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A Chinese man has been convicted, and fined, for stealing virtual property.

Yan Yifan, from Guangdong in southern China, had been a keen player of online game Dahua Xiyou since 2002. But when he got a temporary job at the game's publisher NetEase in 2004, temptation proved too much.

He managed to take control of more than 30 accounts by faxing forged ID cards and getting passwords reset. When he had control, he sold people's game identities or equipment they had won or earned playing the game.

Yifan was originally convicted last year, but appealed on the grounds that virtual goods should not get legal protection. The court found that, because game players had put time and money into getting the virtual equipment and because Yifan had profited from selling the goods, they did deserve protection.

The court also upheld the 5,000 yuan (£361) fine.

Chinese lawyers predict the country could introduce laws to clarify "virtual property rights".

More details from the People's Daily.

A Chinese gamer was stabbed to death last year in a row over a virtual sword. ®

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