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Dubai: A bizarre case of theft in a virtual environment is the first of its kind for a German court. A 16-year-old was sentenced yesterday for stealing the armour suits of virtual game characters from one of his fellow players in the online fantasy computer game Metin 2.

The court found that the accused logged onto the game using his victim's passwords, stole character's suits and sold them afterwards to other players for about 1,000 euros, according to the German daily Augsburger Allgemeine.

Armour suits in the game can only be obtained after a long period of successful gaming and are traded within the players' community for real money, some up to 3,500 euros.

A court in Augsburg sentenced the thief to 80 hours community work and ordered him to pay compensation for damages, after the robbed players filed a charge — the first of its kind. The judge, however, admitted having difficulty defining the offence as the German criminal code only covers theft of physical goods. Eventually, the offence was defined as "unauthorised data modification".

Theft of virtual goods or related "pecuniary advantages" in the online world are not covered by criminal codes worldwide despite the fact that there is a busy trade — for real money — in stolen equipment belonging to virtual characters on the internet. For example, the game Metin 2 has 17 million followers. Developer GameForce's revenue for virtual goods for online games has crossed the $100 million mark.