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The Almighty Buck Games

Virtual Currency Becomes Real In South Korea 203

Posted by Soulskill
from the license-to-print-money dept.
garylian writes "Massively is reporting that the South Korean Supreme Court has stated that virtual currency is the equivalent of real-world money. For those of you who might not be drawing the link, the core there is that selling in-game currency for real money is essentially just an exchange of currency and perfectly legal in South Korea. This could have sweeping implications for RMT operations the world over, not to mention free-to-play games and... well, online games in general. The official story is available online from JoongAng Daily."
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Virtual Currency Becomes Real In South Korea

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  • The real reason (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @02:31PM (#30822238) Journal

    It's lucrative for the government to say that. After all, now they can add tax between exchanges, in top of the service costs too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by Joehonkie (665142)
      Awww, I wanted to say that!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by tacarat (696339)
      Yep. Considering that they've been taxing game transactions transparently for years, I guess this is just catching up.

      What? They haven't? Old school arcade players bought additional health in Gauntlet. The tax was rolled into the $0.25 purchase price. Continues (which are basically extra lives in a game) are the same thing. I'm sure there are other examples, but the taxman getting a cut on such "microtransactions" is nothing new. They just needed a way to do it with some of the newer setups.

      Gra
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DarkIye (875062)
      Also, doesn't converting other currencies to virtual currency cause a duplication of the money? I mean, you give the company your Korean won and they have to make you some cash. Well, unless they move the money to you from a virtual vault they own, and to have such a thing they'd have to change the whole system.
      • Re:The real reason (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Naturalis Philosopho (1160697) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:34PM (#30825702)
        I think you better take a hard look at how currency is currently issued by real governments. It's been a long time since the gold and silver standards made money even somewhat real, and even longer since a piece of eight made money ultimately real. Heck, an argument could be made that outside of barter we all use the equivalent of star trek type credits already. All the courts are really saying here is that online currency is a form of property like any other than can be bought and sold.
    • Re:The real reason (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hey! (33014) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @02:56PM (#30822718) Homepage Journal

      It's not the *government* saying that. It's the courts.

      I have serious doubts about the article summary and title here. Reading the article behind the article, it seems that the courts haven't ruled that in game money is "real", otherwise they'd be taxing in-game transactions. It's just saying that in-game money can be sold.

      It seems reasonable that they should treat the sale of in game things (currency or objects) like any other kind of sale of any other kind of property. Why should you be able to earn in-game money and sell it without tax, while somebody selling the fruits of his labor in something else has to pay tax? Or vice versa?

      • Money isn't real (Score:2, Insightful)

        by bussdriver (620565)

        Money is virtual ALREADY. Arguably, money was virtual at its inception but since we moved from gold (tangible) to debt (intangible) money is now virtual.

        Furthermore, most the worlds money is exchanged as numbers (now being done with computers) so even the representative objects (cash/coin) have only been a niche player.

        Banks don't print money, they practically type a cheat code and the government just gives them a higher number to work with (which is many times higher than the actual virtual amount they are

        • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @05:08PM (#30824522) Homepage Journal

          If by "real" you mean "non-tangible", that's been the case for centuries, and was finally recognized when we went off the gold standard. The Fed alters the money supply, not by printing money, but by altering the amount of money people agree exists.

          If you're a big bank and the Fed loans you a million dollars, nothing tangible changes. Everyone just agrees you have a million dollars at your disposal because the Fed says there is. If they alter their interest rates to make borrowing attractive, suddenly there's lot more money floating around in the economy. If the raise interest rates so you (as a big bank) don't want to have so much debt to them on your books, suddenly you start demanding people you've lent money pay you back so you can pay your bills. That sucks money out of the economy, even though nothing tangible has happened (like zapping a pile of gold with a disintegration ray).

          It's really simple in a completely non-intuitive way.

