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Posts with tag Gold-Selling

WoW account hackers sentenced to 2 years in Chinese prison

Gold pile
We've all been affected by account theft in some way. Maybe your account has never been hacked, but I'd be willing to bet a guild mate or friend has had to deal with this annoyance. Blizzard has a pretty smooth system in place to fix these things for the account holders, but it doesn't stop it from being profitable for the hackers involved. They still get their gold in the end. Would you wish prison time on these people?

Last week, a group of 10 Chinese men were sentenced to prison for stealing from a total of 11,500 World of Warcraft accounts. The leader of the group, Chen, purchased hacked WoW accounts for $1 each and emptied them, selling the resulting gold for an average of $3 per account. Eventually one of Chen's accomplices left to start his own hacking "studio" to flip WoW accounts with several employees. A series of complaints led to an investigation and subsequent trial where Chen was found guilty, fined $8,000, and sentenced to 2 years in prison. The others involved were fined $1,000 and sentenced to just under 2 years in prison. Their $10,800 in profits and computer equipment used was also confiscated by the authorities.

Filed under: News items

Congressional report says you 'may' owe taxes on your WoW income

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If you're a World of Warcraft or Diablo 3 player, the federal government would like to have a word with you. Congress's U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), at the request of Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), just wrote and filed a 23-page report on the tax implications of earning gold in MMORPGs. Seriously.

The report, titled "Virtual Economies and Currencies," focuses on buying, using, and selling virtual currencies like WoW gold. The key takeaway for World of Warcraft players is that the in-game economy is a "closed-flow system" -- because you can't exchange your gold for U.S. dollars, you don't need to worry about claiming those 26 gold pieces from completing a quest on your 2013 income taxes. If, however, you decide to sell your accumulated WoW items through a third-party exchange (Don't do it! It's against the Terms of Service and could get you hacked!), then you "may have earned taxable income from the sale of these virtual goods."

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Economy, Gold Capped, Diablo 3

Why Blizzard isn't opening a gold shop

Last year, Blizzard started an experiment with the Guardian Cub, a pet store purchase that could be bought and sold in game with gold as well, since it was Bind on Equip. At the time, a lot of WoW players (including us) saw this as an experimental foray into Blizzard finding ways to allow people to get extra gold using real life money without directly selling gold. In part, that was because Blizzard came right out and admitted that's what it was. Since that time, we've seen no new Blizzard Store purchases that were BoE in this fashion.

Since then, we've heard a lot of complaints about botters who use hacked accounts to not only steal all the gold said account possesses, but also then use it as a farming bot for as long as they can keep hold of it. Some players are even suggesting that Blizzard should simply sell gold itself, cutting out the middleman and putting gold sellers out of business. Why isn't this a good idea?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Account Security, Mists of Pandaria

The day Fox's account got hacked -- and how you can learn from his mistakes

The day Fox's account got hacked  and how you can learn from his mistakes
Ladies and gentlemen, hello. My name is Fox Van Allen. I've been playing World of Warcraft for nearly four years. And despite all I know and all my warnings I've given you, the reader, it still happened. Last week, I, Fox Van Allen, had my account hacked.

The first question I'm inevitably asked is, "You? What excuse do you have to not have an authenticator?" Well, truth is, I do have an authenticator. I use my iPhone. But one day a few weeks ago, that ever-changing number display just somehow fell out of sync with what WoW was expecting me to enter. Trying to re-sync did nothing. To get back into my account, I had to have the folks at Blizzard take my authenticator off the account.

And that's how it happened. I foolishly forgot to reattach it right away -- I really haven't played a heck of a lot of World of Warcraft on account of my move to Los Angeles. It just wasn't on my mental list of things to do. And wouldn't you know it, barely a week after I had my authenticator disconnected from my account, I started getting emails from Blizzard. Not the usual spam, but legit receipts. Receipts for $105 worth of server transfers and faction changes that I didn't authorize.

That's when the pit of my stomach gave way. I knew immediately the emails were legit. And if the emails were legit, then I had to have been hacked. It's one of the worst feelings in the world.

