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Old 2012-08-07, 07:46   Link #1
relentlessflame
 
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Sword Art Online - "Real-World" and Legal Implications [Speculation, NO Spoilers]

Premise:
The Plot of Sword Art Online revolves around a concept where players were forcibly trapped inside a VR game environment and are told that, if they disconnect or die in the game, they will die in real life. This also means that if a player's action in the game were to result in the in-game death of another player, they have been told that the affected player will also die in real life. Other than being given this piece of information by an avatar representing the creator of the game, they have no contact with the outside world, so have no way to completely verify the claim's "real life" implications. It has been well over a year, and thousands are still trapped in the game.

Some on-topic ideas for discussion in this thread:
  • What steps might the government and other agencies in the real world be expected to take in response to this situation?
  • Given that gamers are still trapped after so long, why might these possible approaches not have worked or have failed?
  • If the claim of real-world death claim is true, what are the legal implications of in-game actions that result in player death?

All other speculation not related to the above (or similar) points should go instead to the Speculation & Theories or Spoilers & Speculation threads. All episode-related discussion should remain in episode threads (unless it is specifically related to this topic).

IMPORTANT
This is a speculation topic, but information revealed should align with the anime airing. Any facts discussed should be limited only to the content shown in the anime.

Do not give ANY future plot points away from the novels, even behind spoiler tags.

If you wish to add some extra information that was not (and will not be) explained in the anime, please use properly-labelled spoiler tags (that identify the *purpose* and *context* of the spoiler). Please read the Spoiler Policy for more information.



To start the thread, since we are continuing continuing from a conversation already in progress:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rakshasa
Wonder if, once they get out of the game, the people who PK'ed get charged with murder?
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Last edited by relentlessflame; 2012-08-07 at 20:37.
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Old 2012-08-07, 07:49   Link #2
Adigard
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rakshasa View Post
Wonder if, once they get out of the game, the people who PK'ed get charged with murder?
Think the discussion came up somewhere in these threads, and the answer was something along the lines of "pretty damn bloody unlikely".
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Old 2012-08-07, 08:55   Link #3
paraalso
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rakshasa View Post
Wonder if, once they get out of the game, the people who PK'ed get charged with murder?
Murder charges would be pretty unlikely, but the Government could always lock all the Pkers in a mental institution for the rest of their lives.
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Old 2012-08-07, 09:18   Link #4
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Originally Posted by Adigard View Post
Think the discussion came up somewhere in these threads, and the answer was something along the lines of "pretty damn bloody unlikely".
If you have a way of tracking who did it and why they could be charged, as they were all aware that death in this game means game over outside too. I do at least see no problem with causality, it would only be possible if you can track who and why though since justified self defense does allow the attacker's death.
As said there is no problem with the causality part: If X wouldn't have PKed Y, Y would not have died - > Sine qua non causality fulfilled.

So yes legally charging them could be possible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by paraalso View Post
Murder charges would be pretty unlikely, but the Government could always lock all the Pkers in a mental institution for the rest of their lives.
Preventive measures can't be applied like you think.

Punishment is measured on guilt, preventive measures on danger comming from said person. (Just a short version though)
You have no proof that they'd do the same in the real world so institutions are imho very unlikely.

Prision however is another story. I do no have an idea how they would handle deaths resulting from negligence.
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Old 2012-08-07, 09:24   Link #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AC-Phoenix View Post
If you have a way of tracking who did it and why they could be charged, as they were all aware that death in this game means game over outside too. I do at least see no problem with causality, it would only be possible if you can track who and why though since justified self defense does allow the attacker's death.
As said there is no problem with the causality part: If X wouldn't have PKed Y, Y would not have died - > Sine qua non causality fulfilled.

So yes legally charging them could be possible.
But could they not defend them self with saying that they didn't thought the people they PKed would really die in real life, because they had no way to check if what Kayaba said was true?
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Old 2012-08-07, 09:46   Link #6
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Originally Posted by Xaturas View Post
You people think whatever you want.
For me on the other hand the usual idea that there is somewhere (Usually Japan duh) some super great fricking genius who is so super smart that the rest of the world is on the level of apes when it comes to being smart. Is so dumb that I can just facepalm.
Usually the only defending point of such stupid plot holes is answers like "He/She is a damn genius duuuuuuuuuuh. She/He probably have super defenses".

Science and technology moved on from the genius fase. Obviously there are here and there some smart individuals who know a little more than the common flock scientists. But they aren't some super smart alien level like scientists, who outclass other scientists in each and every way. Nowadays everything is so diversified that its hard to have people on the level of Da Vinci, Einstein or Tesla.
It's not a question if anyone would be able to disable the defences or not. The question is if there is anyone that can do it with 0% risk of anything going wrong and killing thousands of people while trying.