          But that's not the sense I mean when I say "real money". "Real money" is something anybody with any sense would agree is money. In-game money has many of the characteristics of "real money"; it is liquid, and you can exchange it for some things of value. It lacks the property that anybody of any sense would treat it as "just as good as money", which means you can't trade it for just about anything the way you can real money. You've got to barter it for something else people agree is money before it has that all important universal buying power.

          There's an obvious reason for this. The company that operates the game would literally have system that could generate unlimited amounts of money. Banks can be a *little bit* like that. They can create travelers checks and other documents that say "pay to the bearer such and so", but they have to carry those as liabilities on their books. They can't print as much of this money as they like without altering their ability to pay their obligations to people who demand something "as good as" what the Fed provides. The game company has no incentive to limit the amount of money it creates, other than its impact on game play. If the government gave me the power to make *real* virtual money without any kind of downside, I wouldn't care about what it did to my game.

      • by alonsoac (180192)

        It's not the *government* saying that. It's the courts.

        South Korea's government is divided into three branches: executive, judicial, and legislative. So yes the courts are part of the government.

        • by hey! (33014)

          You are correct, but only in a sense that has no practical value.

          This is a case of metonymy (sorry, language isn't logical). When the poster was talking about "the government", he was obviously talking about that portion of the government that is concerned with setting policies with the aim to maximizing the revenue of the national government. It makes no sense to ascribe policy motivations to judicial decisions, unless one is criticizing the judicial system for operating outside its proper sphere.

          I ran int

      • Yes, there's a difference between considering ingame money to be "real money" and considering it to be an item or goods which can be sold.
        Considering monopoly money to be real money would be stupid.
        However considering the little paper slips that come in the box to be something you actually own and can sell to other people without the permission of the company which makes monopoly box sets is quite different.

        Now this does bring up the question of: if I'm running a really big monopoly game why shouldn't I be

    • by Knara (9377)
      Over in one. Good show.
  • So we can sue Linden Labs for currency manipulation cause... oh wait the US does that all the time so I guess it's legal?
  • Is minting a competing currency legal in South Korea? I thought it was illegal in the States, I seem to remember some libertarians a while back trying to set up a gold standard currency that would have competed with the dollar and they got closed down.

    • by revlayle (964221)
      virtual currencies are not minted - unless they change the definition of minted
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Casinos do it all the time. Private currency isn't illegal
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by istartedi (132515)

      You're probably referring to the "Liberty Dollar".

      Issuing a competing, aka "complementary" currency is not illegal! See, Ithaca hours, the Matole Petole, and a number of others.

      What made the Liberty coins illegal was that they had too close a resemblance to actual US currency, and were being advertised in ways that might lead people to believe they were legal tender. There may have been some other frauds revolving around the organization that sold them also.

      The fact that they minted silver (and maybe gold

      • Re:Legal? (Score:4, Informative)

        by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @03:34PM (#30823304) Journal

        Yes, it is illegal. See 18 USC Chapter 25 486:

        486. Uttering coins of gold, silver or other metal [cornell.edu]

        Whoever, except as authorized by law, makes or utters or passes, or attempts to utter or pass, any coins of gold or silver or other metal, or alloys of metals, intended for use as current money, whether in the resemblance of coins of the United States or of foreign countries, or of original design, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

        Liberty Dollars were not authorized by law, and therefore the minting of same is illegal.

        • by istartedi (132515)

          IANAL, but I believe it all hinges on the definition of "current money". If it doesn't hinge on that phrase, then why are the "generic silver rounds" sold by other dealers not being confiscated? I think the Liberty Dollar people would have been fine if they had not used the word "Dollar" or the dollar sign. I'm not sure how "current money" differs from "legal tender", AFAIK they have the same legal meaning for this purpose.

          The US Mint explains their PoV here. [usmint.gov]

        • Yes, it is illegal. See 18 USC Chapter 25 486:

          486. Uttering coins of gold, silver or other metal [cornell.edu]

          Whoever, except as authorized by law, makes or utters or passes, or attempts to utter or pass, any coins of gold or silver or other metal, or alloys of metals, intended for use as current money, whether in the resemblance of coins of the United States or of foreign countries, or of original design, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

          Liberty Dollars were not authorized by law, and therefore the minting of same is illegal.