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Filed under: News items, Account Security

Guardian Cub taking a bite out of third-party gold sales

The new Guardian Cub, the pet you can buy with real-world currency and exchange for in-game gold, has been available for sale on most realms' Auction Houses for a good 24 hours now. And early reports are looking very favorable for Blizzard; it is now significantly cheaper to buy gold through Blizzard than through one of the less-reputable, third-party Chinese gold sellers.

The price of the Guardian Cub varies wildly by server -- a function of supply and demand. An impromptu Twitter survey suggests that the pet is currently selling for between 6,000 gold and 40,000 gold in game, depending on server size, competition, and a number of other factors. Most realms are currently seeing prices just north of 10,000 gold.

Certainly, the final page of the Guardian Cub saga has yet to be written, and prices will be extraordinarily volatile in the next few days, weeks, and months. Still, even at a conservative exchange rate of $10 for a 10,000-gold pet, players can get a far better (and safer!) deal buying gold through Blizzard via the Guardian Cub than dealing with a gold seller. The difference is stark -- the same amount of gold may cost you $20 or $30 through a third-party site. And even then, you have no guarantee of getting your gold, no guarantee that your account won't be compromised, and no guarantee that your purchase isn't supporting forced labor and account theft.

Will the Guardian Cub kill off third-party gold sales? Probably not, at least on its own. Interest in this new pet simply cannot be sustained long term. But if the last 24 hours of trading on the in-game Auction House are any indication, Blizzard just fired a shot into a multi-billion-dollar gray market.

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Filed under: News items, Economy

Blizzard discusses Gold Selling and the Guardian Cub

It wont come as any surprise that the Guardian Cub has been somewhat controversial since it was announced. Now, Blizzard gives a remarkably pragmatic response discussing exactly why this move is being undertaken. As our own Mat McCurley pointed out, this is the first step in an experiment aimed at learning exactly how to curb gold selling. It's not intended to do away with the problem overnight, but rather to help them figure out how.

The complete text of the Blizzard post which you can find here will be posted behind the cut. It's an interesting way to approach the lost time and stress of account hacking.

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Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Account Security, Cataclysm

The Lawbringer: Guardian Cub pros and cons

Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Mathew McCurley takes you through the world running parallel to the games we love and enjoy, full of rules, regulations, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?

Blizzard recently treated WoW fans to a preview of the Guardian Cub tradable pet, going on sale soon at the Blizzard pet store. Immediately upon hearing that the pet was tradable, readers began inundating me with email and Twitter messages to talk about said cub on The Lawbringer, as this is sort of the thing I fancy myself a connoisseur of. So here we go -- let's talk about the ramifications of these adorable little pets on our server economies.

The Guardian Cub represents a sea change in the nature of the gold selling war from Blizzard's perspective, one that has been coming for a long, long time. With a Blizzard-sanctioned way for players to dip their toes into the waters of pay-for gold, gold buying looks a little less attractive to players who would otherwise have to risk their computer's integrity and credit card security. Players have sharp opinions one way or the other on player-bought gold, so I'm going to do my best to hit the right points to discuss my opinion on the whole premise. I mean, it's right there in the FAQ. This pet has the added incentive of being a safe and secure way to potentially, maybe, make some gold off your purchase.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

The Lawbringer: Q&A on Diablo's real-money auction house

Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Mathew McCurley takes you through the world running parallel to the games we love and enjoy, full of rules, regulations, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?

Since Blizzard dropped the Diablo 3 bombshell on us early Monday, I will post the second article in my series on micro-transaction models next week. For those of you who have been living under the proverbial internet rock (you are missing some awesome memes right now), Blizzard announced that Diablo 3 would feature two auction houses, one using in-game gold as currency and the other using real currency that would be deposited into a Battle.net account wallet and used from there.

The whole system gets more intriguing when you take into account that sales made on the real-money auction house can make their way to your own very real wallet through an unannounced third party or deposited back into your Battle.net wallet for use on anything digital in the Blizzard store, including WoW game time.

If you're a regular reader of The Lawbringer, you already know how excited I get over virtual currency. This is my wheelhouse. I feel like a master carpenter at Wood Con 2011, cosplaying as my favorite oak tree, quercus alnifolia. Pair that with real currency, and excitement levels hit the stratosphere. I may break through the atmosphere at some point. That faint sonic boom you hear will be me hurtling through the air in excitement and wonderment.

