The experts describe “metaverse” as an alternate digital real-time existence offering a persistent, live, synchronous, and interoperable experience. It is where the real world meets the virtual world. Well, it sounds like science fiction but it’s going to be reality soon. The question is what are the legal issues and what remedies are available now.
Intellectual Property Issues
First, can copyright licenses protect the use of a work? The copyright laws should protect the original works as described in the applicable statutes such as the Copyright Act. In general, it protects original works of authorship, including, literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.
Second, can trademark owners enforce their rights? A trademark is generally a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. A trademark typically protects brand names and logos used on goods and services. Now, there isn’t a distinction of whether or not a properly-registered trademark should not protect the intellectual property in the virtual world.
Third, can inventors protect their intellectual properties as a trade secret? Under California Civil Code 3426.1, a “trade secret” means information, including, a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that: (1) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to the public or to other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and (2) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy. So, in short, the statute should cover trade secrets in the virtual world.
We have the right to know how our personal information is being used, by whom it’s being used, and for what purpose it’s being used by third parties.
The California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) gives consumers control over the personal information that businesses collect about them and provide guidance on how to implement the law. This state law secures the following privacy rights for California consumers: (1) right to know about the personal information a business collects about them and how it is used and shared; (2) right to delete personal information collected from them with some exceptions; (3) right to opt-out of the sale of their personal information; and (4) right to non-discrimination for exercising their statutory rights.
Unfair Competition Issues
Unfair competition laws usually protect against unfair and deceptive trade practices. There are laws that prohibit the establishment of monopolies – e.g., the Sherman Act enforces antitrust laws and outlaws “every contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade,” and any “monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize.” The Supreme Court decided this federal statute does not prohibit every restraint of trade but only the unreasonable ones. For example, an agreement between two individuals to form a partnership restrains trade, but may not do so unreasonably and could be lawful under the antitrust laws. On the other hand, some acts are considered so harmful to competition that are almost always illegal. These include plain arrangements among competing individuals or businesses to fix prices, divide markets, or rig bids. These acts are “per se” violations and no defense or justification is usually allowed.
The Clayton Act is a civil statute that prohibits mergers or acquisitions that are likely to lessen competition. The government challenges those mergers that are likely to increase prices to consumers pursuant to this law. As such, all persons considering a merger or acquisition above a certain size must notify the Antitrust Division and Federal Trade Commission. This statute also prohibits other business practices that may harm competition under some situations.
The Federal Trade Commission Act prohibits unfair methods of competition in interstate commerce, but carries no criminal penalties. It also created the Federal Trade Commission to police violations of this statute. The government usually steps in when there’s a widespread violation of the laws. So, the regulatory agencies intervene to prevent the creation of monopolies.
Our internet and technology lawyers have been prosecuting and defending legal actions in state and federal courts and are available to speak with their clients. Our law firm assists clients in matters related to augmented reality and virtual reality and the applicable state, federal, and international laws. Please contact our law firm to speak with an internet attorney at your earliest convenience.