          It depends on the definition and meaning of "current money." Gold and silver coins and certificates have long since been minted or printed for the purpose of being put into circulation.

          Since it has been awhile since silver and gold coins have been considered "current money" it would be reasonable to assume that is no longer against the law to mint, utter or pass your own for private use.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by DaveV1.0 (203135)

            What part of "intended for use as" do you not understand?

            Liberty dollars are minted with the intended use as current money.

            Since it has been awhile since silver and gold coins have been considered "current money" it would be reasonable to assume that is no longer against the law to mint, utter or pass your own

            Actually, no it would not be reasonable to anything of the sort. The reason it is not reasonable is because the liberty dollars are intended for use as current money, regardless of whether or not the

      • What made the Liberty coins illegal was that they had too close a resemblance to actual US currency...

        Have you ever actually seen a Liberty Dollar? Among other things, they're (a) made of silver, unlike any current US coin; (b) much larger than any current US coin; (c) printed with a different design; (d) labeled with a different motto; (e) have "libertydollar.org" on the back; etc. In short, they are nothing like any current US currency. Here's a picture, in case you don't believe me: Liberty Dollar [city-data.com].

        ...and were being advertised in ways that might lead people to believe they were legal tender.

        There was some trouble with individual Liberty Dollars users not specifically stating that they were paying

        • by istartedi (132515)

          I had seen the Liberty Dollars before, and yes they look "fakey" to me, and probably to most Slashdotters.

          Now... to somebody with an IQ of 100 or less... well, maybe they'd be fooled.

          In any event, the US Mint [usmint.gov] does a pretty good job of explaining how the LDs, in essence, used the "trademarks" of legal US currency.

          • the "trademarks" of legal US currency

            I suppose you're referring to this list?

            • "Liberty"
            • "Dollars"
            • "Trust in God" (vs. "In God We Trust")
            • "USA"
            • "an inscription purporting to denote the year of production"
            • "images that are similar to United States coins" (torch, Statue of Liberty, Bill of Rights, Liberty Head)

            A very amusing list, indeed. I particularly like their complaint about "an inscription purporting to denote the year of production" and a phrase which they explicitly do not use on any of their coins. The claim to a monopoly on patriotic imagery

    • by suso (153703) *

      There are a variety of regional currencies in the U.S. that are usually part of local economic interests. I think there is some clause that allows them. There is an article for it on wikipedia somewhere.

    • by pclminion (145572)

      It was never intended as a competing currency. The government has, after the fact, DECLARED that it is equivalent to real currency. You cannot, in most sane countries, be prosecuted for something you did before it was a crime. And if the intention of the government was to make virtual currency illegal, they could have just declared it so, rather than saying it's the same as real currency. Obviously the intention is to be able to tax transactions made in game worlds with actual tax.

      Of course, since the two c

    • by hitmark (640295)

      technically, the only thing that makes a currency "legal" is if a national leadership will accept it as payment for taxes.

      anything else is basically a IOU for services or products.

      hell, as most money is being circulated electronically these days, i cant really tell a diff between virtual and real money any more.

    • It's really only illegal if you are somewhat successful.

      The FBI went after Liberty Dollar, which sold and real gold and silver coins and encouraged people and business to use them voluntarily instead of a Federal Reserve Note.

      The legal tender law doesn't apply to people using other currencies in private transactions. It basically means that banks and people can't force you to pay anything but dollars on debt that you owe. However, here is a gem from the FBI Press release: [libertydollar.org]

      “People understand that there is only one legal currency in the United States. When groups try to replace the U.S. dollar with coins and bills that don’t hold the same value, it affects the economy. Consumers were using their hard-earned money to buy goods and services, then getting fake change in return,” said Owen Harris, the Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the FBI. “No one in this country is above or beyond the law, and our law enforcement partners will continue to bring violators to justice.

