Legal issues in the metaverse / Part 1 – Introduction to the metaverse

Part 1 – Introduction to the Metaverse

In recent months, ‘metaverse’ has become a buzzword appearing in numerous articles and media reports, and has even been referred to as web 3.0, without a precise definition of what metaverse is offered. However, the term is not new: it already existed in the 1990s, and in the 2000s computer games became widespread, in which users could lead a second life with their avatars, buy virtual objects, areas and even advertising space, in a virtual world built for this purpose. Blockchain technology has given a further boost to these developments, making it possible to add value to virtual goods through tokenization and to connect the world of cryptocurrencies to these virtual worlds, real-time exchanging and managing goods with real economic value.

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is a shared virtual world that users can access from any platform via the Internet, and where they can communicate with their virtual avatars. Access can be via virtual reality, augmented reality or a combination of both, e.g. by VR glasses. An important feature is that it has its own economy, which has real value and is linked to the real world economy. Some of its sub-services were already available on other platforms; integration is the novelty. The theme and built world of a given part of the metaverse depends on its provider, and the technology may differ. In practice, the metaverse is used in computer games and social media platforms, but it can also be used for virtual conferences, events (such as live online concerts and fashion shows), for entertainment, digital libraries, and e-commerce. revolutionize with virtual shopping malls. In addition to commercial uses, organizations are exploring the use of virtual worlds for other purposes. The metaverse, for example, is useful in the healthcare sector to offer virtual therapy and perform remote surgeries. It will also expand the possibilities of online education. The public sector can also use metaverse to provide virtual consultations and civil service. The interconnectivity and interoperability of different areas of the metaverse can be brought about by NFTs (non-fungible tokens), whereby goods are drawn in one part of the metaverse and thus practically obtained as a token, such as a tokenised garment of a luxury brand, can be used in another part of the metaverse.

The metaverse is not just technology, it’s a new business model

The Big5 companies have already invested a large amount of money in the metaverse and companies that support it with VR and AR technology. The sale of products and the provision of services in the metaverse require a change of business models, the tokenization of products, works of art, digitization and the virtualization of services, which also require new company policies, terms and conditions and a new economic mindset.

Legal issues in the metaverse

There are a variety of legal issues regarding the metaverse, especially given that it is a meeting point for multiple technologies, which require or connect servers, hosting, software, platforms, hardware and other peripherals (e.g. VR glasses and haptic gloves around virtual objects, content, graphics, maps, buildings, photographs, interfaces, as well as blockchain for the acquisition and registration of signed virtual assets. This diversity also raises a myriad of legal issues, ranging from intellectual property rights to data protection and civil law.

In this series of articles, we examine the key issues regarding the metaverse, including:

Part 2: Trademarks and Copyright, NFTs and Civil Law Principles in Metaverse

Part 3: Data protection challenges, the importance of cybersecurity, ad regulation in metaverse

Part 4: Expected Impact of EU Artificial Intelligence Regulation, the Metaverse as a Workplace

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