The legal issues of the meta-verse – Watch & Tribune> Detail

The first of these challenges is undoubtedly the possible reduction of competition. Tomorrow, one or two metaverse platforms (Microsoft, Meta …) may dictate their terms to the market. In order to sell on these platforms, it would necessarily be necessary to accept their unbalanced contractual relationship (delisting, explosion of royalties, compulsory use of an encrypted currency stored in a subsidiary, etc.). The risk, therefore, is to see a handful of platforms laying down the law of commerce in this new universe. There are already sanctions for abuse of a dominant position, significantly unbalanced clauses. The future DSA is expected to strengthen their effectiveness throughout Europe.

The second issue is the protection of personal data: by buying on virtual reality platforms, individuals will be tempted to transfer more personal data of a new type to sellers. The registration of facial expressions, the creation of avatars that reproduce human traits as faithfully as possible, are examples of what the shopping experience in virtual malls can be in the future.

However, biometric data are considered to be sensitive data that should benefit from increased protection.

In particular, CNIL believes that the consumer must receive enhanced information about the device and be able to reject it without consequences for him: he must therefore be able to continue his purchase. Not sure if the metaverse is easily suited for this.

More broadly, the European Regulation on the Protection of Personal Data (GDPR) will have to be respected in a much more complex context than today. Determining who is responsible for the treatment can therefore pose a problem: is it the online seller or the metaverse platform? Do they both have this role, and if so, are they jointly and severally liable? These issues have a crucial concrete impact on the responsibilities and obligations of users, in particular the obligation to inform about the purposes of the collection and reuse of the data. Their transfer outside the EU is also not finished asking difficult questions.

Also read: The importance of creating a website for the Social and Economic Affairs Committee

Another topic for reflection: the user-consumer is, of course, a significant player in the meta-verse when, for example, he interacts via his avatar with another user. Can this avatar, an extension of his person, have rights and does he assume his own responsibility?

Today, the answer is quite simple because the law only recognizes legal persons and natural persons. Any behavior must therefore be attributed to one or the other. An avatar can therefore not buy and pay online: the consumer is still a person.

The fourth question is not the least. It is the protection of intellectual property rights: of course copyright, but also design and model law and trademark law. Sellers who want to offer their products in a virtual mall must make sure to obtain all the necessary rights to the goods reproduced in this new universe. Task contracts with stylist teams must therefore be reviewed and modified if necessary.

Similarly, the wording of the marks must be increased as a matter of urgency so that marketing in the meta-version can take place without legal difficulties for the seller. For example, submitting a Class 25 shoe brand will not be sufficient. Metaverset is not an e-commerce site like the others, but a new virtual space.

That must also be kept in mind development, exploitation or resale of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) inspired or derived from pre-existing intellectual creations without the permission of the rights holder are likely to qualify as counterfeit. The insignificant nature of the transaction does not change anything at this point.

Also read: Can Metaverse create a phygital, agile, fluid and human shopping experience?

The rules of law therefore exist to regulate this new commercial space where avatars communicate and behave like humans. It is therefore not certain that a new law or a new European regulation will be necessary. But once again, technological developments are forcing us to rethink the use of available legal tools.

Anne’s cousin

Lawyer in the Herald and specializes in digital law, counseling and litigation. She regularly advises e-commerce players on sector issues.

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