One of the areas I’m curious about (see previous posts here and here) is the development of practices and laws concerning virtual property in China. China currently has a system of mixed ownership models (private, state, cooperative, joint venture, etc.) and a range of legal protections for different kinds of property (the recent nailhouse events are an example of this). No reason to think that we won’t, therefore, see some unique solutions to the kinds of virtual economy problems that the folks at Terra Nova have been writing about so eloquently for years. Found this on cndig: from the China Youth Daily, "How much are QQ numbers actually worth?" Below is a summary of what I found interesting in the article.
Apparently there was a vigorous debate on the legal status of virtual property at a China Forum on Internet and IPR Criminal Protection that recently took place in Shenzhen. Because the law is unclear about the status of various kinds of virtual assets, it’s hard for officials to know how to define and prosecute virtual asset theft.
Located in Shenzhen, Tencent CEO Ma Huateng in his capacity as a People’s Congress Deputy for Shenzhen recently submitted a report on IP crimes and virtual assets to the Shenzhen Municipal Procuratorate. The report points out that Tencent is often a victim of Internet crimes and that legal mechanisms for addressing these problems are inadequate.
CNNIC reports that 61% of gamers have had virtual assets stolen and 77% feel that the current online atmosphere is unsafe for virtual assets.
There are two distinct camps in the legal discussion of virtual assets. One side thinks that virtual assets constitute an investment like any other, and are exchangeable with real money, and therefore should be protected under the law like any other asset. The other side thinks that virtual assets are only valuable in the context of the game, and only for gamers. They’re not universally recognized assets with a universally recognized value. They are also only retrievable if the server is available.
China University of Political Science and Law professor Hou Guoyun sees virtual assets as ill gotten gains and believes that giving them legal protection will not stop virtual asset theft, and will only encourage more young people to enter the world of gaming.
The Internet Crime section of the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau says they get roughly ten reports PER DAY of stolen virtual assets, which are hard to know how to prosecute given the current status under law. Should they be classified as robberies? Fraud? A judge in Shanghai says that virtual asset cases often cause vigorous debate inside China’s courts as to whether they should be classified as crimes or not.
Back in Shenzhen’s Nanshan district, legal cases on record have clearly established that 1 Q coin equals 1 RMB, and that Q coins clearly have the attributes of property. Likewise for virtual equipment that can be bought and sold in a market. However, the status of QQ numbers is less clear. Can they be defined as property? Because the value of QQ numbers is hard to estimate, it then becomes hard to define QQ number theft as criminal theft.
Professor and legal expert Zhao Bingzhi points out that because QQ numbers can be exchanged in an online platform this shows that they have an economic value and therefore are no different than other objects which are currently under the category of property theft.