There is a reason why the bomb disposal squad don't go to work until after everyone else have been evacuated. Things have been known to go wrong, even with something as relatively simple as disabling a bomb.
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Old 2012-08-07, 09:58   Link #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chaos_alfa View Post
But could they not defend them self with saying that they didn't thought the people they PKed would really die in real life, because they had no way to check if what Kayaba said was true?
Discussable.
The only ones who'd be save would be children below 14 at the time they comitted the crime as they are generally excused from legal punishment. (At least in Austria, and according to 'Kokuhaku' in japan too)

I can only assume that it works similar in Japan though.

Problemm here are imho both the know and want parts of their intention:

Know:
here we have the problem of accompaning knowledge.
If someone does at least latently think that their action may cause harm to others its still within the bounds of intention(lowest though)

Want:
This one is imho a bit tricky, its questionable whether they want to kill them in real world too.


They do at least have conditional intention which is, according to my study book, enough for murder charges (Autrian law).

Example: A hunter hears sounds in a bush and thinks 'Oh could be a boar, but it could also be a human. Well I don't care they shouldn't be here' --> shoots and it really was a human.

this is btw the shortened version :P - I wouldn't want to be the prosecutorr having to do do those cases lol, and neither the judge.
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Last edited by AC-Phoenix; 2012-08-07 at 10:17.
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Old 2012-08-07, 10:14   Link #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AC-Phoenix View Post
Discussable.
The only ones who'd be save would be children below 14 at the time they comitted the crime as they are generally excused from legal punishment. (At least in Austria, and according to 'Kokuhako' in japan too)
I don't remember the full arguement, but it was long and rather invovled.

Not being a lawyer, not even playing one on the internet I didn't get invovled... but we had quite a few legal terms being thrown around. In essence I think the notion folks came up with (and what the LN agreed with) was that the person who locked them all in would be hunted down, everyone else would just be watched carefully without prosecution.

You'd never really be able to prove anything in a court of law was what it basically boiled down to, unsure of the specifics though.
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Old 2012-08-07, 10:19   Link #9
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Originally Posted by Adigard View Post
I don't remember the full arguement, but it was long and rather invovled.

Not being a lawyer, not even playing one on the internet I didn't get invovled... but we had quite a few legal terms being thrown around. In essence I think the notion folks came up with (and what the LN agreed with) was that the person who locked them all in would be hunted down, everyone else would just be watched carefully without prosecution.

You'd never really be able to prove anything in a court of law was what it basically boiled down to, unsure of the specifics though.
I can't say it for sure either as i'm still a student. There is also a difference about theory and what they would actually do.
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Old 2012-08-07, 12:35   Link #10
Utsuro no Hako
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Originally Posted by chaos_alfa View Post
But could they not defend them self with saying that they didn't thought the people they PKed would really die in real life, because they had no way to check if what Kayaba said was true?
I don't know the legal standard in Japan, but in the US the case would turn on the question of what a reasonable person in that situation would believe. The prosecutor would march in a few dozen players to testify, "Yup, I thought I was going to die." He'd also probably use his closing statement to ask, "If this guy didn't believe the threat, why didn't he kill himself to escape the game?"
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Old 2012-08-07, 13:14   Link #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Utsuro no Hako View Post
I don't know the legal standard in Japan, but in the US the case would turn on the question of what a reasonable person in that situation would believe. The prosecutor would march in a few dozen players to testify, "Yup, I thought I was going to die." He'd also probably use his closing statement to ask, "If this guy didn't believe the threat, why didn't he kill himself to escape the game?"
Yeah as I stated before dolus eventualis is defnitely there, which is usually enough for homocide charges.
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Old 2012-08-07, 13:25   Link #12
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I'd imagine many PKing defendants would plead something of an insanity defense, arguing that being trapped for a long duration in a MMO deathtrap emotionally unhinged them and prevented them from thinking clearly.

Given that such entrapment within a MMO deathtrap is unprecedented (and there's nothing you can truly equate it with), I can see this argument holding some sway on Judges, at least as long as you can get a good accredited Psychiatric professional or two to vouch for the insanity defense.

Personally, I'd be leery of prosecuting SAO PKers, as abhorrent as I find their behavior in a situation like what we have in SAO. This really is very extenuating circumstances, and so I'm inclined to cast a more forgiving eye on the gamers caught inside of SAO.