      There are so many things wrong and

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      So if in game currency is now legal currency... Does that mean that a game company can generate billions of dollars of cash and exchange it for the real thing?

  • Whats the diff? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mishehu (712452) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @02:36PM (#30822332)
    What is the difference between this and the S.K. gov't simply deeming that any money earned on the sale of "virtual currency" would be subject to income tax? That is, assuming they have an income tax there, which I do not know myself. I suspect that the US IRS and respective state gov'ts would take this opinion...
    • Re:Whats the diff? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jezza (39441) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @02:55PM (#30822702)

      I suppose it's OK, if you can pay it with Linden Dollars.

      I seriously don't see how this'll work. Real money has the "I promise to pay the bearer" (or similar) thingy, virtual currencies don't. This seems like a pretty huge difference, I don't think the South Koreans have properly thought about it. Imagine if I did pay my income tax with Linden Dollars... Do I only get virtual health care? (I'm a Brit... I realise in the US this isn't funny).

      As long as I can't buy real things with my virtual money then it's not real money! As soon as I can, well then I guess it is (as long as the goods have title, I have to be able to resell them).

      • by argent (18001)

        Imagine if I did pay my income tax with Linden Dollars... Do I only get virtual health care? (I'm a Brit... I realise in the US this isn't funny).

        In the US you get virtual health care for your taxes, and STILL have to pay for real health care.

      • If I can exchange a sack of monopoly money I no longer need with someone for a pack of gum does that make the monopoly money real?
        Perhaps they want to use it as toilet paper... that still doesn't make it real money.
        All it means is that that other person considers it to be something.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by stonefoz (901011)
        Don't worry, it's still funny here in the US, just for all the wrong reasons. We have "Virtually" the best health care system available, at least that's what they tell me on the TV. Wouldn't want some pinko-commie to actually implement a real health care system. You're right, I shouldn't laugh, someone might charge me for that, it's the best medicine after all?
    • I don't think this case means what you (or TFS) think it means. I can't read the massively article at work, but the JoongAng article just seems to suggest these guys ran afoul of some regulation meant to prevent exchanging real money via on-line gambling and they were to be fined 8 million won as a result. The judge ruled that, because the game in question was skill based (not luck based), it was not gambling, and they were acquitted.

      Acquitted of what, I don't know. The article was kind of vague on t
  • Sweet! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Reason58 (775044) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @02:37PM (#30822346)
    Every time you die in-game you can write off the armor repair costs on your taxes!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JoshuaZ (1134087)
      I don't know what the S. Korean laws are but in the United States and many other countries gambling losses can be be written off except to cover taxes on gambling gains. There's actually been some complicated discussion about how this applies to professional poker (whether it is a game of skill, and thus a sport or luck based enough to be considered just a form of gamblings). One could potentially make an argument that games like this are close enough to gambling that they would be covered by such laws. I w
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by undecim (1237470)
      I'm sure there are many quests in various MMOs that count as charitable donations
  • by suso (153703) * on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @02:37PM (#30822348) Homepage Journal

    I wonder if this will make the value of the South Korean Won drop. Because it would almost make it possible to print money. Of course I guess you'd just need to value different game's currencies differently and then have published exchange rates. Its interesting.

    • by nedlohs (1335013) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @02:45PM (#30822504)

      No more than the ability of the Zimbabwe government to print Zimbabwe dollars, or the Chinese to print yuans, or the US to print US dollars does.

      In other words, none at all, if the game currency is "printed" then the exchange rate will devalue it - just like already happens in every MMO game I've seen.

      • by jmorris42 (1458) *

        > No more than the ability of the Zimbabwe government to print Zimbabwe dollars, or the Chinese to print yuans, or the US to print US dollars does.

