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Mar 21

A recent conversation in Trade channel, transcribed verbatim:

Gold farmer: [insert gold seller spam here, including phrase "100% legal"]
Player A: I like that 100% legal bit, as it is 0% legal
Me: Actually, is it illegal? It’s against the EULA and the TOS, but they’re not laws
Player A: It is “illegal” as far as Blizzard is concerned
Me: That’s not the same as ‘illegal’ though
Player B: It is illegal as far as the courts are concerned too, as Blizzard won a ginormous suit against a “gold farming company” not too long ago
Player A: Semantics get you nowhere
Me: That’s a civil case. If it were illegal, it would have been prosecuted by the government (ie police/district attorney/whoever does that job in the jurisdiction in question)
Player C: Hey, lawyer boy. STFU
Me: Just curious – I see people say “it’s illegal” all the time; I just wondered if anyone had any evidence for it.
Player A: Defending gold farmers is epic fail
Me: I’m not defending them!
Player A: Everything we say pertains to the game. As far as the rules of the game go, it is “illegal”. You get banned for using the services
Player D: Illegal is the wrong word
Player A: Again, semantics get you nowhere. We know what we mean. You know what we mean.
Me: Pardon me for wanting to use the correct words for things.
Player E: Its in the EULA, its violates the terms of the game… which is also bound by a court ruling
Me: Show me a law against gold farming, selling or buying
Player E: Also high chance the gold they sell is stolen from a hacked account. Trafficing in Stolen Goods… Hows that one
Player A: Which is theft of intellectual property. Which is, in fact, illegal

I should have known better than to expect critical thinking from the denizens of the Trade channel – however, I’m curious. Is gold selling actually illegal, in any jurisdiction? Or is it merely a violation of the TOS/TOU/EULA and therefore purely a civil matter? Any lawyers in the audience able to help me out?

(Note that I am not, as some genius in Trade channel suggested, supporting the Real Money Transfer industry; I’m merely curious about the actual legality of it.)

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27 Comments

Comment by Alex

Made Friday, 21 of March , 2008 at 10:07 pm

Answers to your questions:
It is NOT illegal and you are completely right, that it doesn’t constitute a criminal offense (in ANY jurisdiction and can NEVER be!). It MAY be considered a ‘breach of contract’ (EULA) IF (!!!) and here’s the important part of it… only IF the court upholds the ‘contract’ itself, which is almost impossible (and there are precedents), because all EULA are in fact ‘contracts of adhesion’ (mmm… you may think about it as an ‘unfair contract’).
People you were talking to didn’t understand the substance of the matter.

Comment by Ratshag

Made Friday, 21 of March , 2008 at 10:58 pm

Is not illegal. Blizz has gone after certain companies fer certain practices which interfere with they’s business, but yeah, that’s a civil thing. But they can’t go after them fer the actual sellings of the gold, ’cause as fer as the law is concerned, the gold don’t exist. In fact Blizz don’t want the law to recognize virtual gold, ’cause then it could be taxed and other sillies. So there can’t be no legal actions against ya fer buying the non-existant gold. TOS =/= The Law.

‘Course, if you takes legal advice from a simple orc like me, well, then …

Comment by Kyrilean

Made Friday, 21 of March , 2008 at 11:37 pm

I’m no lawyer, but I do work with contracts on a daily basis. I would have to agree that you are correct. Yes, maybe it is semantics to the layman and yes you understood what they meant, whether or not they themselves did before you pointed it out.

Gold selling is a huge business nowadays and it’s only natural to be curious about it. I myself am curious about individual experiences with it. I do not know anyone personally who has purchased gold, or at least they’ve never admitted to it. I have suspected one friend, but that’s not something you accuse someone of.

Comment by Matticus

Made Saturday, 22 of March , 2008 at 1:22 am

I don’t believe it’s actually in the criminal code of any countries. However, I believe the actual RMT of gold or virtual items or what not is a violation of the EULA. If it’s a violation of the EULA, then Blizz DOES have the right to invoke suspensions on your account.

Comment by dorgol

Made Saturday, 22 of March , 2008 at 2:54 am

Ratters gets it right again. IIRC the ruling against Peons was that the in-game advertisements were considered harrassment and Peons would have to stop that practice.

