Charles is a boutique LA Attorney and Entrepreneur who owns and operates multiple hospitality concepts across the nation.
In 1901, French archeologists in Susa, a city in modern-day Iran, discovered an enormous stone stele containing the entirety of King Hammurabi’s code. Etched into a pillar over seven feet tall were 282 orders that defined not only property laws and guidelines for commercial transactions, but delineated specific punishments for disobedience. While not the oldest codified law, Hammurabi’s is one of the earliest and most influential legal texts. Four millennia later, societal ideas of the law have materially evolved and transformed due to both world events and groundbreaking technological advancements.
On average, the typical internet user, ages 16-64, spends approximately seven hours online daily. The growth and unparalleled expansion of the internet over the last two decades has necessitated dramatic shifts and amendments to governing law. And I believe that we are currently witnessing the most significant evolution of the internet as we know it. While the debate still rages about the form the metaverse will ultimately take, we should all agree that the impact will be monumental.
As the metaverse becomes a fully realized, interoperable and persistent platform, the need for a codified and clearly defined system of applicable laws will be tremendous. While perhaps a valid provenance for the governing law in the metaverse, our current legal system may be as foreign to the needs of the metaverse as Hammurabi’s code would be to our present-day IRL world.
Practice Sectors In The Metaverse
The applicability and sufficiency of existing intellectual property laws are being tested as we speak in the metaverse. Heavyweight companies such as Walmart, Hermès, Nike and Roblox are all actively seeking judicial determinations as to their respective trademark rights in the metaverse. While a veritable hotbed of Web3-related legal questions and concerns, intellectual property is by no means the only practice sector witnessing a general disquiet as to the applicability of “real life” laws to our rapidly expanding virtual world.
Take potentially criminal acts in the metaverse. According to a 2020 Pew Research Institute survey, 33% of women and 11% of men aged 35 and under reported that they had experienced online sexual harassment. This staggering number has most assuredly risen in the last two years. This begets multiple questions around virtual criminal acts: Can the crime in question indeed be committed in a virtual world? If so, who would enforce the law, and what would be the specific jurisdictional definition of the crime? If we anticipate spending a third or more of our day in the metaverse, it would stand to reason that certain wrongful acts perpetrated in the digital world subject one to punitive confinement or limitation of movement in the virtual world. Is there a need to start considering “meta jail” and “meta house arrest”?
Merriam-Webster defines “law” as a binding custom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority. Suppose we could amend the very definition of law itself. I would propose it should now read, “a binding custom or practice of a physical or virtual community: a rule of conduct or action whether undertaken by a physical being or their digital presence prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by controlling authority or the digital equivalent.”
With at least one source speculating that the metaverse market could reach $13 trillion by 2030, there will be an immense need for organized, consistent and clearly defined systems of contract law. Will virtual handshakes and furnishing a chat thread suffice as a binding contract? With over 60 million yearly disputes resolved, perhaps eBay’s “Online Dispute Resolution” can serve as a guide as we begin to unpack the complexities of future Web3 laws.
The opportunities to practice law in the metaverse are abundant for the neophyte lawyer and the expert alike. Emerging and nascent technologies are the subject of daily legal panel conversations and allow legal practitioners to learn about emerging Web3 practice areas and earn continuing legal education credits in the process. I have personally found YouTube and LinkedIn to be treasure troves of metaverse-related information, which will only become richer, more robust data sources as the sector matures and continues to attract erudite legal professionals.
Oh, and remember to purchase your domain” target=”_blank” class=”color-link” title=”https://www.techradar.com/news/what-is-a-blockchain-domain” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer” data-ga-track=”ExternalLink:https://www.techradar.com/news/what-is-a-blockchain-domain” aria-label=”blockchain domain“>blockchain domain to position yourself well for the inevitable virtual reality immersion.