        You are getting close to the truth of the matter. The more accurate term for what we call fiat money is faith based money. When the US prints money the only reason people accept it is because it carries the 'full faith and credit' of the US government. So until fairly recently that carried enough weight that it was THE world currency. The Chinese yuan, bac

    • No. If the in game currency supplu increases, its value exchanged relative to the Won or any other currency for that matter, goes down. Printing more in game currency does not decrease the value of other currencies.

      • by suso (153703) *

        Yes, this is the way it should work, but what happens if the market isn't saturated with traders? There may end up being a delay between the supply and the exchange price. If market data isn't published by game companies or whatever and there is nothing controlling the game company from making more money in game (a gold standard or serious regulation). I guess currencies are exchanged like stocks are though, where the price is controlled by the buyers willingness to buy it or not. So I guess if they saw

        • In either case, if someone found a way to print off in game currency like mad, then it would be outright fraud and the whole ponzi scheme would collapse immediately. The in game currency is little different than any other currency so there isn't much that makes it logical to single out this system specifically.

          • by suso (153703) *

            I'm not thinking of someone who wants to "cheat" and get a bunch of in game currency, I'm more thinking of what will happen when a bunch of people start making their own games to print their own virtual currency. I suppose its just like penny stocks. I'm mostly just thinking aloud.

    • by Dr. Spork (142693)
      Yeah, it's just like that time when the Dollar tanked when Zimbabwe started printing those hundred million dollar bills [typepad.com]? Oh wait, except that didn't happen at all. (Hint: nobody even suggested that there would be a fixed exchange rate between virtual currency and the Won.)
    • The only way I could see this having an impact was if a game developer decided to purposely screw with the in-game economy by causing massive inflation or something similar, and this would probably only impact the Won if it was a game that had enough people trading or paying "Real Money" for the virtual currency.

      If you manage to somehow obtain 500 million in virtual currency, you could theoretically sell it all to customers. However, that's no different than what the company that makes the game is doing,
  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @02:38PM (#30822366) Homepage
    They need to do better jobs keeping track of currency levels in different games. As virtual currency becomes more common in game settings, better cryptography needs to be used to make sure that people don't change the numbers. Similarly, there becomes issues with income taxes and the like. In the long run we should probably all switch to cryptographically anonymous currency anyways which can be easily implemented using blind signatures http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_signature [wikipedia.org] so that even the bankers don't know who used which bills for which transactions. Unfortunately, many large institutions (such as governments) will likely resist such systems because they lead to a substantial loss of control.
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      Why?

      There's nothing different between someone sticking bugger numbers into their in-game currency store and the US government mailing "stimulus checks" to people.

      It doesn't effect anything other than the currency involved.

      • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
        The concern isn't a currency injection of that sort. The concern is that hackers or the like increasing their currency levels then becomes effectively identical to counterfeiting. Or worse, someone might alter how much currency you have in a game, back date the amount, and then report you to the government for underreporting on your taxes. Without better cryptography and better security in general, this would potentially become a massive headache.
    • The problem with attempting to implement electronic cash is that physical cash only exists because it was grandfathered in. Under current regulations, anyone introducing cash today would be charged with money laundering due to the lack of records. Electronic cash has been attempted several times, and the result is always the same.

  • Can I pay my taxes with it?
  • by multipartmixed (163409) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @02:43PM (#30822470) Homepage

    Assuming the South Korean currency is not backed something solid (like gold), then their currency is just as virtual as online virtual currency -- it has no actual intrinsic value.

    • by lgw (121541)

      All fiat currencies worth mentioning have great intrinsic value: you can use them to pay your taxes. When a government stops accepting it's own currency as tax payment, the government is usually on its way out (it will be interesting to see how this plays out in California with the Cali government paying bills with IOUs that it won't accept as payment).

      Total federal taxes paid in America are something absurd like 20% of GDP (it's over 30% if you count all goverement taxes, IIRC), so that's some pretty solid

      • by Mr2001 (90979)

        Total federal taxes paid in America are something absurd like 20% of GDP

        That's not absurd. Take a look at the worldwide figures [wikipedia.org].

