The Metaverse of Intellectual Property

By | 5 minute read | April 25, 2022

Intellectual property is a broad term. Generally speaking, it is understood to refer to creations of the mind. [1] Of course this includes major Media where content such as written or spoken word, movies, characters, songs, graphics, streaming media, and more — are the exclusive creation of the owner, individual, or individuals, who created the content. Owners have the right (within reason) to do what they will with their content, including monetizing it. Any person or any thing that monetizes content without the expressed written permission of the owner is said to be violating intellectual property law. As such, violations may be subjected to severe economic penalties.

Of course, in today’s internet and it’s evolution, advances in blockchain technology, and all new forms of media, it’s meaning, and application of intellectual property have changed dramatically. The latest challenge to the area of intellectual property law is also quickly developing in the Metaverse and how it’s commonly understood.

Simply stated, the Metaverse is a rising set of new technology driven digital experiences that are taking place through devices driven by new cloud computing models, the internet and network connectivity. It is understood to be some form of virtual reality with a wide array of digital components. Individuals will be able to conduct meetings, to learn, play games, engage in social interactions, and more. [2]

Of course, while the Metaverse is still evolving, there is no question that it will allow individuals to create their own spaces for interactions. It will also certainly allow individuals to create content, or use content, that will be protected by intellectual property law. As you can imagine, the Metaverse presents content creators and owners with a wide array of potential challenges when it comes to tracking their Intellectual Property. These challenges will have massive implications for media companies and the future of content creation broadly.

How You Can Protect Intellectual Property in a Digital Age

While the Metaverse may be the next frontier of experience and technology, there is good news for individuals who have business models based around content creation: This has been done before. Intellectual property can clearly be protected and is protected even in a digital age in which theft of digital assets occurs with staggering regularity.

Some common strategies that have been used to protect intellectual property includes:[3]

  1. Copywriting particularly sensitive or important materials.
  2. Relying on appropriate contract clauses to ensure that there is no dispute about the ownership of content.
  3. Deploying AI technology to identify violations and theft of digital intellectual property.
  4. Increasing staff resources to identify and enforce IP law.

There’s even more good news evolving with use of blockchain. The blockchain is often misunderstood as being exclusively the realm of cryptocurrency. In truth, the blockchain can be used in conjunction with smart contracts. Smart contracts allow for digital property (such as NFTs) to be exchanged and tracked. They ensure that there is never a question over ownership and that commerce will be supported when digital assets are shared under certain and proper conditions.

It’s likely that the blockchain and smart contracts will evolve to be an extremely helpful and essential technology when it comes to the protection of intellectual property. The fundamental characteristics of blockchain absolutely  align to support what is required for IP protection. As a distributed system, it simply cannot be altered without the consent of both parties. Hacking the blockchain is virtually impossible. The blockchain, by design, can be used to ensure that there is no question about the ownership or rights of intellectual property. [4]

Intellectual Property and The Metaverse

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act — passed by the United States in 1998 — was a vitally necessary update to copyright law that has proven to be a bedrock tool when it comes to protecting intellectual property in a digital environment. It allows for DMCA “take-down” notices to be sent by digital companies. These notices provide an enforcement mechanism for when one person has been accused of violating the intellectual property rights of another. As such, they are a nearly invaluable tool that can help to protect another person or business’s assets. [5]

Many questions remain about the Metaverse, but this much seems clear: As a digital space, assets that were used or created in or copied into the Metaverse should be protected by the DMCA. Enforcement will unquestionably be a challenge, and a slew of new questions will absolutely arise. However, at least in theory, individuals who create intellectual property for or in the Metaverse should have their assets protected, but if you can’t find or experience it, how can you protect it?

The Role of Artificial Intelligence 

Artificial Intelligence has long been deployed by media companies and big tech, including Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM. AI can help to enforce Intellectual Property law by identifying potential violations. Today it’s clear that there are companies that have entire business models dedicated to such technology and capabilities.

However, a key question remains: How can AI be deployed in the Metaverse to enforce the protection of Intellectual Property? How can it be used along with the blockchain?

Companies like IBM have used AI for everything from customer care, advanced cloud and network orchestration, and cybersecurity. [6] However, AI can be targeted to find intellectual property violations. For example, an AI algorithm can be set to scan for the unauthorized use of video, images or other digital assets. When found, legal notices can be sent to the appropriate parties, demanding the assets be taken down. The same AI can then be used to determine what sort of monetization the violator of the property has engaged in, thus allowing for the content creator to be informed and empowered to take action or compensated. [7]

All of this begs a fundamental question: Is your content safe in the Metaverse? How can you track your content? How can you protect your creations and business models, and what sort of legal protections will be in place to do so? Many of these questions remain currently unanswered as the Metaverse continues to be built. However, there is good news: Even in a digital economy, intellectual property has survived as business models have changed. It is reasonable to figure that the same protections that have allowed intellectual property law to continue — including the use of AI — will survive into the Metaverse.