You May be Legally Liable Offline for your Actions Online
The lines between reality and virtual reality are getting increasingly blurred. In Japan a woman was arrested and charged for murdering her husband. A tragic but commonplace crime you might say but the husband she was charged for murdering was not real. The woman, a 43-year-old piano teacher, and her ‘husband’, a 33-year-old office worker were players in an online game in which their avatars met and got married. Suddenly, one day, the online ‘husband’ divorced his online ‘wife’. The enraged lady retaliated by logging in to the game using his login and killing his character thereby murdering her online ‘ex’. The bereaved man lodged a protest with the police and she was arrested, not for murder however, but for illegally accessing the account.
As more and more people create identities and lives online the definition of materiality is being altered, perhaps, forever. Take, for example, Second Life – a 3D virtual world developed by Linden Lab that enables its users, to interact with each other through avatars. Residents (avatars) can explore, meet other residents, socialize, even get married and divorced, and create, own and trade in virtual property and services, or travel the world, which is called the grid. Second Life has its own virtual currency – the Linden Dollar which can be traded on real life currency exchanges. Some countries even have embassies in Second Life. A theft or fraud in Second Life can have material consequences in the real world.
It is becoming generally accepted that virtual property has real value and virtual crimes have spawned a whole new class of crime in real life. Not just virtual crime but crime committed using virtual space is also coming on the radar now. Shannon Jackson of Hendersonville, Tennessee was arrested after she violated a court order by poking a woman on Facebook. The alleged poke was considered a violation of the terms of the order which were, “no telephoning, contacting or otherwise communicating with the petitioner.” Internet users must understand that online actions can have serious offline consequences and be very careful about how they work and play on the Net.