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        30% is about average compared to European style countries. The main difference being that, they actually use the money and spend it on their citizens in visible ways, like health care and free (or nearly free) higher education.

    • by pclminion (145572) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @03:13PM (#30823008)

      their currency is just as virtual as online virtual currency -- it has no actual intrinsic value.

      Neither does real gold, unless you happen to need to make really really thin wires, or build something which is extremely reflective, or actually make use of gold's natural properties in some other way. Don't delude yourself. There is no such thing as "intrinsic value."

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        their currency is just as virtual as online virtual currency -- it has no actual intrinsic value.

        Neither does real gold, unless you happen to need to make really really thin wires, or build something which is extremely reflective, or actually make use of gold's natural properties in some other way. Don't delude yourself. There is no such thing as "intrinsic value."

        Well, don't delude yourself. Removing the human factor from the equation; nothing has value, intrinsic or otherwise. Gold is perhaps the only material known to man that has, since the beginning of recorded history, maintained a value. Many times during our history this value was greater than that of other men's lives. Just sayin'.

        • by Carnildo (712617)

          I think food has done a better job of maintaining value -- you can't eat gold.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by roscivs (923777)

          Well, don't delude yourself. Removing the human factor from the equation; nothing has value, intrinsic or otherwise. Gold is perhaps the only material known to man that has, since the beginning of recorded history, maintained a value. Many times during our history this value was greater than that of other men's lives. Just sayin'.

          That's mostly because gold does a good job at possessing the characteristics of a medium of exchange [wikipedia.org]:

          1. transportability
          2. divisibility
          3. high market value in relation to volume an

      • their currency is just as virtual as online virtual currency -- it has no actual intrinsic value.

        Neither does real gold, unless you happen to need to make really really thin wires, or build something which is extremely reflective, or actually make use of gold's natural properties in some other way. Don't delude yourself. There is no such thing as "intrinsic value."

        While intrinsic value may be illusory, actual value is not. You pointed out a very few of golds finer points (missing my number one which is very good conductivity and number two which is an awesome resistance to corrosion), but the fact that it IS so useful along it's relative scarcity make it worth having even if you personally have no application for it. It can be sold or traded for almost anything, and if things get real bad you could cast it into bullets (for shooting your more upper class werewolves

      • Never mind the fact that unlike every other currency, precious metals (gold and silver) have held their value for centuries.
      • > Neither does real gold, unless you happen to need to make really
        > really thin wires, or build something which is extremely reflective,
        > or actually make use of gold's natural properties in some other way.

        I can cover regular connectors with very thin layers of gold, and sell them to audiophiles for significantly more than the original cost of the connectors and the gold-plating process.

        Also, I can put a piece of carbon into a band of gold and give it to a female, in exchange for several months of

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        actually make use of gold's natural properties in some other way. Don't delude yourself. There is no such thing as "intrinsic value."

        Of course gold has intrinsic value. Just not very much intrinsic value.

        The vast majority of the current price of gold is due to the fact that people think it has value, which is the same reason the US dollar or Euro has value.

        I like Warren Buffet's [wikipedia.org] quote on gold:

        It gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace. Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay

    • But all real world Currency has an exchange rate across the globe - which is all backed by gold.

      You can print more money, which will depreciate the value of the currency, or you can stock it up - increasing its value, or alternately, you can buy or sell the "Gold" you hold to alter its worth that way.

      Virtual Currency however, is an entirely different mix altogether. Only the government can print legal tender (legally). Virtual currency is dependant entirely on the games developers. They could decide to give

      • by hitmark (640295)

        funny thing is, most of the money printing these days is as an effect of lending, not out and out printing.

