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    Gamer slays rival after online dispute
Cao Li and Jiao Xiaoyang
2005-03-30 05:47

SHANGHAI: A Shanghai on-line game player murdered a competitor who he claimed sold his cyberweapon, a court was told yesterday.

Shanghai No 2 Intermediate People's Court heard Qiu Chengwei, 41, allegedly stabbed competitor Zhu Caoyuan repeatedly in the chest after he was told Zhu had sold his Dragon Sabre weapon used in the popular online game, Legend of Mir III.

Qiu and a friend jointly won the weapon online last February, and lent it to Zhu who then sold it for 7,200 yuan (US$871).

Qiu went to the police to report the "theft" but was told the weapon was not counted as real property protected by law.

Zhu promised to handover the cash but an angry Qiu lost patience and attacked Zhu at his home, stabbing him in the left chest "with great force," and killing him, the court was told. Qiu gave himself up to police and on the advice of his lawyer, has pleaded guilty to intentional injury, claiming he never meant to kill Zhu.

However, the public pro-secutor told the court: "As cyberweapons are not under the protection of any law in our country, Zhu was faultless in this case." The court has yet to issue its verdict, but either charge can result in capital punishment under China's Criminal Law.

Qiu has a chance to appeal to the city's higher court for a second trial, whose findings will be conclusive.

The case has added to the legal dilemma in China where no law exists for the ownership of Internet gaming weapons.

Qiu's case is the second high profile case to come before courts.

In November 2003, a 23-year-old player from North China's Hebei Province sued Beijing-based Internet game provider Arctic Ice Technology, after he found all the weapons and points he amassed for months playing the company's game Red Moon were stolen.

It was the first time in China where disputes over virtual assets in an online game were handed to the court.

Now more and more gamers are seeking justice through the courts over stolen weapons and credits.

"The armours and swords in games should be deemed as private property as players have to spend money and time on them," said Wang Zongyu, an associate professor at the law school of Beijing's Renmin University of China.

"These virtual objects are often tradable among players," he added.

But other experts are calling for caution.

"The 'assets' of one player mean nothing to others as they are by nature just data created by game providers," said a spokesman from a Shanghai-based Internet game company.

Online game companies in Shanghai the city with the most players are planning to set up a dispute system where aggrieved players can seek recourse.

Shang Jiangang, a lawyer with the newly established Shanghai Online Game Association, said: "The association has drafted some measures to facilitate the settlement of disputes over virtual assets."

He added: "Once any cyberweapon stealing occurs, players can report it to the operator, which will then sort it out according to the circumstances."

(China Daily 03/30/2005 page2)


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