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Are Virtual Items Worth Nothing?


Blaine, WI resident, Geoff Luurs fell victim to a heinous crime. His "friend" obtained his user name and password and wiped his FFXI account clean. Luurs did the math and claims that he lost over $3800 worth of virtual property (and subsequently, his girlfriend [j/k people with $4k worth of good in FFXI don't have girlfriends]). He called the police, but they did nothing because they believe that the goods have no real value. No real value! no real value! Dammit, my gil is worth something!

However, if the government begins recognizing virtual items as having real value, then the next logical step would be to tax them. It would not make sense otherwise. It is akin to the "don't give licenses to illegals" argument in the sense that one arm of the government (police saying the virtual goods have worth) to take an opposite stance to another arm of the government (the IRS saying they have no worth). The thing that perplexes me though is that it seems well-settled to me that this stuff has value. While it may not have a physical manifestation, there are still people who are willing to buy 'worthless' virtual items - if a WoW gift card came out that only had an azure dragon whelp pet, I bet people would buy it. Virtual goods are commodities.

While I agree that the tax implications are mind-boggling, and surely going to be a pain to gamers everywhere, virtual goods will be eventually thought of the way they should be, as valuable property, for better or worse.

What do you think?

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About Joseph Gabaeffone of us since 12:42 PM on 01.30.2008

I am an intellectual property lawyer in Palo Alto, CA, where I specialize in interactive media. What this means is that I get a pat on the back when I play World of Warcraft at work. Yea-uh! I am also Editor-in-chief and founder of Bloggey Kong, a blog dedicated to tracking legal developments in Interactive Media.

I wouldn't be a lawyer without a disclaimer:
Joe Gabaeff is a licensed attorney in the State of California. Opinions expressed in this column are Mr. Gabaeff's own (but even he doesn't believe all of this stuff). Reach him at: [email protected]

The content of his blog articles is not legal advice, and is for educational and informational purposes only. It only constitutes commentary on legal issues. Reading this blog, replying to its posts, or any other interaction on this site does not create an attorney-client privilege between you and the author. The opinions expressed on this site are not the opinions of Destructoid.com. As with any legal issue that may confront you in a particular situation, you should always consult a licensed attorney familiar with the laws in your state.

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