UK Prime Minister David Cameron's chief adviser on intellectual property and Member of Parliament Mike Weatherley is pushing for penalties related to theft in virtual worlds and online. According to several reports, Weatherley, an avid World of Warcraft player, has asked members of Parliament to consider new laws that would make it so that “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."
Weatherley said that any change in laws would be about creating parity in sentencing for stealing things online or in the real world.
Speaking to Buzzfeed, Weatherley pointed out that players sometimes spend large amounts of real world money on in-game items.
"If you’ve spent £500 on building up your armed forces and someone takes them away online, I guess you can feel hard done-by and you want your £500 back," he said. “People shouldn’t be doing it."
"The perception from some people is if you steal online it’s less of a crime than if you steal physically," he continued. "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."
Weatherley went on to say that new laws would be focused on large-scale item thefts, and that he does not want to see people going to jail for small-time stealing.
"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."