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Centre for Commercial Law Studies

Queen Mary tech law experts map out constitution for the Metaverse

Queen Mary’s Centre for Commercial Law Studies (CCLS) hosted international experts to explore legal challenges and opportunities in the video game and interactive entertainment industry.

A panel discussing the META verse at More Than Just a Game 2023

As video games and interactive entertainment are fast becoming central to the economy, new business models and digital platforms create challenges for the existing legal frameworks and boundaries. CCLS brought academic and industry experts together for its More Than Just a Game conference last week to shine a light on pressing digital law issues, from AI to IP and TMs to NFTs.

Delegates were welcomed to The Honourable Society of Lincolns’ Inn with a speech from Guy Robinson, Deputy Director for Strategy at the Intellectual Property Office. Lecturer at EECS (the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science) Dr Michaela MacDonald then presented findings from her work on IP and the Metaverse, alongside research partner Dr Yin Harn Lee from the University of Bristol, leading into open floor discussion chaired by Lars Olberg from the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property.

Dr MacDonald commented: “While the concept of the Metaverse continues to trend and attract considerable investment, it’s hard to predict how the Metaverse is going to look, whether it will have one or many iterations, and what its core issues or challenges will be. Our conference has a clear mission: to explore, challenge and inspire our understanding and perception of the next meta-era of the video game industry and interactive entertainment sector.”

On the first full day of the conference, Queen Mary’s Dr Gaetano Dimita set the scene for a series of insightful talks, presentations and panel discussions exploring different visions of and strategies for the Metaverse – spanning everything from the role of IP law and contracts to regulation in shaping the foundations on which the dreams of previous generations can be successfully built.

Lord Justice Colin Birss then chaired a lively discussion around different visions of the Metaverse and the ambitions we should have for building and inhabiting it. Experts from the World IP Organisation and major tech companies debated what is technically possible versus what is legally desirable, emphasising the importance of pushing boundaries to build an accessible and inclusive Metaverse.

Dr Dimita explained: “Public discourse tends to focus on issues that are not new; many lessons can be learned from the video game industry, which has been tackling them for over 20 years. The task ahead is to discredit false positives or non-issues and direct the conversation to address gaps in our understanding. Research on standards and implementation is still scarce, and the disruption of the legal regime by some crucial Metaverse components is difficult to fully predict. Will IP law become the new digital constitution or an afterthought in this rapidly changing environment?”

Other panel discussions explored creativity and exploitation in the Metaverse, from the infringement risks of AI- or user-generated content to the music licensing process. IP law experts considered interoperability as a key attribute of the Metaverse, while patent lawyers talked about the legal infrastructure on which this new platform is being built. Technology even spoke for itself, with experts asking a generative AI chatbot to answer questions on its own role in the Metaverse.

For the final day of the conference, Harri Salmi from the EUIPO Second and Third Board of Appeal put TMs and design rights under the spotlight, chairing a session on the unique opportunities presented by NFTs to facilitate commercial transactions and marketplaces in the Metaverse.

Further panels included FIFA’s legal counsel for digital products discussing how the Metaverse progresses commercial and IP strategies, Microsoft’s general counsel sharing lessons to learn from competition/anti-trust and consumer protection laws in building a human-centric digital world, and international arbitration lawyers warning of a rise in disputes between digital platforms and right-holders or users.

The conference closed with a session exploring the role of IP in designing, creating and experiencing the Metaverse. AI APPG co-chair Lord Timothy Clement-Jones CBE led an at times heated debate on whether IP will become a guarantee of creativity and freedom or a path to dominance and digital servitude, with expert panellists including Professor Andy Phelps (University of Canterbury) and Micaela Mantegna (TED Fellow & BKC Harvard affiliate) as well as Activision Blizzard King’s legal director Willy Duhen.

Lord Clement-Jones concluded: “Ultimately, whether intellectual property law serves as a guarantee of creativity and freedom will depend on how it is implemented and enforced. Balancing the interests of creators, owners, and the public is an ongoing challenge, and intellectual property laws will continue to evolve to address new technologies and changing social and economic needs.”

Watch the video re-capping More Than Just a Game VII and follow the More Than Just a Game conference series.



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