCP allowing you to undock with PLEX cards, I have no sympathy for that moron who lost the items.

  6. Frank
    August 9, 2010 | 1:09 pm

    So, you’re driving home with the new refrigerator in the back of your pickup. You decide not to stop at a stop sign, and you hit another car. The refrigerator flies out of the pickup and off a cliff. The people who sold you the refrigerator don’t have to provide you with a new one.

  7. Liang
    August 9, 2010 | 1:12 pm

    “But when the issue becomes who owns the virtual property it becomes a lot less certain than people think. Fran is of the opinion that whether or not the gankers where playing within the allowed parameters of the game that they stole something worth over $1,000 dollars from someone else and should do real jail time for it.”

    Let me clarify a few things for you:
    - Once you buy PLEX with money, you have bought an ingame item which may be traded on the market or “redeemed” for gametime.
    - Taking money OUT of the game is a breach of the EULA. This means that the conversion from money -> PLEX is a one way conversion, and you can’t convert it back.
    - The person who lost “$1000 USD” worth of PLEX did not buy that PLEX with his own money. He bought it with ingame currency from an entire alliance’s “sov fund”, according to their killboard.
    - The people who did the ganking were playing within the rules of the game and had no way to know that the guy had a thousand dollars worth of PLEX on board.
    - The people who did the ganking did not “steal” the PLEX. They destroyed it.

    So basically what we have is that the gankers themselves have nothing at all to do with the situation – and the only open question is whether CCP is in the wrong for allowing potential game time to be destroyed in game.

    Hope this helps,

    -Liang

  8. Sr. Julie
    August 9, 2010 | 1:36 pm

    @Liang: While comments are always welcome, finishing with “I hope this helps” sounds an awful lot like the politician who says “I don’t think you understand all the issues here.” The issue, if you read carefully, is not whether someone ganked someone else, or stole something, or blew up something. The issue (and note I said possible issue) is one of Implied Warrantee of Merchantability which has nothing to do with anything you mentioned.

  9. Sr. Julie
    August 9, 2010 | 1:44 pm

    There is a tendency here for players (and I have been one for about four years) to simply shrug their shoulders and utter some trite expression like “don’t fly what you can’t afford to loose” and use names like “noob”. Yes CCP did directly create circumstances that allowed a product they sold to be destroyed – they are the ones who purposefully removed the safety features that were in place and control the use of the product. This is not an issue about being able to turn a product in to money, but continue to use a product for a certain use. This is not about what was destroyed but falls into the realm of being able to continue to use the product. The fact that they were resold in game has nothing to do with it.

    The whole matter hinges on whether any of the parties chose to pursue the matter.

    Beyond that the whole “well its a tough virtual world, the player knew…” and so on is not the matter under discussion. The matter is a larger one that is still being discussed in courts across the globe where virtual items have a direct value, and simply waiving around an EULA is as meaningless in this case as the sign on the restaurant wall that says “not responsible for….”

  10. Hirvox
    August 9, 2010 | 1:56 pm

    The PLEXes themselves were in pristine condition, although without any protective packaging. It’s like ordering a meal in a restaurant. The product is primarily intended to be consumed within the restaurant, and you can switch plates with other customers if you want. Now CCP allowed the customers to use one of their own containers to bring their meal home instead of eating it in the restaurant. They also allow you to order a brand new meal to be delivered in pristine condition to any location you want. And at no extra cost, no less.

    Are you saying that CCP is liable because they do not provide containers for meals that are resistant to damage? Or that they do not provide a safe journey home, even though they own the streets as well? Or should CCP once again disallow customers from taking what they own out of the restaurant?

  11. Old Tom
    August 9, 2010 | 2:02 pm

    Respectfully Sr. Julie, you’re taking the bait of those who call names and such. But I think you’re ignoring Kirith’s comment which is directly on point and a pretty compelling argument against your theory of CCP’s violation of the above-mentioned implied warranty.

    Leaving out all extraneous analogies, the transaction between CCP and said customer is for a game-time code. That item has 2 possible functions – 1) Can be used to add game time to a particular account, or 2) can be transferred into an in-game item which then can be bought, sold, lost etc.

    The transaction worked as promised. The issue is not the PLEX .. it is the game-time code. Seeing that the game time code was effectively transferred into PLEX, CCP’s implied warranty was fulfilled.

  12. Webmaster
    August 9, 2010 | 2:07 pm

    I can’t answer for Sister Julie, but I will just bet that CCP gives this one a “no comment”. Still, it would only make sense to make some restorations here. For my 2 isk, I only have a problem with the destruction of the plex/codes. No matter who uses them they SHOULD come in a damage proof container.

  13. Kirith Kodachi
    August 9, 2010 | 2:24 pm

    Webmaster: “Still, it would only make sense to make some restorations here.”

