In this #35 issue of “Lexing Insights” the members of the Lexing network focus on “the metaverse”.

Metaverse: major economic opportunities 

The term metaverse first appeared in 1992 under the pen of a science fiction author, Neal Stephenson. The concept was then developed in video games (Fortnite, Second Life) and movies (Matrix, The thirteen floor) before coming under the spotlight in the fall of 2021 when Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was changing its name to Meta. At the time of Web 3.0, many believe that metaverses, along with blockchain technology, will be a key element of tomorrow’s Internet.

According to the Council of the EU, the metaverse can be described as “an immersive and constant virtual 3D world where people interact by means of an avatar to carry out a wide range of activities”. There is not just one metaverse, but many metaverse platforms (e.g. The Sandbox, Decentraland, Roblox).

Businesses have every interest in investing massively in this new world which offers major economic opportunities.

A world tour of metaverse and related issues

In this #35 issue of “Lexing Insights” the members of the Lexing network provide an overview of the sectoral applications of metaverse in different parts of the world and review the associated challenges and risks:

  • Metaverse and electronic signatures: while electronic signature has become even more important in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, how might electronic signatures work in a metaverse? What could go wrong?
  • Metaverse, privacy and data protection: the sheer volume of data collected in the metaverse and its particularly intrusive nature are such that they require a paradigm shift. Data protection authorities are struggling to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change. What legal rules should apply to personal data in the metaverse? Are we ready for a privacy-friendly metaverse?
  • Metaverse and intellectual property: the recent lawsuit brought by Hermès for infringement of its brand in the metaverse have shown that it is essential to protect one’s rights in this new virtual world. What strategy should be adopted to protect intellectual property assets (suchas patents, trademarks, copyrights) in the metaverse? How to register a trademark in relation to the metaverse? What is the position of the EUIPO and France’s INPI on virtual products and NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) with regard to the Nice Classification?
  • –Metaverse and digital identity: digital identity is a central issue for the metaverse. While Spain’s Charter of Digital Rights elevates one’s own digital identity to the category of enforceable right, Europol warns of the many dangers (synthetic identities, deepfakes) in this virtual world. The European Union agency for law enforcement cooperation stresses that the metaverse is not just for gamers and that cybercriminals do not hesitate to deceive and manipulate Internet users in order to steal their identity. How can you be sure that someone is who they say they are in the metaverse? The proposed European regulation on AI and sovereign digital identity give some solutions.
  • –Metaverse and medicine: the medical metaverse is a great tool to train and test health professionals and treat patients. Both virtual reality and augmented reality are already being used for medical purposes, for example to help patients suffering from anxiety, autism, or even veterans with severe forms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and the metaverse will make it possible to go even further. In this context, what measures should be taken to ensure patient privacy and confidentiality?
  • –Metaverse and consumer protection: the complex and comprehensive legal framework of consumer protection in the European Union will need to adapt in the realm of Metaverse. For example, does an avatar praising a brand in the Metaverse fall within the description of misleading advertising, or under the exercise of the freedom of expression? What about dark patterns? Are certain well-established concepts of consumer law, such as “distance contracts”, suitable for the metaverse?
  • –Metaverse and IA: Artificial intelligence and metaverse are closely linked. How will the future regulation of AI and the Metaverse be shaped? Let’s take the example of the United Kingdom, which considers itself to be a global force in this field.

The following countries have contributed to this issue: Australia, Brazil, France, Greece, Italy, South Africa, Spain, United KingdomUnited States.

Lexing International Newsletter “Lexing Insights” No. 35 “Metaverse”– December 2022