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A Shanghai man stabbed to death a fellow online gamer who sold a virtual sword they had jointly won while playing "Legend of Mir 3", Reuters reports.

Qiu Chengwei, 41, repeatedly stabbed Zhu Caoyuan after discovering that Zhu had sold the "dragon sabre" for 7,200 yuan (£464). Qiu had lent his friend the cybersabre last February, later reporting it as "stolen" when he learned of the transaction. Police, however, told him that - as the disputed weapon was virtual property - he had no recourse to law.

A Shanghai court heard on Tuesday that "Zhu promised to hand over the cash but an angry Qui lost patience and attacked Zhu at his home, stabbing him in the left chest with great force and killing him." Qui has admitted "intentional injury" and awaits the court's verdict.

China Daily notes that the sorry affair raises something of a legal poser regarding online "possessions". Wang Zongyu, an associate law professor at Beijing's Renmin University of China, told the paper: "The armour and swords in games should be deemed as private property as players have to spend money and time for them."

A lawyer for a Shanghai-based internet game company countered: "The 'assets' of one player could mean nothing to others as they are by nature just data created by game providers."

Indeed, a Japanese woman recently had a run-in with the authorites after deleting her ex's online gaming data - including clothes and weapons. In this case, though, she was charged with "violating a law banning illegal access" rather than offences pertaining to the wanton destruction of her former lover's virtual goods and chattels. ®

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