NEW DELHI: Metaverse today brings across new distinctive legal challenges. Metaverse law as a subdiscipline of cyber law is going to be evolving very rapidly in the next few years, said cyber law expert and senior Supreme Court Advocate Pavan Duggal.
To a large extent, Metaverse laws will be based on the foundations of cyber laws. But more significantly, we will quickly start realizing new manifestations and new orientations of the legal jurisprudence coming forward, Duggal explained. He was speaking at a webinar hosted by IIT-Kanpur incubated – Future Crime Research Foundation (FCRF) on Digital Crimes In Metaverse Ecosystem.
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Here Are Some Of The Hot Points Explained By Pawan Duggal:
The fundamental question that comes up for consideration is – whether Metaverse is legal?
Well, just because the technology is existing, does it mean it’s legal? Let me put the question in a converse. Just because there is no law that illegalizes your technology, does that mean it becomes legal? So it really depends on which side of the spectrum you’re looking at.
My thumb rule is that if there is no law, which illegalizes or criminalizes the use of technology, then the normal presumption has to be that this particular technology is legal and valid and can be used for a variety of purposes. So Metaverse can definitely be seen to be legal.
On the Metaverse, what are you ultimately dealing with?
You’re dealing with data and information in electronic form – whether it’s your digital avatar, metaverse contract, your activities, Metaverse crime or breach of cyber security. Ultimately, your raw materials continue to be some fundamental common denominators being data information to the electronic form.
So Metaverse can always be seen as legal because the electronic format has been granted legality under the Information Technology Act 2000. And since you’re dealing with the use of computers, computer systems, computer networks, computer resources, communication devices as also data and information you are effectively covered by the parameters of Indian cyber law.
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What is the metaverse contract? And is the Metaverse contract legal?
You can have a Metaverse offer. Some offers can be made on the metaverse either by the digital avatar or it can be made by the digital user directly on the Metaverse.
The offer can be expressed by means of data and information in electronic form. It could be a symbol, an illustration, a representation, in the written format, it could be a spoken printed format, or even could be recorded format.
The moment it reaches you doesn’t matter what was offered. You have a choice as a user to either accept the metaverse offer or reject it.
The moment either you or your digital avatar accepts the metaverse offer, it results in Metaverse acceptance of enough that results in a valid binding Metaverse contract.
But then why do the contracting parties do Metaverse contract? Is it ultimately the users or is it the digital avatars? I can use the same for purposes of entering into a contractual relationship and it can be seen as a legal agreement.
But whether it can be granted the legality of the law is a big question because when one looks at the existing provisions of legal frameworks and finds that the legal frameworks were never really dark keeping in mind that people beyond humans could potentially be entering into contracts.
It’s not me who’s entering into a contract. It’s my digital avatar that brings me to yet another fundamental question.
Is my digital avatar legal?
Can I say that my digital avatar on the Metaverse is going to be a legal personality and if so, what kind of rights duties and obligations need to be made as an integral part of your digital avatar? It’s a big question for which there are no specific answers.
Logically speaking people are saying digital avatars need to be granted legality. But the moment you start granting legality to the digital avatars, the question that’s going to come up for consideration is how do you regulate the activities of digital avatars and whether you require any legal frameworks, so let me give you an analogy.
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Today in artificial intelligence, and legal jurisprudence, we’re all struggling to answer a fundamental question. Is artificial intelligence a legal entity? And if so, can recognition be given to artificial intelligence? I find that both artificial intelligence’s legal jurisprudence and Metaverse legal jurisprudence are roughly similar kinds of predecessors. There are very early stages of the evolution of their legal frameworks. Because they have not yet made up their mind and if you make up your mind, then you’ll have to make a lot of changes in your legal frameworks.
Logically, the traditionalist scholars believe that let the traditional law be applicable. There’s really no need for new legal frameworks for the Metaverse.
But I think as time passes by, and as Metaverse as technology gets more and more centralized, in our day to day lives, you will have to give legal recognition to the Metaverse legal entities.
Can avatars be punished? Can you send digital avatars to jail?
Yes, maybe you can create a Metaverse jail. Maybe you can confine some digital avatars onto the Metaverse.
How would that be effective? What are the legal mechanisms and parameters?
That again, fundamentally boils down to the fundamental question as to whether the metaverse digital avatars have been granted legality or not? So logically speaking I can’t send your digital avatars to jail. I can forcibly retire them. I can forcibly discontinue its existence by operation of law.
So when a crime is committed on the metaverse let’s take the recent example of the Metaverse molestation case. Ultimately, who got molested in the metaverse was the digital avatar.
And not only the digital avatars’ bodily features were mutilated, but more significantly a lot of obscene activities were done on the digital avatar.
The user can themselves say look, my digital avatar has been molested or raped and therefore tantamount to my rape and action needs to be taken. That raises a lot of fundamental questions. First and foremost, is tampering with a digital avatar a crime?
Logically, so it should be a cybercrime. Primarily because your digital avatar is your digital property. It consists of digital bits and bytes. You’ve got intellectual property rights are the same. And if somebody violates the same, then clearly you have the right to the same.
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Who do we actually punish for Metaverse crime?
We can’t punish digital avatars. We can discontinue the digital avatar’s usage monetarily. We can consign them to Metaverse jail, or alternatively, we can let the piggy consequences be visited upon the digital user to whom the digital app belongs.
Here also there are a lot of nuances. I can either create my own digital avatar, I can get somebody to create my digital app that when I get somebody to manage and oversee the day to day activities of my digital avatar, in a scenario like this, effectively, I could be outsourcing the management to my digital avatar related activities. That means it could open up a new Pandora’s box of legal issues.
Same problems you’re facing in the context of artificial intelligence law as well.
So when an artificial intelligence algorithm goes rogue, whom do you punish?
You punish the algorithm, you punish the person who’s written the algorithm, or do you punish the person who’s the owner of the algorithm or is using the algorithm – these are great questions but there are no concrete answers as we talk right now. But logically as I go forward, I believe that whatever store will have to evolve in a direction where metaverse users will have to be made responsible for the criminal activities that are done on the metaverse either by themselves directly or by the usage of the digital avatars.
How do we effectively regulate metaverse – specifically the breach of cybersecurity?
Metaverse is going to be unsecure. It is already happening as a number of breaches of cybersecurity and the metaverse are taking place. Cybersecurity is a thriving economic industry, and therefore breaching the cybersecurity of Metaverse, properties, assets, digital avatars, activities or even computer resources on the metaverse would be a very logical and attractive phenomenon for cybercriminals and cyber security breaches. But then how do we go ahead and regulate the breach of cybersecurity and the metaverse? There is no denying the fact that they would require dedicated legal frameworks.
Can the existing National Cybersecurity laws be made applicable to metaverse?
Yes. Because right now, it’s a strange world that we’re living in internationally speaking, there is no international cybersecurity law treaty arrangement in place. So, different countries have already started coming up with distinctive national laws on cybersecurity. And these laws are being drafted in very broad terms. I think these broad terms that are using these laws could equally be made applicable in the context of the metaverse at large.
And therefore, if there’s a breach of security in the metaverse, then the provisions of the National Cybersecurity laws as are existing in different countries would also be made applicable in the context of the metaverse per se.
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