Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The legality of RTM

Well there we have it. The inevitable post about real money transfers and the implied legalities / illegalities of such.

Now I am no lawyer, and good lawyers that actually have half a clue about intellectual property in combination with RTM in online worlds are rare (as unusual as that may be for a lawyering field).

Still, having worked in the field of software development over the last 10 years next to having it as a hobby has taught me a fair share about intellectual property, money transfers and whatnot.

I remember the olden days where diablo2 items were sold en-masse on Ebay, I also remember how quickly that got stopped.

But what's the truth? what's the deal? Is it illegal or is it just plain annoying?

I am not going to elaborate on the impact of gold-selling and account selling on the economy of a MMO because either way 'value items' do not leave the system easily anyway (see castranova's analysis of ultima online's open / closed economy).

There are however 2 quintessential truths to the matter:

1. By selling gold/items/characters for real money you are breaking the TOS / EULA of blizzard.
2. By selling gold/items/characters for real money you are selling the intellectual poroperty of Blizzard.

You can argue about number one. Company terms of services are hard reads, seldomly easy to interpret and very subjective when they actually do make it to court.

However number 2 is beyond argumentation even though most people do not understand it. Anything you work for in-game and everything you achieve doesn't become yours. You pay a certain fee a month to be able to use services blizzard provides for you. Your character, the items on your character and the gold you 'have' are in fact not actually yours but property of blizzard (as defined by intellectual property laws).
So if you are actively selling your stuff online you are in fact selling someone else's property which in fact is illegal and subject to litigation from blizzard's side.

That's it... that's all there is to say about the matter. I leave it up to you to make assumptions or imply things like if it were actually your property it'd be subject to taxation and so on and so forth.

The fact of the matter is that your 15$ a month buy you nothing except the right to use Blizzard's intellectual property on Blizzard's servers. Anyone presuming otherwise and claiming any form of ownership and the sales rights attached to such ownership is plain and simply wrong.

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