Virtual goods no longer for sale on eBay
Online auction house eBay has begun delisting sales of virtual goods and items, a move that could threaten a bustling internet economy.
Hani Durzy, a representative for eBay, told technology blog Slashdot that the move was in line with the company's policy that "the seller must be the owner of the underlying intellectual property, or authorized to distribute it by the intellectual property owner."
Sales of items and characters on popular massive multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft or Everquest have become an unusual but vibrant business on the internet in the last five years.
Players of the games were able to make real-world money by building up skills for characters, acquiring items, and then selling those characters and items to players with less time to spend on the game.
The value of this economy has been estimated to be between $250 million and $800 million US a year, according to experts.
The decision by eBay to delist the items came over concerns about the legal ramifications of the ownership of items created in an online world, but does not affect sales of items in the virtual world Second Life.
The decision opens the market to other sites such as IGE thatspecialize in the trading of items and goods obtained through the games.
Indiana University Prof. Edward Castronova told technology site C-Net that the move signals a desire to stay out of a legal battle.
"EBay is a big, well-funded company," he said. "If they turn their back on this market, they sense it's not worth fighting (the people who run the games) to keep this going."
Castronova first made headlines in 2002 when he said the per-capita gross national product of Everquest's Norrath world would make it the 77th richest nation in the world if it were a country.