Trading of virtual weapons spurs court case

Shady dealings in virtual weapons have landed three men in court in Shanghai's first criminal case of copyright violations involving an online fantasy role playing game, the Associated Press, quoting newspaper reports, said.

The software weapons - essentially just bits of data - are given out to players at high levels of the massively popular game "Legend of Mir," produced by Shanghai-based Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd.

A former Shanda manager, Wang Yihui, had been accused of manipulating the game's software to illicitly award weapons such as the highly coveted "dragon slaying blade," an Oriental Morning Post report said.

Mir and similar games were hugely popular in China, and Wang and two co-defendants who had registered characters who received the virtual weapons allegedly made more than 2 million yuan ($250,000) selling them on to other players who hoped to increase their competitiveness in the game.

"Because top-grade game weapons are very rare and precious for devoted players, they are valuable in the virtual world," the Shanghai Daily quoted Wang as telling the court.

While customizing video games was a popular pastime for many, newspaper reports said Wang and his co-defendants might have found themselves in trouble for copyright violation when they sold their creations for profit.

It was not clear what penalties they could face. Calls to Shanda and Pudong District Court were not immediately answered, the Associated Press said.