Updated: Aug 30
Our reality can be shaped by the arts. The metaverse, which is propelled by interactive virtual experiences, provides us with glimpses of potential future developments.
The word "metaverse" comes from the Greek words "meta" (-), which means across, after, or even beyond, and "-verse," which comes from the word "universe." According to legend, the phrase was first used in Neal Stephenson's 1992 book Snow Crash, in which characters communicate with one another via avatars in virtual environments. Films like Tron, The Matrix, and Ready Player One all featured variations of this idea. The metaverse's current manifestation in the physical world, however, is much more complex.
Virtual reality will not be the only component of the metaverse as envisioned by businesses like Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus. The metaverse is described by Mr. Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, as "an immersive, an embodied internet where you're in the experience." This version of the metaverse envisions a recalibrating of societal and economic functions with the goal of fusing the virtual and real worlds.
On the continuum between reality and virtuality, we would observe that in the world Zuckerberg espouses, both our professional and personal lives would be increasingly virtual. The term "mixed reality," coined in 1994 by Milgram and Kishino to describe the blending of the real world and virtual worlds, lies between the extremes of this continuum.
Regulating virtual worlds is an old topic of discussion. Easterbrook proposed designating cyberlaw as a distinct area of legal studies in 1996. In order to provide participants with enough stability and predictability for their communities to thrive, Reidenberg argued for lex Informatica, a set of rules governing the treatment of digital information, in 1998. Lessig asserted in 1999 that the displacement of legal values by code may require a response from the law. De Filippi and Wright recently referred to the "private regulatory frameworks" that blockchains create as being able to create "order without law" when discussing the regulation of distributed ledgers. Regarding the ways in which our online behaviour can be controlled, code and law are constantly at odds. Code and law have been on a collision course that has defined our era ever since the creation of cyberspace. Our legal systems will need to react forcefully to the reality–virtuality continuum shift in our economic and societal functions toward virtuality.
Due to the centralised nature of cyberspace, governments can use online businesses to impose their legal orders. The virtual world, which is the domain of code, would be pitted against the physical world, where our legal orders exist and normatively prevail if our commercial and social activities were moved into mixed reality. For instance, consumer law must be able to examine the commercial agreements on which users transact in the metaverse and the marketing campaigns taking place entirely in the virtual world if it is to effectively protect users from unfair or abusive practices in the metaverse. Written terms may become unnecessary as a result of users and businesses interacting in mixed reality in the metaverse. Businesses engaged in metaverse activity could be subject to our legal orders to ensure that consumer protection laws are incorporated into the code from the beginning, ensuring initial compliance. Pre-contractual mandatory information should also be able to be projected in a mixed reality setting, rather than initially only in written form.
The Mars House demonstrates to the world how we can design healing environments in the metaverse. Its layout features my meditative video art on LED ceilings and floors, resulting in a tranquil and restful setting reminiscent of Kyoto's Ryoanji Temple Garden.
In the metaverse, love and human consciousness are not limited by space. There will be many contentious legal battles over who is the rightful owner of the underlying intellectual property because the outcome could have a financial impact of billions of dollars. The various theories that will be litigated are summarised below.
Who owns metaverse rights under existing contracts that were drafted before the metaverse was even considered is a crucial battle that will be fought in the contract arena. The legal disputes over who is the owner of VOD rights under contracts that were written before those rights existed will be comparable to those over this issue. Depending on how the contract is written, a gaming company that received video game rights from a studio might be able to assert ownership of the rights to the metaverse. In the future, it will be crucial to allocate who exactly owns what metaverse rights by creating contracts with scalpel-like precision.
Claims pertaining to the metaverse's content are the next set of legal issues. What elements of metaverse content are permitted and prohibited? Three types of claims will predominate copyright, trademark, and right of publicity.
Regulation in the metaverse will face a sizable challenge from the exchange of digital assets. A non-fungible token (NFT), a type of digital asset that denotes ownership in a particular good or piece of content, could develop brand-new commercial ecosystems in the metaverse. Royalty payments that are automated on the token being transferred between users may be present in NFTs that represent music or art. Depending on their location or identity settings, virtual users may be able to evade enforceability, so laws should ensure that ownership and transactions in NFTs can be enforced in real life.Social media activity has significantly impacted democratic processes, including elections, around the world over the last ten years. These experiences make it abundantly clear that, in order to protect the rule of law, social harmony, and our democracies, strong measures must be taken to stop the spread of false and harmful content in the metaverse, including fake news, "deep fakes," and even state-sponsored propaganda. In order for the law to evolve for the metaverse era, it would have to be injected into code in a way that strikes a balance between the defence of the public interest and fundamental rights, such as the right to free speech. From the perspective of antitrust, regulators may want to be able to use the metaverse to track market behaviour, identify anti-competitive behaviour, and ensure that new entrants have access to necessary resources. This might entail competition authorities limiting access to source code. Competition authorities would want to be able to use dawn raids, a key investigative tool in their toolbox, in a mixed reality setting. In the best interests of users and the protection of competition, the law should make it easier to enforce competition laws.
The rules that govern these virtual worlds may take precedence over the law as they penetrate our physical reality. To ensure that the code complies with the laws that apply in both traditional cyberspace and the physical world, the law would need to step up to the challenge. In the alternative, code might emerge as the dominant normative order in the metaverse, unrelated to our legal systems. With such a change, private actors could potentially exert control over our metaverse activity, depriving us of safeguards created over centuries by our legal systems. Activity in the metaverse will reflect the existence of people and organisations in the real world. Thus, metaverse code will compete with our legal system's ability to regulate. It will occasionally be necessary to create new laws because existing ones won't always apply to situations that arise in virtuality. Regulators shouldn't, however, stifle the advantages that mixed reality environments may have for us. Legal structures that do not change to meet the demands of the metaverse run the risk of being replaced by the governance of code, opening the door for a successful autocracy. The issue of whether code or law will govern behaviour in the metaverse may no longer be relevant. It may be more appropriate to ask whether the law can complement or even replace code. Making sure that elements and components of mixed reality adhere to universally agreed-upon mandatory standards will be the most effective way to control behaviour in the metaverse. In order to achieve this goal, governments and technology companies must work together. claims made by users for various nefarious acts committed in the metaverse against other users. Every possible crime and tort that exists in the real world is also possible in the metaverse, especially when many people are involved. There have already been cases of sexual groping by one avatar of another, which actually caused real emotional harm to the person playing the groped avatar, as well as theft of virtual goods that can be traded for real or virtual money. What would happen if an avatar committed a sexual assault on another and the victim developed post-traumatic stress disorder? What if the metaverse company was aware that it was a repeat offender? In our brave new metaverse world, answers to such queries are not far away.
Navin Kumar Jaggi