Real Money Trading in MMORPG Items From a Legal and Policy Perspective
Republic of Korea - Central District Court
December 13, 2004
Journal of Korean Judicature, Vol. 1, pp. 418-477, 2008
This article questions the legal status of Real Money Trading (RMT) in MMORPGs. Noting that in-game items are virtually treated as personal property, but are only legally recognised as information goods, the right of ownership of these goods belongs to the developers, and players have a right to use, as conferred by the terms of service.
I argue that the object of RMT is neither the item itself nor the right to use the item, but rather something entirely distinct one - 'play values', and the monetary compensation is a 'gwonri-geum' (goodwill) payment. This analysis makes an analogy between the transfer of goodwill and RMT, where the transfer is not a purchase of an item or the right to use, but rather a payment for the effort the other party has invested in obtaining the item. On this analysis, RMT does not concern the operator any more than sales of goodwill concern the lesser of a business property.
It follows that if RMT is a transfer of goodwill, then it must fall within the domain of private autonomy of players, and developers and publishers have no legal standing to ban RMT. Such bans are unfair insofar as they heavily infringe upon players' autonomy and their rights to the intangible value they have created.
However, because the value in RMT transactions is the goodwill associated with the item and not the item itself, RMT does not impose liability on the publishers for protection of the item's market value. Publishers ought to disclaim any involvement and liability with regard to RMT between players, but reserve the right to regulate the in-game behaviour of players.
I concludes that, pointing out many publishers do not care to correct structural issues in their games which lead to RMT, as RMT indirectly increases their revenue, doing away with nominal bans on RMT and restructuring in-game social platform fairly can alleviate the problems recognised in South Korea.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 59
Keywords: RMT, MMORPG, lineage, lease goodwill, gwonri-geum, virtual, property, automony, platform
JEL Classification: K00, K13
Date posted: March 31, 2008 ; Last revised: January 27, 2010