The number of those who define the metaverse as an opportunity is multiplying, but before investing in it and beating about the bush, it will have to be regulated. Because virtual swindles represent a very, very real risk. Like the consequences, they bring with them
Do you want to take out a mortgage to buy a virtual property? Soon the answer will come from an avatar lawyer who will give advice using his artificial intelligence. This is just one of the thousands of questions raised by the ongoing expansion of the metaverse, a boundless virtual space where, they say, we will spend more and more of our lives. A room in which (as fashion is already demonstrating) it is necessary to prevent cheating, crime, tsunamis of fakes, and so on and so forth. All particularly unpleasant matters lead to consequences that are not so virtual—quite the opposite.
The avatar lawyer
The avatar lawyer will practice within virtual law firms and provide consulting services for aspects of digital terrain law. For example, Grungo Colarulo, a law firm based in New Jersey, has already established its office in the metaverse. But, without physical borders, which law should be applied? And are real-world regulations suitable and valid in the virtual world? How should crimes of conduct and behaviour, for example, be judged? How to protect security and privacy? There is no shortage of questions and intellectual property issues, which are so sensitive for the (real) world of fashion and luxury. Some brands (Nike, Abercrombie & Fitch, Urban Outfitters, and others) have preferred not to take any risks by applying for trademark registration for downloadable virtual goods.
A virtual Gucci bag was sold in the game Roblox for $4,100. This is more than the (absolute) accessory price if purchased in an (authentic) boutique. How, then, to protect such a ‘bag’ from virtual use by third parties? An example comes from the USA, where Hermès has sued the author of digital bags called MetaBirkins, which show digital representations of the famous (real) Birkin.
We will see how this will end, but in the meantime, all this demonstrates how digital and exclusive (adjectives that substantially identify the product dimension of luxury) struggle to combine peacefully. Of course: some legal issues related to the metaverse are not entirely new. There is prior case law dealing with ‘interdimensional violations’ based on the former virtual realities. But all this needs to be brought up to date. And fast. Because the number of those who define the metaverse as an opportunity is multiplying, but before investing in it and beating about the bush, the virtual environment will have to be regulated. Will it be possible to do so without curbing its expansion? (mas.vi.)