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Diablo III Players Stole Virtual Armor and Gold — Prosecuted IRL

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http://disinfo.com/2015/05/diablo-iii-players-stole-virtual-armor-and-gold-prosecuted-irl/

Proving that the lines between your video game life and your real life are becoming increasingly fuzzy, two gamers who stole a load of loot in Diablo III have pled guilty in a real life case based on their virtual crimes, reports Fusion:

These days, we all have shadow selves that exist in virtual environments — be it on Facebook, Twitter, or in video games. And those digital avatars, it turns out, can get us in IRL trouble. Last year, in a first-of-its-kind legal case that has not previously been reported, two men pled guilty to misdemeanors in California and Maryland that stemmed from their robbing video game characters of gold, weapons and armor.

In the summer of 2012, Patrick Nepomuceno of California and Michael Stinger of Maryland, who had met each other through gaming chat platform TeamSpeak, committed a series of virtual “hold-ups” in the role-playing video game Diablo III. They sold the armor and weapons they stole from other players for over $8,000 in real money, according to court documents. It’s a fascinating example of the justice system grappling with digital wrongdoing, and deciding how harshly to punish people for stealing virtual items.

Diablo III, a video game made by Blizzard Entertainment, was one of the most popular games in 2012, selling 12 million copies. In May of that year, players started to complain on game message boards about their gear and gold being stolen. “The Blizzard boards lit up with people complaining,” said L.A.-based federal prosecutor Tracy Wilkison, in a phone interview. “So Blizzard brought the theft to us.”

According to Wilkison, court documents, and an interview with Michael Stinger, Nepomuceno bought a RAT, a ‘remote access tool’ used to take over a computer remotely. Nepomuceno and Stinger got other Diablo III players to download the RAT by disguising it as a link to a photo, which they claimed was a screenshot of a rare item. After a player clicked on the link and downloaded the RAT, Nepomuceno gained access to their computer, and was able to take over their Diablo character. He would force the character to drop all of the valuable gear and gold the player had collected, and Stinger’s demon hunter character, who was hanging out nearby in the game, would swoop in to steal the goods…

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Good! Property is property. Some game items have real world value. And the RAT is basically breaking and entering. 

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