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Online gamer in China wins virtual theft suit


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BEIJING, China (Reuters) -- A Chinese court has ordered an online video game company to return hard-won virtual property, including a make-believe stockpile of bio-chemical weapons, to a player whose game account was looted by a hacker.

Li Hongchen, 24, had spent two years, and 10,000 yuan ($1,210) on pay-as-you-go cards to play, amassing weapons and victories in the popular online computer game Hongyue, or Red Moon, before his "weapons" were stolen in February, the Xinhua news agency said on Friday.

Li asked the company, Beijing Arctic Ice Technology Development Co Ltd, to identify the player who stole his virtual property, but it declined, saying it could not give out a player's private details, it said.

Police also gave Li no satisfaction, so he took his case to court, demanding 10,000 yuan in compensation, Xinhua said.

"I exchanged the equipment with my labor, time, wisdom and money, and of course they are my belongings," it quoted him as saying of the virtual property he collected online.

The company argued that the value of the virtual property only existed in the game and was "just piles of data to our operating companies."

In the end, Beijing's Chaoyang District People's Court ruled on Thursday that the firm should restore the player's lost items, finding the company liable because of loopholes in the server programs that made it easy for hackers to break in.

China's online gaming industry has boomed in recent years. Analysts say it is conservatively forecast to be worth about two billion yuan this year, and is growing more than 100 percent a year.

Disputes over virtual properties have also soared, Xinhua said.



Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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