*Yawn* Well your dealing with seperate things here for starters. What applies to a situation like "Second Life" does not apply to the logic of MMORPGs. Truth be told in "Second Life" there is no real 'game' or 'endgame' other than talking to people, creating items, or whatever. Virtual Commerce there is what they make of it. On the other hand MMORPGs involve a lot of stats, access to content, an 'endgame' and other things that people work for within the context of the game. Powerleveling services, currency sales, and other things ruin the game. It cheapens the experience for someone who works to get to the endgame if some goober can just buy his way in with real money. This kind of logic does not apply to "Second Life". This is the major flaw with the above article, it's trying to put a lot of differant kinds of issues together that do not belong together.
As far as the companies getting involved in enforcing policies legally and such, I think it's more a matter of cost than genuine fear. The only sustems that would be really affected negatively by things like taxes if everything worked properly are things like Second Life where part of the point is commerce, in simple terms it's a fancy venue for people to sell computer generated artwork.
From the perspective of games, banning currency and item sales entirely is the way to go, to keep things "fair". Making sure those who get to the high end zones and such earn it, as opposed to hiring someone to play the game for them or whatever. If no one is selling the stuff then there is no issue about taxation, currency reporting, and similar things.
The problem is that noone wants to deal with the legal jumble of buying precedent (and face it, that's what the legal system amounts to). Not to mention the bad press when some guy from say Korea is extradited and hit with enough jail time to label the crime as serious enough to merit enforcement.
20 years for selling a virtual item or gold? Well think about it. For anything less no one is going to bother to enforce these kinds of laws. For a minor fine it won't be much of a deterrant, and noone is going to jump through the nessicary hurdles.
Right now your not likely to see that happen because companies are interested in making a profit. We're waiting for the unlikely occurance of a very rich, very miffed individual to force the situation from outside and get the ball rolling.
Also understand that right now I think game companies themselves are some of the biggest culprits in the problem. See, right now accessing the 'endgame' content of an MMORPG is a valuable commodity. I've suspected for a long time that a lot of the more obnoxious money/powerleveling/item sales are actually run by the companies themselves, who make token efforts to stop other groups to raise perceived value. See basically in a game where you can publically buy money or items from the company for real money, there is nothing special about uber-items or money and the cost in real world terms is relatively low. However this way you can demand more for units of in game currency people aren't supposed to have, or for "rare and special items".
I'm not great at articulating my thoughts I guess.
Basically I feel that eventually online gaming will grow to the point where it gets to the level of Niven's "Dream Park" and various similar science fiction concepts. This includes tight regulation and a lot of rules and enforcement to keep the games fair for everyone involved (ie real life wealth and such not intruding in the game itself, and earning your way up being an accomplishment).
Things like Second Life aren't really "Games". They are very crude attempts to simulate a true "Virtual Reality" like in various Cyberpunk novels. The stuff being sold there is basically artwork as I said (for all intents and purposes). That stuff has value for the same reasons that the skills of a graphic artist do.
It's a totally differant enviroment/logic than a game, where someone is basically paying money so they can get to the end, without having the requisite time or skill to earn there way there.
In Second Life it's a product, in say World Of Warcraft (or whatever) it's cheating and can ruin the game for a lot of people who are trying to play "seriously" as hobbyists or whatever.
It hasn't happened yet, but with time I think things will "break" and online gaming will become a big enough deal that there will be serious enforcement in keeping if fair.