Comment by Siha

Made Saturday, 22 of March , 2008 at 3:51 am

Kyrilean – I’ve known someone who bought gold, and who paid for power levelling. He was a busy CEO (of a multi-million dollar company) who enjoyed raiding and endgame play, but had zero desire to grind or level alts. Heck, I’ve known a guildie who sold gold to IGE – he was a very capable farmer (back when having thousands of gold was a heck of an achievement) and he was a poverty-stricken student who used the money to buy a new video card… to play WoW with. :) Whether it’s right or wrong – and I don’t think my views are quite the same as many WoW players – it’s certainly understandable, in situations like that.

Comment by Siha

Made Saturday, 22 of March , 2008 at 3:52 am

Matticus – yeah, I know that RMT is totally against the EULA. My issue is with the people who can’t distinguish between civil contracts and criminal law. God forbid they ever get arrested for anything…

Comment by Kestrel

Made Saturday, 22 of March , 2008 at 8:46 am

Ratshag pretty much nailed it. (Sometimes I think he’s a Night Elf in disguise, he’s so smart!) Especially the part about Blizzard (and every other MMO-maker) not wanting virtual gold being recognized as a real (I almost said “tangible” but that’s not quite the same as “real”) asset.

That’s why the game developers/publishers maintain that all content, including “created” content such as crafted items, remain the property of, in this case, Blizzard. Once it becomes our property, the US IRS will want to consider it a tangible asset (and if they don’t, State Revenue offices sure will!) and *boom* — taxed. Bleh.

Comment by Adam

Made Saturday, 22 of March , 2008 at 10:29 am

Player A, Player B, Player C, and Player E are all “epic fail.”

I am not much of a MMO player, but I fully believe that MMO creators should sell their in-game currency, and they should also allow players to buy characters that start at a specific level, for non-PVP servers [and not allow "bought" characters to transfer to non-PVP servers.]

The type of fun that I may want to have in the game — fueled by gold/level purchases or not — does not infringe the fun that anyone else can have in the game, unless I’m actively doing things to grief someone, which would be frowned upon regardless of how my character got to the power level they were. It’s a *cooperative* game, not a competitive one.

I’ve seen the logic that “Blizzard is better off charging you monthly to grind characters up than it is to charge you extra to buy your way higher” — and I don’t buy that, because I believe there is a clear and obvious market of people who don’t want to grind, and who are willing to throw money at that problem; so they may as well throw that money at Blizzard instead of 3rd party gold sellers. Not only would that add to Blizzard’s bottom line, but if they helped cut the 3rd party seller market down they would be able to spend LESS time on all the various problems that arise from 3rd party sellers.

Comment by James

Made Saturday, 22 of March , 2008 at 5:03 pm

il·le·gal /ɪˈligÉ™l/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[i-lee-guhl] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
–adjective
1. forbidden by law or statute.
2. contrary to or forbidden by official rules, regulations, etc.: The referee ruled that it was an illegal forward pass.

Well certainly selling gold is against the offical rules and ergo Illegal. That being said i hate semantics but were you actually asking about the word usage or if gold selling actually impinged on any real-world law? I wasn’t sure.

Comment by Gwaendar

Made Saturday, 22 of March , 2008 at 9:39 pm

He was a busy CEO (of a multi-million dollar company)

Funny, they always are CEOs. If you go by the admitted gold-buyers or pro-RMTers in the game, WoW has more CEOs players than there are multi-million dollar companies out there. I’m sorry, I don’t buy it.

That being said, in WoW’s case, RMT is a breach of contract, and could probably be extended to intellectual property issues if needed.

I am not much of a MMO player, but I fully believe that MMO creators should sell their in-game currency, and they should also allow players to buy characters that start at a specific level,

There are MMOs out there offering this, there’s definitely a market for it. I don’t play these and never will, though. Just as I wouldn’t like to compete in a sports where doping is allowed.

Comment by Siha

Made Saturday, 22 of March , 2008 at 11:51 pm

@ James – that’s a good point – definition #2 would certainly apply here. Though really, I’m more curious about the actual real-world legality (and in fact I’m fairly confident it’s not illegal), but semantically speaking you’re absolutely right.

@Gwaendar – he definitely was (and still is) a CEO, and I know it was a multi-million-dollar company, because he was my boss. :) That said, I know people are prone to amplification and will puff up any anecdote to try and make it sound more impressive, but I try not to do that if I can help it.

