Every radically new technology, from cryptocurrency to drones to artificial intelligence, poses a regulatory challenge. Governments must decide how to characterize technology in existing laws, how those existing laws apply, and to what extent new technologies require new legal restrictions. Governments can act in a variety of ways: through new laws, revising regulations and other policies under existing legislation, or through litigation. Many national governments and international bodies are having exactly this conversation about the Metaverse, with significant possible ramifications for Metaverse companies, their business partners, and end users.
On September 14, 2022, Thierry Breton, European Union Commissioner for the Internal Market, published “People, Technology and Infrastructure – Europe’s Plan to Thrive in the MetaverseIn part, Breton expressed confidence in existing legislation on metaverse issues, noting that “With the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), Europe now has long-lasting regulatory tools for the digital space”. But the commissioner also made it clear that the work of regulating the metaverse has only just begun, announcing the launch of the Virtual and Augmented Reality Industrial Coalition, “bringing together stakeholders key metaverse technologies” to map out a roadmap for further development. Competitive concerns, promising that “we won’t see a new Wild West or new private monopolies.”
South Korea’s National Data Policy Committee announced on September 23, 2022 that it develop metaverse-specific regulatory amendments. The Committee is chaired by South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and co-administered by the Ministers of Science and ICT and the Minister of Interior and Security.
The announcement focused on the metaverse as an issue that could “lead to national competitiveness success.” The Committee specifically found that the South Korean framework that exists for video games was insufficient to address metaverse issues. Earlier in the week, Korea Communications Commission Vice Chairman Ahn Hyoung-hwan met with a metaverse platform provider to discuss growing concerns about South Korean miners. being sexually harassed on metaverse platforms.
Earlier this year, Japan announced the establishment of a Web 3.0 Policy Office under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to formulate policies related to the metaverse. The ministry noted that “as metaverses become new personal interfaces, especially among younger generations such as Gen Z, digital spaces and assets could become much more important” and Web 3.0 entrepreneurs could leave the country for less regulated options.
In the United States, the most direct regulatory statement about the metaverse came in the context of the Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit for block Meta’s acquisition of a popular metaverse app. According to the FTC, “the virtual reality industry offers a uniquely immersive digital experience and is characterized by a high degree of growth and innovation”, but Meta’s drive to “conquer virtual reality” posed a threat to the competition. “Meta, the global tech giant that owns Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, is the largest provider of virtual reality devices, and also one of the top app providers in the United States” The FTC says that by purchasing the fitness app, Meta discouraged someone else from creating such an app, stifling future innovation and competitive rivalry.
Whether by enforcing and expanding existing laws or developing new regulations, or through flexible regulation of policies and guidelines, the developing metaverse will continue to take center stage in government discussions across the world.
Holland & Knight’s Metaverse strategy team includes experienced lawyers who are recognized thought leaders in the field. The Metaverse Strategy Team represents dozens of clients, including Fortune 500 companies and tech startups, as these companies navigate the Metaverse landscape.