If you’re old enough to recall conversations in which you questioned the possible use of the internet, you may well wonder at the possible usefulness of the newly emerging metaverse.
The metaverse is the ‘vision of the future’, a network of three dimensional worlds that are focused on social interaction. This new virtual world is accessed through virtual and augmented reality headsets with users interacting via representations of themselves (known as avatars).
Rather than being a super-duper new version of a video game, there is more to the metaverse than meets the eye. It is an emerging business opportunity that, bizarrely, can earn the likes of Facebook huge sums of money. The virtual world makes it possible to ‘sell’ things from virtual clothing to virtual property – even though in reality they don’t actually exist.
It is possible to digitally represent people, properties, streets and towns and a virtual real estate market has emerged. Being misrepresented in the virtual world of computer-simulated representation might not be on everyone’s priority list of things to be concerned about, but what would you do if a third party decided to buy or sell a virtual version of your home?
There are no legal protections in place to stop someone selling your virtual home, should you wish to prevent it, and the laws of trespass do not apply in the world of virtual property. It is also unlikely that an easement could be protected at the Land Registry.
It has not yet been proven, but it may be possible to claim ‘slander of title’ against the owner of your virtual house. The term applies somewhere between defamation and intellectual property rights, under which it could be claimed that someone was acting falsely or maliciously to disparage your title to land.
We don’t know whether it will ever become possible to apply the law to virtual fraud or other property crimes, or whether you would be able to protect your virtual property from the likes of a virtual squatter. What would be interesting, though, is whether the metaverse could in the future become embroiled in bureaucracy – perhaps even attracting property tax or rental income? Just a thought.