"Online Divorcee Jailed After Killing Virtual Hubby":

The AP reports:

A 43-year-old Japanese piano teacher's sudden divorce from her online husband in a virtual game world made her so angry that she logged on and killed his digital persona, police said Thursday.

The woman, who has been jailed on suspicion of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data, used his identification and password to log onto popular interactive game "Maple Story" to carry out the virtual murder in mid-May, a police official in northern Sapporo City said ....

The woman used login information she got from the 33-year-old office worker when their characters were happily married, and killed the character. The man complained to police when he discovered that his beloved online avatar was dead.

Again, seems like a sensible legal theory, because it focuses on the illegal access to the account when signing on to the system — much as would be the case whenever you accessed another person's computer or computer account without the person's authorization — and not conduct within the game that is supposedly the virtual equivalent of murder.

Had she engaged in the "virtual killing" from her own account, by using a feature of the game that made such action possible, or even exploiting a bug in the game that made such action possible, it seems to me that this would just be an interesting extra twist in the game's narrative. Such action should be dealt with by whatever mechanisms the game's operators provide (perhaps including expulsion of the misbehaving user, if the operators view such conduct as misbehavior), or at most by a breach of contract lawsuit for violating any user license agreement terms — not by the real-world criminal law.

Thanks to Daniel Domenico for the pointer.

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