The Metaverse: 4 Legal Concerns to Be Aware Of
June 2024
The Metaverse: 4 Legal Concerns to Be Aware Of

What is the metaverse?

You may have heard tech pioneers like Mark Zuckerberg refer to the metaverse as “the future of the Internet.” What does that mean, exactly? What does that look like? In a nutshell, the metaverse is an immersive cyberspace made up of technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). In this world, users can hop into the metaverse to play games, work, hang out, attend virtual concerts, buy and sell consumer goods, and much more.

A new way to connect

In the metaverse, users can identify themselves by creating their avatar (picture an animated version of you, or anything you want to look like). Through creating a virtual identity with avatars, users can communicate and even do business with one another in the metaverse. Avatars might not even be tied down to just the metaverse – you may be able to copy them into other social networks and online platforms. A few examples of the metaverse exist now, such as the use of holograms in Microsoft Mesh. Meta (previously called Facebook) estimates its key metaverse features will take another 5 to 10 years to become mainstream, and while its launch is highly anticipated, there are still a lot of questions to be answered in the meantime.

4 legal challenges the metaverse faces

Without question, the metaverse brings up a lot of legal issues we need to address. Here are 4 examples of challenges to navigate as metaverse comes to life:

1. Avatar altercations

In a virtual world where you can be anyone and do anything, there’s a particular element of freedom that, without legal safeguards, can open up a can of worms. For example, as avatars can communicate and trade with each other, there is an inevitable risk of online crime, cyberbullying, and other misconduct. Currently, there is a lack of legal framework around this issue.

2. User data privacy and security

There are many questions at stake by introducing this online world. There will be a massive incoming wave of machine-generated content, like avatars and virtual goods, and new formats of data will increase sensitivity. There are still many unanswered security questions regarding how Meta will prevent identity theft, trolling, and other unlawful online crime and protect consumer privacy.

3. Intellectual property

The metaverse economy will take some new thinking regarding intellectual property and brand protection. This new type of virtual atmosphere will present opportunities for brand owners in the tech industry and create new opportunities for intellectual properties, like patents for device and software tech. Changes in intellectual property law are inevitable because there are many unanswered questions. For example, what’s the difference between trademarks in the metaverse and the physical world? Can a trademark be deemed famous in the metaverse and not the “real” world?

4. Online marketplace

Transactions in the metaverse will take place using cryptocurrency and NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Many questions about these types of digital currencies are still at large. How do laws differ when buying virtual goods in the metaverse versus the physical world? For example, virtual real estate has become an NFT, which raises the question – which real estate laws apply in a virtual world? Do laws in the real world apply if someone’s avatar trespasses on a private virtual property? Can users take out a mortgage on a cyber home?

Talk to your lawyer about your rights in the metaverse

The metaverse is new, and there is a lot to navigate. It’s essential to know your rights and what questions to keep in mind, though, because the rollout of the metaverse is anticipated to significantly impact and shape the way people communicate, spend time together, and even work. If you have questions about your rights when it comes to the metaverse, talk to your dedicated lawyer.