    Excuse me? How do you figure?

    I own a fully fitted Wyvern supercarrier with an effective value above that of 74 PLEXes. If I do something that ends up with the ship getting destroyed, I would expect no “restorations” from CCP or anyone else.

    The argument that PLEXes are different because they can be converted into gametime is not acceptable because the Wyvern can be converted into ISK which can be converted into PLEXes, thus the Wyvern can be converted into gametime. In effect I’m arguing that there is no case for “restorations” because it is equivalent to any normal PvP scenario, only the scale is staggering (but not uncommon in terms of raw ISK).

    The only outstanding point of contention is whether or not CCP has a moral or legal obligation to provide absolutely safe space to every pilot. And they already have as long as you do not undock with the PLEXes.

    I think this is a non-issue.

  14. Webmaster
    August 9, 2010 | 2:53 pm

    @Kirith:

    Yes, you may be excused. As sister says, this isn’t about in game items, but warrantees – nobody said a thing about whether plex can be turned into dollars, isk, or wombats. It also isn’t the same thing as in the real world as ccp has absolute control over what happens in their game. Will they refuse to say anything? I will bet that is the case.

    Is it all a hoax? If it weren’t that we heard this from multiple sources (other than the massively article) I would say maybe.

    Still maybe they don’t give a sh*t about customer reaction. But when they asked their customers to vote for them at the European Games Award they got 27 pages of frell you in response. And when they announced the 90 or so devs they have working on Dust 514 they said they expect it to fail, seeming to care mostly about being a world first at linking consoles and mmos instead.

  15. Liang
    August 9, 2010 | 3:02 pm

    “@Liang: While comments are always welcome, finishing with “I hope this helps” sounds an awful lot like the politician who says “I don’t think you understand all the issues here.” The issue, if you read carefully, is not whether someone ganked someone else, or stole something, or blew up something. The issue (and note I said possible issue) is one of Implied Warrantee of Merchantability which has nothing to do with anything you mentioned.”

    @Julie: The post, if you read carefully, has multiple parts. There is an introduction to the problem, commentary from your sister Fran, and then a discussion on the warrantee of implied merchantability. When you included the comment from your sister Fran that the gankers stole $1000 USD, you opened up commentary on that topic.

    I commented on that topic, which was included in this post, and showed that there are a variety of things wrong with that point of view. I have no real opinion on what CCP should do about destroyed PLEX, but I suspect they have an airtight legal case limiting their liability entirely based on the first two points of my first comment.

    -Liang

  16. Old Tom
    August 9, 2010 | 3:07 pm

    Webmaster …

    I think you are mistaken in conflating, on the one hand,the current uproar against CCP in re developer time/CSM minutes/European Game Awards bru-haha, and on the other, the potential negative publicity over this PLEX loss.

    The uproar is about the state of the game, unfinished features and above all .. horrific lag reintroduced 6 months ago.

    The PLEX event is anything but positive publicity from CCP’s perspective. This tale of woe is a market meme for them and their cold-harsh world. If they were to give in and make some restoration .. you can bet the howls from the forums would be overpowering. “No Comment” from CCP is not ignoring a problem, its relishing that Eve is working as designed .. i.e. positive publicity.

    Regarding the Warranty (I don’t like warantee :-p) .. I feel in general people are ignoring the distinction between a “game-time code” and a PLEX. One is an item purchase-able with actual currency. The other is purely an in-game item with an added feature of allowing the holder to redeem for game time. I think any legal discussion of an implied warranty applies only to the game-time code and not to the PLEX. Regarding the PLEX, I agree with Kirith .. losses of a PLEX should be treated like any other in-game item and not warrant any restoration.

  17. Webmaster
    August 9, 2010 | 3:11 pm

    Thats all fine but as sister tells me you would have to get Fran to read the website first to actually get the message – better off to write to her direct at noprisonersnomercy@gmail.com.

    As for anything else, it makes a great topic for discussion. I will bring that up next time I talk to one of the sisters. Who knows, maybe one day they will even take call in comments? Unless I am mistaken they normally record on Wednesdays.

  18. Beowolf Schaefer
    August 9, 2010 | 3:17 pm

    Make reparations to whom? The people who actually purchased the items from CCP have already gotten what they wanted, GTCs.

    I absolutely agree that GTCs are an item that is covered by the Warrantee of Merchantability, but I don’t see how that has any effect on items which are created as a product of those same GTCs. Just because the Plexes were created as a product of a warranty-able item does not mean they are covered by any warranty themselves.

    For the record, CCP does provide a perfectly safe method of exchanging GTCs for ISK directly via the account management website.

