Mike Weatherley, who is David Cameron’s chief adviser on intellectual property, asked ministers to consider new laws that would mean “people who steal online items in video games with a real-world monetary value receive the same sentences as criminals who steal real-world items of the same monetary value”.
The Conservative MP, who himself plays the fantasy roleplaying game Warcraft, told BuzzFeed that players sometimes spend large amounts of real world money on in-game items.
Weatherley said any law change would be about creating parity between online and offline penalties.
“The perception from some people is if you steal online it’s less of a crime than if you steal physically,” he said.
“If it genuinely is someone who’s paid in the game and they’ve had that stolen, that’s probably no different to something in the physical world.”
Asked what he would do if he were a victim of item theft, Weatherley, a gamer himself, said he would not waste authorities’ time over a small incident.
“If it was a minor thing, a £5 item, then I probably wouldn’t bother with anything, but if I found someone doing it a thousand times over then it’s obviously a problem,” he said.
“It’s a scale thing as well. If you’re a genuine hacker, so to speak, and you’ve stolen the money out of thousands of accounts, then I think that’s a general theft problem that needs to be addressed very seriously.”
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