During its first meeting held in Alicante in February 2023, the Scientific Committee decided to focus the activities for the year 2023 on six Action Lines. Activities will be announced on our website. We invite you to subscribe to our distribution list if you wish to receive the announcements by email.
Activities in this transversal Action Line will focus on assessing whether the recent legal instruments adopted by the European institutions (e. g. DSA, DMA, DGA) and the legislative proposals under negotiation (i. e. the Proposals for an AI Act and a Data Act) are fit to the particularities of the metaverse, and will provide a regulation that ensures all interested parties are adequately protected without creating unjustified and disproportionate obstacles to innovation.
In the Metaverse, we interact through avatars. This raises both legal and ethical questions. How do we preserve our digital identity in the metaverse? Would it be possible to have a single identity in the different virtual worlds or metaverses thanks to technologies such as blockchain? Does the legal framework facilitate this? Should we interact with a single avatar or would it be possible to have different avatars depending on the virtual world? Are there any limits in choosing our avatars? Are there limits for owners of virtual worlds to create autonomous AI-powered avatars to interact with us according to our preferences? Which ethical concerns do all of the above raise?
The development of the metaverse will entail a significant increase in the volume of data generated, processed and transferred, most of which will be of a personal nature. This data will also be of a very diverse nature, including data collected through XR devices related to our feelings, or to our physical behavior in the Metaverse. Much of this data will be considered "sensitive", so data controllers will have to find ways to comply with the requirements and guarantees demanded by art. 9 GDPR in a manner adapted to these new virtual environments. All these dilemmas are accentuated by the inherent features of the metaverse (inherently transnational character, continuity and interoperability between different environments, etc.), the multiplicity of actors that will participate in it and the difficulties with the attribution of responsibilities that it entails, in particular in the case of metaverses based on decentralized infrastructure and governance schemes.
As the Metaverse becomes increasingly popular, there is an urgent need to create and maintain a safe and inclusive environment for all users so as to guarantee a positive virtual experience. This requires the implementation of adequate measures that prevent not just illegal contents, but also unlawful behaviors such as cyberbullying, harassment or hate speech (especially for the most vulnerable subjects like children), while at the same time striking a proper balance with fundamental rights such as freedom of expression. Tools adopted to confront this multidimensional challenge (e.g., community guidelines, AI-based applications) will also need to comply with the growing instruments on content regulation adopted and foreseen by the EU institutions (e.g., DSA, RADTCO, Proposal RPCCSA).
Some experts foresee that a new economic ecosystem will be established in the metaverse based on the creation of a market of digital assets created by individual developers or companies which will be exchanged with users of virtual worlds. Blockchain and the Web3 will be a facilitator of this new economy thanks in particular to the use of NFTs and virtual currencies. But many questions are raised: what does it mean to “own” a digital asset (e. g. “virtual land”, “avatars”, “skins”, digital artworks…) in a virtual world? Do you really “own” it, or it is just a digital item whose use is governed by the terms of service of a platform? Should platforms be obliged to facilitate the migration of digital assets from one virtual world to another? Which are my rights as a consumer over the digital asset I have “bought”? Are the existing regulations on unfair commercial practices adapted to the new marketing techniques in the Metaverse? What happens if a digital asset developed and marketed by a creator in a virtual world infringes the intellectual property rights a third party has in the real world?