Original Paper

Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 89-97

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Theft of virtual items in online multiplayer computer games: an ontological and moral analysis

  • Litska StrikwerdaAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Twente Email author 


In 2009 Dutch judges convicted several minors for theft of virtual items in the virtual worlds of online multiplayer computer games. From a legal point of view these convictions gave rise to the question whether virtual items should count as “objects” that can be “stolen” under criminal law. This legal question has both an ontological and a moral component. The question whether or not virtual items count as “objects” that can be “stolen” is an ontological question. The question whether or not they should count as such under criminal law is of a moral nature. The purpose of this paper is to answer both the ontological question and the moral question underlying the legal question.


Virtual Institutional reality Computer games Theft Harm principle