Ultima Online Volunteers Sue Origin

A lawsuit filed by a group of former and current UO volunteers demands compensation for past service.

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A group of Ultima Online volunteers has filed a class action lawsuit against Origin and Electronic Arts demanding compensation for their work as Ultima Online volunteers. The lawsuit alleges that the volunteers, as a part of Origin's Counselor program, were systematically charged with obligations and responsibilities typical of compensated employment. The volunteers are seeking back wages from Origin for their participation in the Counselor program.

The lawsuit, filed in a Colorado district court yesterday, was in part prompted by a change in Origin policy that will revoke the online privileges that the volunteers have enjoyed, including free Ultima Online service and special items. A recent ruling on a similar lawsuit against AOL established that such volunteer work can come under the jurisdiction of Fair Labor Standards Act, a federal act that regulates minimum compensation.

Jeff Brown, senior director of corporate communications for EA, told GameSpot that "Volunteers play an important, fun, and prestigious role in any persistent state world. While they're not essential to running the site, they enhance the overall enjoyment of the community for themselves and other members. Generally, UO volunteers seem satisfied with their position in the community. They are respected by community members for their role in answering questions and helping others navigate the site." Brown added that EA has not yet seen the suit and can't respond to specific complaints.

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