Emerging Tech Law Issue #11
Legal risks of buying digital property. Big Tech looks to use AR/VR gear as entryway to the metaverse.
Welcome to the 11th issue of Emerging Tech Law .
In this issue:
Digital land purchases in the metaverse come with legal risks.
Big Tech looks to use AR/VR gear as entryway to the metaverse.
Note: After a brief break, the newsletter is back. I’m experimenting with a new format, including a snippet of my long-form content with a link to read more on my new site, Emerging Tech Law. Feedback welcome and encouraged.
With billions of dollars pouring into development of the metaverse, this issue focuses on some of the legal risks associated with the rush to buy digital property and the efforts by Big Tech to use AR/VR wearables as a pathway to extend their businesses into the metaverse.
Quote of the week:
“This Metaverse is going to be far more pervasive and powerful than anything else. If one central company gains control of this, they will become more powerful than any government and be a god on Earth.”
-Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games
The legal risks of digital property
The digital real estate rush is gaining momentum as more and more people buy “property” in the metaverse. However, there are significant legal risks to buying digital real estate.
The Digital Land Rush
The metaverse is a 3D, immersive, virtual world, and some of its early platforms are selling plots of digital land within their ecosystems. Although digital property sales are not new, Facebook’s metamorphosis to “Meta” in late 2021 spurred sales.
The biggest purchases on the two most popular platforms – The Sandbox and Decentraland – exceed $1 million. The $2.43 million sale of land in the “fashion district” of Decentraland in November was topped a week later by a $4.3 million purchase of land in The Sandbox, according to Business Insider.
Prices of virtual land undergo significant swings, in part because of the variability in the value of the cryptocurrencies used to purchase them, but prices for the cheapest plots have ranged around $11,000 to $14,000 in January 2022. As of January 16, secondary market Opensea listed some properties on The Sandbox at over $30 million.
Big Tech Looks at AR/VR Gear as Entry to Metaverse
Apple and Google are both looking to expand their reach into AR/VR wearables. This will position to them lead the rush to be the dominant hardware and software platforms for the metaverse.
The metaverse – a platform in which participants can immerse themselves in a three-dimensional virtual reality – is attracting billions of dollars of investment from Big Tech companies and venture capital firms. But the vision for using AR/VR glasses and headsets as gateway to extend the power of Big Tech into the metaverse clashes with a more utopian view of the metaverse.
A federal judge has ruled in favor of the FTC, allowing an antitrust lawsuit against Meta/Facebook to proceed. This is a major win for the agency its first attempt at targeting Silicon Valley's social media monopoly was blocked due to lack evidence. (NPR)
Twitter co-founder and current Block CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping up to help defend Bitcoin developers against lawsuits. The Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund will assist developers fighting lawsuits, which are becoming more common. (NDTV)
Telemedicine is not transforming health care, despite strong boost from Covid-19 pandemic. (RCRWireless)
Crypto crime reached record $14 billion in 2021. (WSJ)
Lots of blame to go around in FAA vs. FCC 5G spat, but administration needs to take lead. (LightReading)
Quantum computing will be significant contributor to fight against climate change. (Quantum Insider).
Will 70 become the new 50? New fund seeks to extend life, improve mental health. (Fierce Biotech)
“People need to kind of have a narrative behind it (metaverse land purchases). Because at the end of the day, you're just buying numbers in a computer,” he said. “The story that you're buying something in a new high-rise or a building is largely kind of bullshit.”
-Software engineer and crypto skeptic Stephen Diehl, quoted in an article in Wired, The Metaverse Land Rush Is an Illusion
Obligatory disclaimer: Any opinions are those of the cited source or the author of this newsletter, not the author’s employer. If for some reason you think any legal advice is given in this newsletter, you’re sadly mistaken.