Also, I think that Akihiko Kayaba is ultimately the person who should be held responsible for any and all deaths that occurred within SAO.
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Old 2012-08-07, 13:32   Link #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
I'd imagine many PKing defendants would plead something of an insanity defense, arguing that being trapped for a long duration in a MMO deathtrap emotionally unhinged them and prevented them from thinking clearly.

Given that such entrapment within a MMO deathtrap is unprecedented (and there's nothing you can truly equate it with), I can see this argument holding some sway on Judges, at least as long as you can get a good accredited Psychiatric professional or two to vouch for the insanity defense.

Personally, I'd be leery of prosecuting SAO PKers, as abhorrent as I find their behavior in a situation like what we have in SAO. This really is very extenuating circumstances, and so I'm inclined to cast a more forgiving eye on the gamers caught inside of SAO.

Also, I think that Akihiko Kayaba is ultimately the person who should be held responsible for any and all deaths that occurred within SAO.
maybe in Japan but US law pretty much cripple the insanity defense after John Hinckly got off in the 80s and the infamous Twinkie Defense in the late 70s.
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Old 2012-08-07, 13:39   Link #14
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Originally Posted by Xellos-_^ View Post
maybe in Japan but US law pretty much cripple the insanity defense after John Hinckly got off in the 80s and the infamous Twinkie Defense in the late 70s.
The thing is that everybody trapped in SAO is essentially the victim of an ongoing crime. They've all been victimized by Akihiko Kayaba. Given those very extenuating circumstances, I'm not sure if the law should come down as hard on PKers as it would on people committing murders out in the real world.

It should be a factor in sentencing, at the very least, imo.
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Old 2012-08-07, 13:42   Link #15
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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
The thing is that everybody trapped in SAO is essentially the victim of an ongoing crime. They've all been victimized by Akihiko Kayaba. Given those very extenuating circumstances, I'm not sure if the law should come down as hard on PKers as it would on people committing murders out in the real world.

It should be a factor in sentencing, at the very least, imo.
The Defense will bring it up and will be a factor. But my point is, in the US, the only way to mount a successful Insanity Defense is if the person can't tell right form wrong and any premeditation (like Titan's Hand or Sleep PKer) the judge would throw it out the window.
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Old 2012-08-07, 14:22   Link #16
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Originally Posted by Utsuro no Hako View Post
I don't know the legal standard in Japan, but in the US the case would turn on the question of what a reasonable person in that situation would believe. The prosecutor would march in a few dozen players to testify, "Yup, I thought I was going to die."
at which point the defense will ask the witness "are you 100% certain that you were going to die?", to which they'll have to say no, as no player in SAO had any way of verifying whether what Kayaba said was true.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Utsuro no Hako View Post
He'd also probably use his closing statement to ask, "If this guy didn't believe the threat, why didn't he kill himself to escape the game?"
because they're living just fine in the game, who knows what will actually happen if they die - will they be logged off and trapped in perpetual darkness forever 'til the game is cleared? nobody knows.


It would be an extremely tenuous case to try to say the least, no sane prosecutor is going to attempt it.

Spoiler for SAO server info:


It would literally be a case of he said, she said, with zero material evidence to corroborate anything.

Last edited by kyp275; 2012-08-07 at 14:46.
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Old 2012-08-07, 15:05   Link #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
The thing is that everybody trapped in SAO is essentially the victim of an ongoing crime. They've all been victimized by Akihiko Kayaba. Given those very extenuating circumstances, I'm not sure if the law should come down as hard on PKers as it would on people committing murders out in the real world.

It should be a factor in sentencing, at the very least, imo.
It would be a factor in front of any guilt as punishment is measured by guilt.
They are still guilty of their own crimes though.
causality is measured directly and sine qua non meaning you ask yourself if the culprits action led to the result.

And while this guy can certainly be held responsible for deaths he can't be held responsible for a murder someone else comitted. He never planted the idea in their heads.
It also doesn't matter if they are victims themselves, they can still differ right and wrong, as said on the other page: latent knowledge and sense of guilt are enough.

plus sine qua non in case of PK is:
If X wouldn't have PKed Y h wouldn't have died.

Law usually tries to keep them short, as you can in theory make them endless with pretty ridiculous results.
(To name an extremely ridiculous one:
Lets assume Kayaba had the idea on his toilet, that always gives off electrical charges if somneone forgets to close the lid.
If the manufacturer would have never invented it Kayaba would have never gotten the idea --> they could in return say that they would have never built their seat if the result of their magic 8 ball wouldn't have said they should.

