Commentary: More Eve shenanigans

A couple of more interesting Eve-related stories (as recently reported, Eve is an interesting place for games lawyers).

Yet more theft in Eve

First up, Massively reports that CCP Games have announced, breaches of the rules governing their Volunteer Program.  The Volunteer Program consists of gamers who give of their time to help out CCP and fellow Eve gamers.  Quote from Massively:

“The Volunteer Manager for EVE Online, CCP Ginger, explained the situation earlier today: ‘Last weekend external resources related to the Interstellar Services Department (ISD), EVE’s volunteer program, were compromised which led to the theft of some volunteer program related data but also information about specific volunteers. As a result, we are being extra careful here, as this first and foremost pertains to the volunteer program and has no effect on our EVE Online operations or any customer data whatsoever’ “.

CCP appears to be tight-lipped as to exactly what was stolen, although they stressed that personal and account information remains safe.  Watch this space…

More generally, and as we’ve discussed previously on this blog, Eve is a brilliant example of gaming imitating life, in this case by the theft of information  – which, in the real world, may have been private and/or confidential and accordingly would be protected (at least in England and Wales) by the common law as well as statute (for example, potentially under the Data Protection Act 1998).  Unfortunately, Eve has no such systems of legal protection…yet.

Eve may implement a taxation system

Another one courtesy of Massively.  CCP has said it is considering implementing a partial taxation system within Eve.  Specifically, players who are members of NPC corporations (i.e. corporations provided by CCP, rather than player-created corporations; for corporation essentially read ‘alliance’) will be taxed on certain income.

Now, this is really very interesting indeed.  CCP’s objective appears to be to use taxation to nudge players from out of the safety of NPC corporations (which are relatively matronly, comforting institutions) into the wild chaos that it is player-corporation Eve.  To an extent, tax isn’t anything new to Eve because player-corporations already operate very rudimentary tax systems – the revenues from which are then used to fund the corporations’ activities.  But what is new is that now CCP itself is wading into the action and on a far larger scale.  This raises all kinds of potential issues – here are some of our thoughts:

(i) How is the principle going to be turned into practice?  Modern tax systems in the real world are immensely complicated, featuring roles on taxable  and non-taxable income/capital gains, exemptions and reliefs.  More or less, this complexity is needed because taxation is a complicated activity – it is not fair to just slap an arbitrary tax upon everyone with no exceptions.  If CCP implement this seriously, then at some point they are going to need a tax code.

(ii) What is going to happen to all that revenue?  The NPC Corporations which will gather them don’t need it, because they are emanations of the Eve God.  They could literally just delete the money as soon as it is received and not suffer for it.

(iii) What will the economic cost of imposing a general taxation system be?  No doubt Eve’s resident economist will step to the fore on that one.

More interestingly from our perspective, this is a great example of the slow creep of MMOs towards creating quasi-legal systems to govern the relationships of gamers between each other and with the Devs.  In this case, CCP is not creating a taxation system because they need to raise the money in game, but because they think it will improve the game experience.  That sets a very interesting precedent.  It may sound far-fetched now, but that same justification could be used to set up property laws, health and safety laws, even criminal laws in a game in the future…

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