The metaverse is gaining traction in the digital space. It is a virtual online world where those plugged in can interact, create and explore. In this article, trainee solicitor Ahmed Jasem evaluates the profound effect the metaverse might have on the legal landscape if it continues its current trajectory.
One of the most significant changes the metaverse will bring is the emergence of virtual property rights. As those who plug in begin to create virtual spaces, they will be able to own virtual assets such as land, buildings and other items on platforms such as The Sandbox. This is a virtual world within the metaverse “where players can build and monetise their gaming experience through blockchain”. This will inevitably result in the need for new laws and regulations to protect the assets created to ensure they are legally recognised. The groundwork for such recognition has already begun with the emergence of cryptocurrencies, a digital form of currency, and non-refundable tokens (‘NFTs’) (which are defined as “unique cryptographic tokens that exist on a blockchain and cannot be replicated”).
Legally binding agreements in the metaverse
The metaverse will also have an impact on the way contracts are formed and enforced. As more people begin to interact in the metaverse, there will be scope for users to enter into agreements relating to the virtual world, such as contracts for the purchase of land and other assets. The recognition of legal ownership of property and assets in the virtual world will require the development of new laws and regulations to ensure such agreements, although virtual, are legally binding and enforceable in real-world courts.
Disputes in the metaverse
Finally, the metaverse will impact how disputes are resolved. As people interact in the metaverse, they will also be able to resolve disputes through virtual arbitration or mediation. This innovative concept can break down some of the barriers found by those currently using real-world ‘virtual’ court hearings, which emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic and continue to be used today.
Additionally, with globalisation in full swing and claimants, defendants, witnesses and experts not always able to attend hearings physically, it will offer a different mechanism than using Zoom, Teams or similar platforms for virtual hearings. This, too, will require the introduction of relevant regulations or legislation.
Overall, the metaverse will shape the future of the legal landscape and how future lawyers think. As it continues to gain traction, developing a legal framework that encompasses virtual property rights, contracts and disputes will be necessary to ensure the legal industry and lawmakers do not fall behind in what may become a virtual revolution.
If you require further information on this article, please contact Ahmed Jasem at [email protected].
Disclaimer: The above is merely general guidance and should not be relied on as formal advice. We suggest you take professional advice before taking any action in relation to the issues discussed above.