Note I deliberately choose a very ridiculous one for demonstration. They give more reasonable ones during college lectures)

No matter how you look at it: His part in there is not qualified for murder, but imho just for negligent homicide.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kyp275 View Post
at which point the defense will ask the witness "are you 100% certain that you were going to die?", to which they'll have to say no, as no player in SAO had any way of verifying whether what Kayaba said was true.



because they're living just fine in the game, who knows what will actually happen if they die - will they be logged off and trapped in perpetual darkness forever 'til the game is cleared? nobody knows.
It doesnt matter if they are sure - they were told they'd doe and have therefore at least a latent imagination of it.

Gosh if I'd known what I started here... I really need one of those magic 8-balls to stop me from such madness oO
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Last edited by AC-Phoenix; 2012-08-07 at 16:13.
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Old 2012-08-07, 15:33   Link #18
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Originally Posted by AC-Phoenix View Post
It doesnt matter if they are sure - they were told they'd doe and have therefore at least a latent imagination of it.

Gosh if I'd known what I started here... I really need one of those magic 8-balls to stop me ffrom such madness oO
So if you get a phone call one day from a random guy saying every time you turned your TV on he will kill a person, will you be guilty of murder if it turns out he did go out and killed people every time you turned on the TV?
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Old 2012-08-07, 15:33   Link #19
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Originally Posted by AC-Phoenix View Post
And while this guy can certainly be held responsible for deaths he can't be held responsible for a murder someone else comitted. He never planted the idea in their heads.
Yes, but depending on how you look at it... Kayaba 'technically' pulled the trigger... killing the person. He's also the reason they were put into the life and death situation in the first place.

Which, IMO, is part of where it gets really murky and why new laws would need to be implemented to punish the guilty. And, of course, you couldn't try anyone prior to those laws being put in the books. But who knows, not a lawyer.

Quote:
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So if you get a phone call one day from a random guy saying every time you turned your TV on he will kill a person, will you be guilty of murder if it turns out he did go out and killed people every time you turned on the TV?
Fairly certain the answer to that has already been proven to be no. Because some people will gleefully turn their TV on and off a LOT. I remember the psych tests back in the day. "There is a person in the next chamber who has been hooked to electrodes, I want you to push this button, sending a minor electric shock to the person." The results were highly disappointing.
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Old 2012-08-07, 16:32   Link #20
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Actually, I think there would both a large public push to try and punish the worst offenders (at the least), as well as pretty strong grounds to secure convictions.

First, when the remaining players beat the game, they are going to be minor celebrities and put into the public eye, recounting their experiences. The victims' families are going to want to know how their loved ones died, and the players are probably going to want to tell them. This will lead to well-publicized stories identifying specific individuals who are accused of killing other individuals: "SAO Player Allegedly Murdered Twelve In-Game; Families Demand Justice."

Then the question becomes whether you can convict them. I'm not familiar with Japanese law so this is all US-based.

Worst case for the prosecution is no physical evidence: the servers don't record anything, and when SAO ends all the information is deleted (I don't know if this is what happens). All you have are the statements of the surviving players and the time of death.

Could you still secure a conviction? Most likely yes. Real-world convictions are secured all the time without any corroborating physical evidence based only on eye-witness testimony. If you had three witnessing saying "I saw A PK B right in front of me" then that could certainly be enough to convict. Also, you could easily get one member of a PK guild to testify against another in exchange for a plea bargain, and that would go a long way to a conviction.

The best defense one could raise is they didn't think killing in-game would actually lead to death. But this might not be that strong, and it won't work in all situations. It's not strong because there is a fair bit of contradictory evidence that could lead a reasonable person to believe that PKing in-game leads to real-word death.

The dev's announcement and description of what happens if you die in-game or if the Nerve Gear is removed is a strong point in support of the idea that a reasonable person would think death might occur. Also, a reasonable person would likely infer that since the game was on-going, and the authorities had not simply cut the power to the Nerve Gear system, that something bad was likely happening to those people who died in-game. It's not definitive proof, but that's not required. And the jury

Regardless of its strength, that defense won't work in all situations, because there are certain categories of murder and manslaughter where intent to kill doesn't matter. All that matters is that the person die through the perpetrator's actions. One category is felony murder, which is a statutory crime that basically makes it murder if a victim dies in the course of a perpetrator committing or attempting to commit a felony, such as robbery or burglary, no matter whether the perpetrator intended to kill the victim or not.

So in a situation where a PKer threatens another player: "give me your sword/money/etc. or i'll kill you" and the player resists and is killed, that's felony murder, so long as the PKer intended to rob the player, even if the PKer didn't intend to kill the player.

Also, the idea that it wasn't the PK that killed them, but the microwave pulse, really won't fly. The death is directly attributable to actions initiated by the PKer. To argue otherwise is to basically argue that its the firing pin striking the cartridge that causes the bullet to fire, not the shooter pulling the trigger.
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