Sure, the Diablo real-money transaction (RMT) auction house is not related to World of Warcraft -- or is it? Oh, it very much is. Faithful readers and not faithful alike (how could you, Debbie?) have been writing in questions via Twitter and email asking me to explain the auction house and talk about some of the potential legal and tax issues that could come around because of it. Also, many people want to know how the RMT auction house could benefit World of Warcraft, despite Rob Pardo's saying there are no plans to bring it over to WoW. Let's take a look at your questions.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

The Lawbringer: China, forced labor, and why we must stop buying gold

Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Running parallel to the games we love and enjoy is a world full of rules, regulations, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?

Gold selling is a multi-billion dollar industry that spans the globe, with a healthy portion of in-game currency sales originating from China. It's a cheap operation to start up -- all you need is cheap labor, some computers, a PayPal account, and a copy of World of Warcraft. The overhead is low and the payoff is big because the demand is present for the supply. People have a perceived need to buy gold, so more people sell gold, which allows the market to grow. It won't stop, either, as tradable virtual currency from all types of games hit the gray market.

What happens when an industry with low overheads becomes too profitable? What happens when a relatively simple setup like gold farming goes from the quaintness of cottage industry to a virtual currency-fueled industrial revolution? People start getting ideas when money is sitting there on the table, ready and waiting to be snatched up by the stalwart businessman. Combine that sentiment with the corruption and profit motives of institutions and a labor force that is for all intents and purposes free, and you get the sad tale of prisoners in China and the people in charge.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

Chinese prisoners forced to farm gold

The Guardian ran a heartrending story yesterday about prisoners in China forced to farm gold on behalf of their prison bosses. After spending their day doing backbreaking labor, they would spend the evenings farming gold in games like World of Warcraft.

According to the report, it's likely that the prison bosses made more money from the sales of these online currencies than they did even from prisoners' manual labor. If prisoners were unable to produce enough gold during their shift, they would be physically punished.

"They would make me stand with my hands raised in the air and after I returned to my dormitory they would beat me with plastic pipes. We kept playing until we could barely see things," said one prisoner in the report.

Blizzard's been fighting gold farming practices for a long time; we'll likely never see "legal" gold selling if Blizzard can doing anything about it. This story illustrates one more reason you should not support these services.

Note: Comments on this post will be closely monitored. Racial insults, personal attacks or any of that nonsense will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be banned.

Filed under: News items, Economy

The Lawbringer: Mailbag 2.0

Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Running parallel to the games we love and enjoy is a world full of rules, regulations, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?

I love getting emails with questions in them! Incidentally, people also love mailbags. Right? Right? Of course you do. Also, based on my images, can you tell that I've been leveling through Grizzly Hills?

After the last two weeks of gold selling/hacking and crazy currency discussions, I found my email littered with questions that I had neglected. At the end of last month I also ran a mailbag feature, but some of these questions were so fun and provoking that I had to answer them publicly. One interesting thing about legal questions and answers is that you're obviously not getting the whole answer, because there are a million and one factors that go into questions and answers in the legal world. Rather, you're getting the beginnings of a concept that you might want to further your knowledge of. Fun times! Learning is fun! Let's learn together.

If you have a question for the column, please email me at mat@wowinsider.com, and include a subject with "Lawbringer Question" or something easily categorized/sorted like that!

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

The Lawbringer: Fighting the gold fight -- how the strategy must change

Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Running parallel to the games we love and enjoy is a world full of rules, regulations, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?

Last week on The Lawbringer, I introduced you to the world as it is, a battlefield littered with the corpses of stolen accounts, inconvenienced players, and a priceless reputation on the line. This week, we look at concrete solutions to actually helping the gold selling system wind down and remove many of the hurdles that instant gratification with purchasing gold sets up for Blizzard. You might have mixed and angry reactions to what I'm going to talk about, but do give me the benefit of the doubt. I think being open-minded might win this fight.

