*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:
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
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.
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:
@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]