At the recent Thomson Reuters Institute’s Emerging Legal Technology Forum, the panelists spoke highly of the metaverse and its implications for the legal profession.
TORONTO – The metaverse can present exciting opportunities for legal professionals to advance their own careers and serve clients entering these new fields. However, those who want to try the new program should not forget that the rules for legal inclusion are still in place, warned the panelists at the Thomson Reuters Institute’s 5th Legal Technology Forum Annual Issue.
In an event titled, Getting Right: Opportunities and Costs in Web 3.0 Technology, Amy ter Haar, a legal advisor at the Global University System and a board member of the Ocean Falls Blockchain Group, began by examining the positive effects of the metaverse, noting that the metaverse is not technology is one thing, but “the ability to connect with technology. in a new way.”
In a typical transaction, for example, one party (an intermediary, such as a bank) is responsible for maintaining records and information. But when parties in the metaverse enter into a transaction using a blockchain, both parties can access and change information as needed, with a secure record of those changes verified by all parties. . In that way, ter Haar said, the metaverse is “removing the mediators and gatekeepers and empowering people.”
However, it is difficult to identify for those who have not been in the area, he said. “If you get into the process of replacing the word metaverse in a sentence or a word onlineyou will find that 90% of the time the method does not change”.
To get a better idea of how the metaverse paradigm is changing interactions, architect Matthew Rappard, chief technology officer at security company Vaultie, suggests thinking about how most people online every day. In general, he said, “the principle of privacy is being lost.” Everyone has tools to record videos, apps that track location, easier access to information like bank accounts, and more. On the other end, the metaverse can provide users with another option by being able to pretend to be a different person. Video content creators known as Vtubers exist as completely separate online avatars, and viewers do not see their identities.
“You end up with this kind of revolution where in the public world you’re seeing less privacy, but in the digital world you’re seeing something different,” Rappard said, and saying that the change that comes with the virtual world provides more. administrative authority. “When we talk about the metaverse, it’s the ability to control your identity and how that identity interacts with smart contracts.”
Where the Metaverse and the law intersect
However, when legal disputes arise, the nature of the metaverse and the increased focus on privacy may be a hindrance rather than an advantage. While panelist Yinka Oyelowo, principal lawyer at Yinka Law in Toronto, believes that the metaverse and the associated blockchain technology “simplify many of the processes we see in real estate, ” for example, he admitted that resolving disputes about the metaverse remains “highly suspect.”
Consider the issue of trust issues and land issues: Who gets ownership of a piece of metaverse land if the original owner dies? While smart contracts encoded in the blockchain are best suited to fulfill the specific terms of the contract, they also need to consider how the transfer of assets and regulations are handled in the jurisdictions. manage and apply.
“It’s very difficult, because the legal requirements for British Columbia are very different from the requirements in New Hampshire in the US,” Oyelowo said. Law firms that assist in this type of dispute will need lawyers who not only handle jurisdictional issues, but are also technically savvy and familiar with the laws of trusts and estates.
Additionally, there are frequent issues when it comes to physical assets airspace: Who owns the three-dimensional boundary above or below a piece of land? However, materials in the metaverse don’t work the same way, making spatial powers difficult to determine. Assumptions about the physical world “are not easily transferred to the metaverse. It takes a long time to understand the issues, “said Oyelowo, adding, but there is an opportunity. commercial property.”
In fact, all reporters pointed to the opportunity for legal experts to explain the risks involved. The Digital ID & Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC) is exploring ways to authenticate online identities while still maintaining confidentiality and privacy, Rappard said. Oyelowo also pointed to startups linking facial IDs with cryptocurrency wallets, where a wallet holding cryptocurrencies is opened through two-factor authentication that includes a facial scanner and a unique code.
But even as these opportunities arise, those in the legal world must keep an eye out for potential risks — and ensure they adhere to ethical guidelines. Even Vtubers who don’t reveal their offline identities pose legal and ethical challenges, Oyelowo said. “While most consumers come forward with their identities when entering the metaverse, some consumers … prefer anonymity.” But in a state like Ontario, this can be problematic: Before giving advice, lawyers are required to verify the client’s identity. Especially if the two parties are just chatting in the virtual world, the clients may be in a jurisdiction with different or less ethical boundaries.
This means that even though the virtual world is emerging, the physical still needs to be considered. Therefore, lawyers should take care to “get an identity document that you are satisfied is correct” from the person behind the avatar, not just the metaverse avatar, Oyelowo explained.
Ultimately, experts agreed that the metaverse will continue to evolve, with new opportunities and potential problems emerging in the coming weeks and months. No matter how it evolves, what remains is that the metaverse is an exciting place to watch for progress.