Comment by Adam

Made Sunday, 23 of March , 2008 at 12:31 am

There are MMOs out there offering this, there’s definitely a market for it. I don’t play these and never will, though. Just as I wouldn’t like to compete in a sports where doping is allowed.

I think this is a silly comparison, as WoW is not a sport. You are not competing against anyone else in the game [I explicitly said that buying gold/levels should not be allowed on PVP servers] except in your own head — first to ding level 70, first to beat a certain boss, whatever. And if your fun is hinged on whether I’ve done something or whether I have a nifty piece of gear, well, I don’t know what to tell you: that’s not how I’m wired.

And I hate to digress into sports too much, but: if doping is allowed in a sport, then it isn’t illegal [in the second def of the word, and maybe not the first] nor unfair. When they change the rules in a pro league, a bunch of players don’t sit around playing by the old rules. They might not like it, but they change and adapt. I understand that some people believe doping to be dangerous [I'm one of those people] but I don’t think self-harm or potential self-harm should be legislated against.

Comment by Gwaendar

Made Sunday, 23 of March , 2008 at 4:01 am

And if your fun is hinged on whether I’ve done something or whether I have a nifty piece of gear, well, I don’t know what to tell you: that’s not how I’m wired.

That’s not the issue and I suspect you know it. When there is open access to loot for real money in a game not designed around this notion, what happens is simple: the casual player who doesn’t want to buy himself into the game gets denied access to any group activity in favour of those who bought their way in. As simple as that. What other people are wearing is something I couldn’t care less, I don’t play to prance around in shines. But group play is something which is inherently part of a MMOG, and if one uses real money as means of advancement by design that’s OK with me (wouldn’t play one, as I said, but I don’t see an issue with it). However RMT either in breach of contract or opened up after the fact is something which completely changes the rule of the game as advertised, and that’s something I’m dead against.

No, you aren’t competing against people in the game, you are competing for access to content. I play a game where 15$ monthly subscription and whatever efforts or time I invest is the gateway to content, and that’s enough investment. I don’t want to have to spend more cash for that access. And it’s a matter of preference, indeed. But just as there is a market for games designed around microtransactions, there is a market for games who do without it. Switching the whole industry to micro-transactions would be silly.

Comment by Adam

Made Sunday, 23 of March , 2008 at 4:30 am

I don’t see the situation you describe happening, because there are plenty of people who do enjoy the group activities, leveling a group of characters together, going on bigger and badder raids, etc. Just like console games: sure you could plug in the cheat codes and get 30 lives, but everyone still challenged each other to get as far as they could on the paltry 3 lives the game provided by default.

And if you misunderstood me to suggest that there be content that was accessible by payment only, [beyond subscription fees and expansions], then I could understand some confusion.

There are a lot of things about paid access to content that need careful consideration, certainly, but I believe players that take advantage of it can exist side-by-side with players that don’t want to. After all, just as some guilds would outright reject or shun someone who bought gold now, I’m sure that there would be RMT-Free guilds if RMT was made available.

I’m totally fine with having a little badge on my character that says “I’m willing to spend more money to have more fun.” :-)

Comment by Gwaendar

Made Sunday, 23 of March , 2008 at 7:03 am

Today already, the first selection criteria before a player gets a chance for a test run, that is, to show whether he has the required skills, even for the more casual raiding guilds, is gear. Hand out T5 gear for cash and the brand new non-RMT player won’t get any chance to gear up anymore. Who will run the normal instances so he can get Kara-ready? Who will go back to Kara for him to get ready for T5 content? When there is always going to be another player with deep pockets who could join the people and be ready from day one.

Beyond that, even on PvE servers, gear doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Battlegrounds and Arena would be massively penalized by such a system, not to mention that the current cross-server battlegroups mix up both PvE and PvP (which you want to exempt, for some reason) realms.

Last but not least, if someone “doesn’t have the time to level a char”, I wonder where he finds the time to play a char (and probably get piggybacked by 24 other people while he learns to play his bought toon).

You want “RMT free” guilds? How would they tell? A special note in the character like the badge you mentionned? I’m all for it in that case, because in that case, the customers will be nicely segregated away by the others. Just have to make sure the matchmaker for PvP tells them apart too.