  • Guaranteed by Whom? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @02:44PM (#30822474) Journal

    Given that the "currency" (units, seashells, whatever) have some intrinsic value in that you put labor into the creation of some sort of work product there needs to be a guarantee of the currency, someone or some-thing (government, bank, etc...) who backs up that currency with assets. Also an exchange would need to be established to control the conversion of this new currency into other units. If you do not have these mechanisms in place then your new currency is as valuable as wampum was to the American Indians.

    When the European powers moved into the Americas they discovered that wampum was being used as a currency for the exchange of services and commodities and as a means of having portable wealth. The colonies, companies and fur-trappers would bring in mass-produced glass beads from Europe where they had very little value and exchange these to the Indians for furs, food and land. Within a few decades the entire system of wampum devalued itself and had collapsed.

    Virtual currency is just 1's and 0's on a computer (our real currency is more like that now than it ever was). How easy would it be to create the equivalent of glass beads in our virtual wampum on-line society?

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @02:44PM (#30822482)

    I can go to a bank in South Korea and exchange my WoW gold for Won? No? Then how about EvE's ISK? No?

    Why could that be? Maybe because the issuers of that "currency" are companies, not countries, and no country on this planet backs it with its real economy? And "forging" it is about as trivial as changing a few lines in a database because no game company follows banking standards concerning security (not to mention auditing)? And let's not talk about Blizzard or CCP letting those printing presses roll whenever they feel like without any oversight from any kind of national bank.

    In short, the whole deal is BS squared.

    • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @03:03PM (#30822836)
      Actually, the way I read the decision, the answer to your question may be "yes." It does seem like the decision implies that non-state-backed currency is still a legal exchangeable currency. So yes, Korean banks might very well start publishing daily WoW-Won exchange rates. I think you're catching on to why this is an interesting development.

      Regarding the risks to holders of a company-backed rather than a state-backed currency, I don't really see the big deal. I trust Blizzard much more than I would trust the national bank of Zimbabwe [typepad.com], and yet Zimbabwe dollars are traded in international markets and exchange rates are published. According to Oanda's currency converter, a million Zimbabwe Dollars will exchange for exactly US$2,702.70 today. Why are we treating WoW gold differently? It can't be because we trust Mugabe's financial wizards more than we trust Blizzard.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lgw (121541)

      The supply of the US Dollar is controlled by the Federal Reserve, a private company. It's directors are appointed by the US government, but, still, private company. The US has been pretty bad about "letting the presses roll" over the past year or so - exchange markets sort that out very quickly. These virtual currencies are more stable than a great many national currencies. EvE's ISK supply is overseen by economic professionals (a smart move by the game company!), also more than can be said for some cou

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think what we need here is a car analogy. A Ford truck is not legal tender, however it has Real value. This court decision just says that in game currency is like Ford trucks. It has real value - it is not legal tender - but because it has value the law has a basis for decisions involving these properties. So any transaction or theft involving in game 'currencies' is handled the same as transaction or theft involving Ford trucks.
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @02:48PM (#30822564) Homepage

    The gamer blog has it wrong, the article poster didn't help, and the Slashdot "editors" blew it as usual. Read the article in JoongAng Daily [joins.com] (which they offer in English). The key issue here is that online gambling is illegal in Korea, and two game players were charged criminally for making money from an online game. The Supreme Court of Korea ruled that they were not gambling, so they don't get fined.

    This decision doesn't affect relationships between players and game operators. It's not about EULA enforceability or property rights. It's a criminal law issue. If you trade game currency, you're not going to be fined or go to jail in Korea. Whether a game site can ban you is a separate issue.

  • MARINA. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Qui-Gon Jinn (53730)

    Transfer all your WoW gold to me, for me.

  • So I can trade these currencies on any one of a number of currency exchanges, such as Forex? (/sarchasm)

    I am recalling all of the statutory and regulatory requirements for currency traders. It goes without saying, they are substantial. Does that mean each player in the game needs to be regulated as a currency trader and follow the same regulatory requirements? What if you have multiple accounts? Does that mean you are now a hedge fund with a whole new set of regs? Can I go short on these currencie
    • by lgw (121541)

      Game currencies are better modeled as commodities than currencies. But there is a robust black market in thier trade, between the various specialty companies in the "gold farming" industry. And you probably could go short, just not with a standardized contract.

