At the end of Ready Player One the police

turn up and start arresting various people from IOI, including Sorrento.

It seemed strange that the police were not involved before this, even when IOI was involved in large-scale labour camps and all sorts of shady business. Weren't IOI's activities illegal? Did they buy the police off or do they somehow manage to operate within the law?

I imagine that this relationship is made clearer in the book but I've only seen the movie.

  • 8
    Just wanted to say that the book is different enough from the movie that it makes it hard to answer a movie question without a book spoiler. :p
    – JohnP
    Apr 18, 2018 at 14:51

2 Answers 2


IOI stayed within the bound of the law most of the time.

The "labor camps" were legal in the books as a form of indentured servitude for debts.

Wilson looked up into the lens of my hallway camera and smiled pleasantly. “Mr. Lynch,” he said. “My name is Michael Wilson, and I’m with the Credit and Collections division of Innovative Online Industries.” He consulted his clipboard. “I’m here because you have failed to make the last three payments on your IOI Visa card, which has an outstanding balance in excess of twenty thousand dollars. Our records also show that you are currently unemployed and have therefore been classified as impecunious. Under current federal law, you are now eligible for mandatory indenturement. You will remain indentured until you have paid your debt to our company in full, along with all applicable interest, processing and late fees, and any other charges or penalties that you incur henceforth."
Ready Player One - 0028

Then later, Wade makes specific reference to how a certain law gave him protection, implying that IOI didn't break the law (most of the time).

At the next station, a bank of machines gave me a complete physical, including a battery of blood tests. (Luckily, the Genetic Privacy Act made it illegal for IOI to sample my DNA.)
Ready Player One - 0029

However, IOI did break the law when trying to kill Wade, which is what Sorento got arrested for at the end of the book.

“This is airing on all of the newsfeeds right now. The feds just took Sorrento in for questioning. They stormed into IOI headquarters and yanked him right out of his haptic chair!”

A video clip began to play. Handheld camera footage showed a team of federal agents leading Sorrento across the lobby of the IOI corporate headquarters. He was still wearing his haptic suit and was shadowed by a gray-haired man in a suit who I assumed was his attorney. Sorrento looked annoyed more than anything, as if this were all just a mild inconvenience. The caption along the bottom of the window read: Top IOI Executive Sorrento Accused of Murder.

“The newsfeeds have been playing clips from the simcap of your chatlink session with Sorrento all day,” Aech said, pausing the clip. “Especially the part where he threatens to kill you and then blows up your aunt’s trailer.”
Ready Player One - 0039

(all emphasis mine)

So, IOI does break the law, but by and large, their activities are legal. The arrests were specific to the various attempted and successful murders of Wade, his aunt, everyone in that stack, and (in the book) the other members of the High Five.

  • 4
    Also remember that a lot of what IOI does takes place within the confines of a video game. If you're playing WoW and someone kills your character and takes your stuff, that's just a tough break; no laws were broken. It doesn't even matter if your character's equipment that was stolen has real-world value, because that's how the game is played. The Oasis is no different in that regard. Apr 18, 2018 at 16:22
  • Isn't Sorrento guilty of actual (not just attempted) murder? For (ordering the) incidental killing (of) Wade's aunt and her boyfriend, as well as successfully and intentional killing another major character (who I won't mention because spoilers).
    – stannius
    Apr 18, 2018 at 18:03
  • @stannius - yes, I added a bit to reflect that.
    – amflare
    Apr 18, 2018 at 18:05
  • 1
    @stannius - If he ordered the killing, the charge would be "conspiracy to commit", not actually murder. Minor technicality. It's only murder on his part if he actually participates in the act.
    – JohnP
    Apr 18, 2018 at 18:11
  • @JohnP Some jurisdictions include proximate cause as a consideration in this, meaning that a conspiracy to commit murder that results in any deaths could qualify as at least felony murder.
    – Harris
    Apr 18, 2018 at 18:28

The indenturement facilities were legal by federal law, and used by more companies than just IOI.

Wade references this early in the book:

...Winning the contest was my one chance of escaping the stacks. Unless I wanted to sign a 5 year indenturement contract with some corporation, and that was about as appealing to me as rolling around in broken glass...

And again, it is explicitly referenced in the book, when someone is inducted into a indenturement facility:

...are currently unemployed and have therefore been classified as impecunious. Under current federal law, you are now eligible for mandatory indenturement.

Once it is revealed that they actually did the things they did (Bombing the stacks, kidnapping, murder, etc), the police come to arrest them on those charges. So, the IOI is pretty much the same as every other corporation in regard to local police.


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