Comment by James

Made Sunday, 23 of March , 2008 at 7:47 am

Ahh right i thought you were speaking of the legality of it Yet the Player A-E thought you meant the word so i went with them. Well as far as the legality goes there is no law against there may be conventions etc. I am unsure of U.S law however i know australian law would hold to the terms which all agree to. But as far as any real world punishment i don’t think it could happen. Unless of course they went with the ridiculously complex laws involving the internet fair use copyright etc. But theres just waaay too much red tape and china doesn’t recognize gold-selling as a crime due to their unemployment rate (That i got from an interview a while back that i wish i could remember where It was called interview with a gold farmer discussed all this and actually why the farm gold due to the aforementioned unemployment)So in short it is against the game rules you will be banned as far as real-life goes well good luck blizzard on that front but i can’t see them making any real headway especially after that whole Warden/glider debacle.

Comment by James

Made Sunday, 23 of March , 2008 at 8:06 am

Actually i can’t find the original interview but i did manage to find a few things that concern this topic.
Firstly i must say i do not sympathize with gold farming companies in the least not only do they destroy wow’s economy but they also exploit workers the farmers getting 71 cents an hour 100 bucks a month which is just insane to me. That being said i can understand the farmers themselves why they do it (lack of jobs) however that shouldn’t stop you from reporting them and making life difficult. Hell if they get banned they don’t have to pay for it their parent company does. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KH1LGdjZUKQ – An interesting take on gold farming i must say i raised my eyebrows at a few things he says specifically about Botting and his Policeman and thief analogy.
Anyway concerning the legality once more http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=106771592&sid=1
i think this suit is just to “test the waters” so to speak. They chose a relatively large company to deal with and only one rather than taking on multiple companies i think this to see if they will be successful at taking down any gold farming company.

Also note Eyonix does not mention anything about gold farming per say rather the spam within it perhaps they have already realized they can’t win? if this is the case their lawyers attacking the spamming must have some rarely used law on their side else they would attack the farming/hacking as well in my opinion.

Comment by Adam

Made Monday, 24 of March , 2008 at 9:34 am

So, this invasion of RMT players is going to somehow ruin the game by monopolizing everything, even though they’re also going to suck because they aren’t taking the time to learn the game … right. That makes a lot of sense.

Comment by Gwaendar

Made Monday, 24 of March , 2008 at 11:29 am

OK, I’ll try to explain this slowly, try to follow:
1) The first criteria to join any endgame activity people are looking for is gear
2) Now give players the possibility to purchase gear for money in a game which wasn’t designed that way
3) Players who do not participate in tacked-on RMT will get overlooked and will have a much harder time to find the groups needed to gear up so that they can at least compete for the activities as above, first point.

You just created an additional divide between players, this time based on money. Real money effectively becomes an additional barrier to content.

Got that part or do I have to type slower?

Now if you also add the possibility to purchase full level-capped characters, the following will happen:
1) Activities in the levelling part of the game will dry up even more
2) The slots for endgame activities will be competed for by players who will require piggybacking because they can’t play their toons.

Two different types of transactions, two different effects. Got it now?

Comment by Siha

Made Monday, 24 of March , 2008 at 12:52 pm

Given the nature of raiding, the addition of RMT for gear would certainly pose some problems for endgame. RMT for gold only, on the other hand, may be a different matter.

Comment by Kyrilean

Made Tuesday, 25 of March , 2008 at 12:02 am

Adam: I am not much of a MMO player, but I fully believe that MMO creators should sell their in-game currency, and they should also allow players to buy characters that start at a specific level, for non-PVP servers [and not allow “bought” characters to transfer to non-PVP servers.]

Not sure why you have such an opinion if you’re not really into MMO. I disagree that all MMO creators should allow this. If they want to, fine I don’t much care, it’s then part of the game.

Adam: The type of fun that I may want to have in the game — fueled by gold/level purchases or not — does not infringe the fun that anyone else can have in the game, unless I’m actively doing things to grief someone, which would be frowned upon regardless of how my character got to the power level they were.

As it pertains to gold purchases, I agree. Power leveling would be something different based on circumstances. Recently I kept running with a level 70 warlock, not by personal choice, that was always 7th on the damage meter. Whether or not this person power leveled, she doesn’t know how to play her toon and ultimately affected all of us.

Adam: It’s a *cooperative* game, not a competitive one.

Amen to that!!! I still think RMT is cheating, but that’s based on my views and why I play. If someone else wants to do that, as long as it doesn’t adversely affect my game, then why should I care? I’m not enough of an expert to see if it adversely affects WoW’s economy or not. I’ve been playing less than a year, but it doesn’t appear to do that much harm. So why should I care why someone else, especially someone I don’t know, geared up through RMT or power-leveling services?