  • Is this different than scrip [wikipedia.org] in any meaningful way?

    -Peter

  • taxes were always there. it didnt matter zit if you converted cash into something from virtual currency or from sale of your old underwear. as soon as you have incurred income, it was taxable.

  • Virtual = Not real.

    From http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/virtual [reference.com]
    (Just one of many definitions)
    Existing or resulting in essence or effect though not in actual fact, form, or name: the virtual extinction of the buffalo.

    Scenario
    You lend person A $20.00, they repay you with electronic credits or virtual gaming money. What if you don't play electronic games? The owner of the game company doesn't give you the physical $20.00 for relinquishing the electronic credits or electronic gaming money. This will n

  • by $1uck (710826) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @03:10PM (#30822966)
    So in a game such as EQ (the only MMO I've played) you could kill people (on pvp servers) and take their gold. Clearly this is part of the game, but is it something you could be arrested for now?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Culture20 (968837)

      So in a game such as EQ (the only MMO I've played) you could kill people (on pvp servers) and take their gold. Clearly this is part of the game, but is it something you could be arrested for now?

      You're marked as "funny", but I think it's a valid question. If I play a game of basketball with someone, and steal their wallet, that's a crime. How's that different than MMORPG gold theft; because the rules say stealing is okay? Then how is that different from a casino, where "skill" or luck allows either one party to take the money from the other party? Sounds like gambling to me, which is illegal in SK.

    • by syousef (465911)

      So in a game such as EQ (the only MMO I've played) you could kill people (on pvp servers) and take their gold. Clearly this is part of the game, but is it something you could be arrested for now?

      Only if you don't pay your "I just killed me a player" tax.

    • by ThosLives (686517)

      Personally I think it makes sense to tax transactions from real-world currency to game-world currency. Essentially this is because the person trading real-world currency for some in-game asset is essentially purchasing the labor of the person who allocated those in-game resources.

      What gets seriously complicated though is when you consider transactions that take place entirely within the confines of the game universe. Consider one player where a player spends time to get in-game currency units, and another

  • The core there is that selling in-game currency for real money is essentially just an exchange of currency and perfectly legal in South Korea.

    Applying that logic domestically, does that mean that I can mail all my old arcade tokens to the IRS to help pay my taxes?

  • INSERT INTO Wallet (amount) VALUES (1000000000.00)
    GO

    UPDATE Player SET Status = ReallyRich
    GO

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by roguegramma (982660)

      You forgot to add
      WHERE playernickname = 'mynickname'
      in both sql statements.

      It would suck if everyone else also would be Really Rich wouldn't it?

      Also, real banks would use Oracle, not sql server as the database.

  • i wrote a thing about an international virtual currency. The basis was 1 hour of unskilled labor would be 100 credits. Each credit has an entry in the database as to who owns it at the moment. Small transactions could be done with a private/public key transaction. Bigger transactions require more authentication.

    The serial of a credit would be 128b. The first eight being the date of it's release into the system in CRC32, leaving 96b for the rest of the serial. That gives us an insane amount of credits

  • by mmalove (919245) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @04:51PM (#30824310)

    Article is horribly misrepresenting the Korean supreme court ruling.

    It claimed such an exchange was not criminal.
    It did not:
    -Create any kind of exchange between virtual/real currencies.
    -Create any kind of obligation on gaming companies to be accountable to player's virtual bank accounts.
    -Negate the EULAs of the majority of games which state RMT is a violation of your use of their services and will result in your account being banned from their servers.

    In other words, Bliz can continue to cancel your WOW account, they just can't arrest you. In Korea.

    -.-

Entropy requires no maintenance. -- Markoff Chaney

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