TRADITIONAL LAW TOPICS IN METAVERSE
I work in the traditional realm of law where a harm caused by a bad actor or negligent actor has resulted in a physical injury to the person. For example, you can see that in the criminal law an assault and battery or robbery has physically hurt a person. Or a negligent driver or business has acted in a harmful way to cause an injury to the person.
I myself am a lawyer. I’m the President of Hickman Law Office in Old Town, Alexandria, VA. I am licensed to practice law in VA, MD and DC, and in some federal courts. We practice criminal law and personal injury (injuries to the person caused by some other person’s fault). We try cases before jurors or negotiate and settle disputes.
Then enter the world of the meta.
I was introduced to meta through my daughter Sophia Moshasha who works in immersive technology that covers AR/VR. We would talk about her experiences, and then she actually put me in the headset, and I entered this brave new world called metaverse. I could see and hear, and I was submerged into this space, and removed from my real-world senses. It piqued my interest.
A lot of resources are expended on controlling bad actors or perceived bad actors. And much like our real world, the question is how to control and punish bad actors.
What and how should platforms censor bad actors while still affording them due process rights? You all know that Facebook and Twitter suspend accounts temporarily or on a permanent basis based on their judgment alone. Not the judgment of a jury. But is that really fair? And is that a trend that the metaverse should follow? Or is it fundamentally fair to permit the alleged offender to have their day in court, so to speak, in a VR court?
In the metaverse, the avatar is a much more sophisticated virtual identity with more complex interactions and integrations with our real life, therefore censorship of an avatar will have a much greater impact than a Facebook profile.
Who is the judge? And what are the rules? If the rules are not fair, then people will not want to interact in the metaverse
Let’s explore a few hot topics:
CRIME IN THE METAVERSE
Think about an avatar screaming next to you in meta so as to interfere with your presence to engage in whatever activity you are there for, or having a nude Avatar suddenly appear before you and follow you around.
Some traditional crimes involve in-person misconduct, such as robbery, sexual assault, indecent exposure, or disorderly conduct. You are actually robbed or assaulted in the real world but not in the VR world, therefore, those crimes would be impossible to prosecute in the VR world, unless perhaps there was a real threat of the bad conduct being directed towards you crossing over into the real world.
However, you can see and be heard in VR. An example of a crime in both the real and VR world is being so loud as to disturb the peace. Or how about indecent exposure, where the avatar is naked?
VR platform may keep good logs to know which avatar was screaming, or offending
VR platform may require identification of people with a use of their credit card
Subpoena to tract to the Internet subscriber
Implement code to allow the user to ramp down the noise, or enable the used change how others avatars appear to them; or flick them off the screen, or limit how close an avatar can be to your avatar.
If the headsets are designed to remove the user from the real world with noise canceling capabilities and sight restrictions, then potential injuries can occur, despite warnings. The user is unable to capture their actual real surroundings and may forget where they are, and simply not notice the danger in front of them.
- From the use of headsets, resulting in the user bumping into objects causing broken bones, and injuries to spectators who get to close
- Failure to notice hazards nearby in the real world
- Being forgetful of the real world; for example, attempting to climb onto an elevated surface only to fall because the surface doesn’t really exist in the real world
- Examples of real injuries: broken bones, lacerations, eye strain, disorientation, muscle strains/tears and concussions; stepping on a piercing object like broken glass.
- Vision damage
- Electric shock
So who is at fault?
Perhaps the user, if the user is negligent in the use of the headset; perhaps the headset is faulty due to design or manufacturer error; perhaps the source of the images is the cause of the injury
Safety regulations, warning and education
Use headset in large clear area
Set alarm to alert you remove headset and take in your surroundings
How about buying special insurance coverage
Your moves are being captured, so beware of your conduct and your digital footprint. Review your platform service’s user agreements (for ex., business done on their platform belongs to them, or that they own your avatar). Know the risks of the particular platform. In other words, review the terms of the contract to know how the platform the user is interacting with operates regarding data and privacy. Remember there is a group that has administrative privileges and can control the environment.
Third party authentication services
Ask to see their credentials
Assume that all of what you do is being recorded and/or watched; so be careful with your discussions and interactions.