Hopefully we’re only competing against ourselves and not others. Just like in real life there’s always someone else out there that’s better than us in one aspect or another. Hold your candle against yourself, not others, and you won’t be disappointed.

Comment by Kyrilean

Made Tuesday, 25 of March , 2008 at 12:10 am

@ Gwaendar
1) Agreed.
2) Blizzard’s solution to this seems to be the badges. I hope they continue this. Granted the way around this is through power-leveling options and not gold selling.
3) I disagree. I believe there’s still a lot of us out there that are unwilling to pay additional for gear. I already pay enough as it is, no way am I giving someone more money to gear up! Besides that, I believe a majority still enjoy the experience of leveling up and gaining things through “legitimate” means.
**Regarding full capped characters
1) Yes some, but again I think there’s a majority of people that still enjoy going through the process.
2) This is the biggest reason why I’m against power-leveling and think it’s detrimental to all.

Comment by Fedorin

Made Wednesday, 26 of March , 2008 at 12:16 pm

Either that’s not [2. Trade] or that hasn’t actually been transcribed verbatim.

All the words are spelled correctly, for a start.

Comment by Decado

Made Wednesday, 26 of March , 2008 at 9:56 pm

well this is an interesting discussion.
For what it’s worth I don’t think it is technicaly illegal however since it does go against the EULA your account could, and should, get banned.
Toward the other comments, I don’t think gold should ever be made for sale by Blizzard. I agree with several above posters when I say that it would really screw up the in game economy.
Character leveling on the other hand I would handle a bit differently. they are already planning on the death knight starting at a higher level (rumor says between 55 and 60) after your high level toon finishes a quest to unlock it. How about allowing my account to unlock a similarly advanced character of the other classes with a quest completed at the level cap?
if implemented in the expansion one would still have to level through the last 20 to 25 levels with the character, learning the class on the way. It might be said that this would starve the new player of people to quest and instance with, but I don’t think so. The folks that are leveling alts through grouping, instancing, and generally running with others of their current level would continue to do so. Those that are just interested in leveling up as fast as possible to catch up to the rest of their friends are already likely to be using a solo questing type leveling guide to get it done as fast as possible.
And now off on a tangent, Another thing that would be interesting would be to have a way to temporarily “scale down” your character. So for instance a friend new to the game wants to run wailing caverns on his level 21 main character I would be able to come along with my 70 and have his abilities and bonuses temporarily dropped down to level appropriate for the instance.
You would get lots more folks running the lower level stuff if you could do it this way, effectively recycling old content.

wow, sorry for the “wall ‘o text” apparently I got carried away

Comment by Gwaendar

Made Thursday, 27 of March , 2008 at 7:17 am

How about allowing my account to unlock a similarly advanced character of the other classes with a quest completed at the level cap?

That one I’m all for it. You get to level 80 and quest to unlock an option allowing you to select to reroll new toons either at 1 or at the DK’s starting level. Had that thought since DK got announced, moreso since they aren’t introducing a healing hero class at the same time as DK.

Comment by Chill

Made Friday, 28 of March , 2008 at 4:21 am

I know it’s a different topic than the op but since it has wormed its way in here I’ll give it a go.
[i]
1) The first criteria to join any endgame activity people are looking for is gear
2) Now give players the possibility to purchase gear for money in a game which wasn’t designed that way
3) Players who do not participate in tacked-on RMT will get overlooked and will have a much harder time to find the groups needed to gear up so that they can at least compete for the activities as above, first point.[\i]

The faulty logic in this argument is to say that currently all players are on even ground. Or, if you prefer, that only new players would ever buy levels/gear. I’ve found that though I have over 2 years of playing time on WoW and have played every race and every class, I can’t join in on end-game raiding in the way that I would like. My level 70 toon is a warlock. I’m tired of dps’ing in dungeons and raids and I want to tank. Now, I know what it takes to be a good tank even though I don’t have one. I also don’t have the time or desire to spend countless more hours wading through westfall to level a new character. Because I have a job and a wife and a family, I’m already limited on my ability to compete with the hard-core players who have virtually unlimited time to play.
These players are “purchasing” their toons and their gear with currency. That currency being time. I can’t afford to spend as much time as they do on mindless farming. Does that make me a worse raid-member? Only by standards of gear.

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