So what can Blizzard do besides selling its own currency? Here are my suggestions for the first steps that Blizzard needs to take in the new war against gold selling.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Economy, The Lawbringer

The Lawbringer: Fighting the gold fight -- the world as it is

Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Running parallel to the games we love and enjoy is a world full of rules, regulations, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?

The Lawbringer has in the past been used as a personal launching pad for some of the more out-there or esoteric ideas that I have in regards to the World of Warcraft and virtual currency in general. You guys seem to love it, and there's always plenty of great discussion about these ideas. For the next two weeks, I want to introduce you to my thoughts on how Blizzard should be attacking gold sellers and, at the same time, working to remove some of the content gates that gold has erected in the MMO we all love. This week, we will set up the story and the history of it all, and next week, we will talk about hard conclusions.

Gold selling isn't going away as long as fungible and liquid currency exists in MMOs. Gold is "fungible" because it can be exchanged for something exactly like it, at a 1:1 ratio -- gold is gold. Gold is also liquid, as it can be used and exchanged for other goods or services. Short of Blizzard's getting rid of this type of currency altogether or selling its own currency for a cheaper price than gold sellers can furnish it, people will sell gold and items that can be traded.

Blizzard has shown that it has the guts to go after gold selling as an industry but has so far failed in scope to bring down the snake that slowly poisons everything it has worked to build. As sellers become hackers, and as hacking chips away at the good will, reputation, and stability of the game we love to play and the company we love to patronize, there has never been a more urgent time to fight the gold fight. The strategy needs to change from focusing on the people who sell gold to a combination of those that sell and the gold itself.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Economy, The Lawbringer

Blizzard strikes gold sellers with Paypal notices

Last week, Blizzard sent out strongly worded complaints to Paypal, accusing many gold-selling companies and resellers of "intellectual properties violations" for selling World of Warcraft goods. After receiving these complaints, Paypal sent notices off to the gold sellers Blizzard had complaints against, stating that if these activities continued through their websites and the Paypal service, Paypal would revoke their ability to use the popular payment site as a payment option.

Here is Paypal's letter to the gold sellers:
You were reported to PayPal as an Intellectual Properties violation by Blizzard Entertainment Inc. for the sale of World of Warcraft Merchandise.

If you feel your sales do not infringe upon the intellectual property rights of the Reporting Party, please complette the attached Objection to Infringement Report by January 21, 2011.

The completed form should be faxed to the attention of the Acceptable Use Policy Department at [number removed] or emailed to [email removed].

Should you choose not to object to the report, you will be required to remove all World of Warcraft Merchandise from the website [url removed] in order to comply with the Acceptable Use Policy.
What's very interesting is that Blizzard is claiming intellectual property violations in the face of the most recent decision in the Glider case. Where Blizzard lost on intellectual property concerns under the EULA, they could have a better shot over their game assets being sold, if somehow it ever went to court. Still, Paypal is the easiest route to go for Blizzard's plan of attack against gold sellers, since most of them are run outside of the country. Suffice to say, it's nice to see some action being taken against gold selling.

Filed under: Blizzard

The Lawbringer: Gold sellers are criminals!


Welcome to The Lawbringer, WoW.com's weekly tour of the intersection between law and the World of Warcraft. I'm a third-year law student acting as your crossing guard, trying desperately to avoid getting run over myself.

All our discussions about contract law and the EULA have been dealing with civil law (civil law as in the opposite of criminal law, not the opposite of common law). As has been pointed out before, selling gold is a violation of the Terms of Use and End User License Agreement. What can American courts do to someone who breaches a contract? For that answer, we have to look at the history of merry olde England. Fire up the DeLorean, Marty!

Medieval England (the time period from which law is still recovering) had a bifurcated justice system. If someone had violated a contract, the aggrieved party could sue in a court of law for damages. These damages could be the amount of money necessary to put the victim in the position in which they were before the contract was made. (Example: I promise to mow your lawn, and you pay me $20 ahead of time. I don't mow your lawn; you can sue me for the $20.) Depending on the case, the victim might receive the amount of money necessary to put him in the position in which he would have been had the contract been followed. (Example: same scenario, except not only do I have to pay you back the $20, I have to pay $20 to get someone else to mow the yard.) This is just fine when a problem can be resolved with money.

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Filed under: The Lawbringer

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