what rules in the metaverse?

Personal data, copyright, royalties, intellectual property… What will be the legal framework in the metaverse, a virtual space. Answers from Marc Schuler and Benjamin Znaty, attorneys at Taylor Wessing.

What rules regarding users’ personal data will apply to the metaverse?

There is no reason to believe that the rules on the protection of personal data as they currently exist are not intended to apply to these virtual universes. If we take, for example, the territorial scope of the GDPR, it applies to any processing of personal data carried out within the framework of a service offered to persons resident in the EU.

From the moment the virtual universe is made available to them, the GDPR will apply. On the other hand, and for the publishers of such virtual worlds, adapting their practices according to the affected public and the applicable law will be a source of additional complexity. On the Internet, it is now easy to differentiate treatment according to the domain in question (.com/.fr). In the context of a single virtual world common to all, this division may prove more difficult to implement.

We can also foresee a complexity of obligations and responsibilities in relation to the new processing of personal data to be carried out via the metaverse. Such virtual worlds are likely to lead to an increase in the amount and type of data collected about users, such as more precise behavioral data than that currently collected by surfing the Internet. There will therefore necessarily be new question marks in relation to compliance.

What about copyright and royalties in the virtual universe?

In the same way that web 2.0 has revolutionized the Internet through the emergence of publications and creations of content by Internet users, here too we can foresee the importance of user creations in the development of these new virtual universes. Publishers will therefore necessarily have to foresee the conditions that apply with regard to the exploitation of the rights attached to such works, all the more so if they contribute to the creation as such of the virtual world in question.

There is nothing to prevent the publishers, within their general terms, securing an ownership right or an extended right of use for the works in question, as is often the case today with regard to content created by users of online services. However, it must be remembered that in France, some case law has qualified as abuse such clauses inserted in the conditions of use of certain platforms, especially due to the excessively wide scope of application of such provisions. A finer delimitation and management of the rights to the creations in question will therefore have to be considered and could potentially even allow a publisher to be more attractive to its users and thus allow them to exploit and monetize their creations with more freedom in the virtual world affected.

What legal framework will apply to cases intellectual property ?

Among the other intellectual property rights that the development of the metaverse invites reflection on, one immediately thinks of trademark law. Today, we can already see an increasing interest among owners to exploit their brands in this new context, especially via the sale of their products in virtual form within these universes.

Trademark owners must therefore anticipate and adapt their protection to this new form of exploitation. This primarily involves the possible need to expand the classes of goods and/or services for which their trademark is protected. Surveillance actions will also assume another dimension in these virtual universes, where the risk of counterfeiting is numerous and already exists. Questions will also arise with regard to the assessment of the infringement with regard to the intended use as well as to the practical methods of implementing the remedies and enforcement measures.

What rights and responsibilities will each party (publisher and users) have?

The answer to this question will ultimately depend on the world in question and the publisher’s power to control and moderate users’ actions. However, we can note here that although the EU has just started to modernize its legislative framework in this area via the “Digital Services Act” (DSA), it is not certain that this text, in its current version discussed in the European Parliament, is fully adapted to these new virtual spaces.

Today, DSA is strongly inspired by existing interfaces and characterized by a centralization of liability rules and moderation obligations. But some publishers are now highlighting the possible decentralization of the metaverse, with sub-environments meant to be managed directly by the various “owners” of reserved spaces in these virtual worlds. Such decentralization may prove difficult to reconcile with the rules of moderation and accountability that DSA currently envisages.

Personal data, copyright, royalties, intellectual property… What will be the legal framework in the metaverse, a virtual space. Answers from Marc Schuler and Benjamin Znaty, attorneys at Taylor Wessing.

Leave a Comment