  19. Kirith Kodachi
    August 9, 2010 | 3:27 pm

    “As sister says, this isn’t about in game items, but warrantees – nobody said a thing about whether plex can be turned into dollars, isk, or wombats.”

    OK, let’s see if I follow then.
    CCP sold the tiem code that was successfully converted into plex.
    Pilot with plex in hold got killed.

    Is the argument that by allowing the plex to be destroyed via game mechanics that CCP violated the warranty of the sold item (i.e timecode)?

  20. Webmaster
    August 9, 2010 | 3:59 pm

    @ Kirith: Nope. What I AM saying is that I don’t think that CCP cares one way or the other. I doubt they will ever say a word on the matter (they haven’t so far, and that includes thier mostly inactive tweet feed). I am also saying that odds are they don’t give a sh*t one way or the other about player reaction until it reaches the level of hell no we won’t vote for Eve in the Eurpoean Gamer Awards. Who knows?
    @Old Tom: Game Time Code vs. Plex? Sounds like a matter of semantics to me.
    @ Anyone who cares to listen: I don’t have a problem with the isk being stolen, just with it being blown up because (depending on how you look at it) it is supposed to be used for game time.

    *edit*

    And for those who need to follow it on the forums here it is.

  21. Old Tom
    August 9, 2010 | 4:17 pm

    @Webmaster: “Game Time Code vs. Plex? Sounds like a matter of semantics to me.”

    Case dismissed .. semantics is the lifeblood of the law. If you think we’re just splitting hairs, then we can dispense with this whole “Warantee of Merchantability” line of argument and descend to the “Eve is just full of mean griefers” threat.

    I’ll bow out here as that topic is of no interest to me.

  22. sid67
    August 9, 2010 | 4:23 pm

    @webmaster:

    Understand that with the “destruction” of PLEX, CCP profits. To say that the “don’t care one way or the other” I think is a gross mis-characterization.

    As I wrote on my blog today, I suspect that CCP is well aware of the impact and it’s deliberate, intentional and motivated entirely by self interest.

    Consider this.. what happens to cash flow for CCP when there are too many PLEX game cards floating and lots of players using them instead of paying subscriptions?

  23. Webmaster
    August 9, 2010 | 5:36 pm

    Nothing has stirred up this much angst one way or another since, since *thinks* oh yes, suicide gankers, Hulkageddon and the rest. Wait. Lets throw this into the mix; the suicide gankers where nothing but worthless little wankers to begin with!!!

  24. DannyDeranged
    August 10, 2010 | 1:42 am

    Correction: These weren’t suicide gankers. This was done under a wardec. Not to mention, if you don’t want to get suicide ganked, go play Guild Wars.

  25. Webmaster
    August 10, 2010 | 3:15 am

    Hi there deranged…not a long time reader I guess. It also seems I should throw up a big flag that says SARCASM, WARNING, WARNING WILL ROBINSON, SARCASM. The remark was prompted by the fact that there is nothing to prove sister’s point where she says “hell hath no fury like a gamer scorned” like this comment thread. The comment was also prompted by our earlier dealings with Hulkageddon, read here.

    Regarding your suggstions for a new game to try – thank you for the suggestion, however I believe I will continue to not like suicide ganking in Eve regardless of your feelings of how I should spend my recreative time. And yes, I do understand the concept of emergant gameplay. Still I could care less whether they were suicide gankers or suicide wankers, but thank you for clarifying that issue for us. My apologies for not being clearer – you run along and play now.

  26. Old Tom
    August 10, 2010 | 8:29 am

    I’ll give one more comment .. perhaps more a meta-comment.

    Webmaster, I think your gloss of this comment’s thread is off-base and possibly disingenuous. You write that this comments thread as proof of “gamers’ scorn,” perhaps because of the sister’s negative reaction to a beloved game.

    Rather, I believe the vast majority of comments here are on point and are an attempt to engage in what I thought was an interesting discussion.

    Sr. Julie’s post about the PLEX incident was intriguing. Rather than just jump into a shallow discussion of Eve being too harsh, suicide-whatevers, high-sec should be secure, etc., she forwarded an argument about possible legal implications of the incident. I believe that many of the posters responded to that legal argument.

    As a rebuttal, you have dodged the arguments, written me off as being semantic and painted a caricature of this thread as being full of the rage of fanbois (gamers’ scorn – my paraphrase). In addition, Sr. Julie’s only comments to this thread as in the same vein. In fact, my first post to this thread was pointing out how she was ignoring the quite substantive points made by other posters.

    If you want to have a substantive argument, fine .. let’s do so. But don’t ignore arguments of those who disagree with you (quite convincing arguments in my opinion) and then paint us as being scorned. Your opinion of Eve doesn’t effect my mood one way or the other.

    Perhaps next time, you could drop the pretense of making a substantive point and just stay in the shallow end of the pool.