The Position of Metaverses in the Field of Law

Prepared by Aslı Nur Lekesizbaş and Ceren Gizem Aktepe

Ed. by Büşra Özçelik Rençber and Pınar Güzel

Nowadays, the internet revolution that has transformed our lifestyle and habits, get faster with technological improvements still continue. While the world is struggling to adapt to fast progress, on the other hand, the “metaverse” term is often mentioned.

The first use of the term as metaverse appears in “Snow Crash”, Neal Stephenson’s novel that he wrote in 1992. This word refers to the removal of boundaries between the physical and digital world.

Facebook accepts the metaverse as the next step of virtual reality. Moreover, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has changed his company’s name to “Meta”. The “metaverse” word symbolizes that for him, there is always more to build, and there is always a next chapter to the story. In his opinion, the metaverse is the next line in connecting people, just like social networking was when it first occurred.[1]

Today, there are some platforms that we can say are kind of metaverses like games, cryptocurrencies and NFT projects. According to Zuckerberg the defining quality of the metaverse will be a feeling of presence like you are right there with another person or in another place.[2] It is aiming to achieve this through some augmented reality tools at the first stage.

Also taking into its mobility and level of using senses can facilitate understanding for us whether any platform is a metaverse.[3]

The metaverse is envisioned as a version of the internet with three-dimensional virtual environments.[4] Namely, metaverses are multidimensional areas. A lot of experiences like jobs, commerce, education, entertainment, gaming will be moved to here. As this is happening, where will the law have a position and how will be applied?

If there are people somewhere, there should be a law. Although metaverses are virtual worlds, there are people’s actions, proceedings and rights in this area too. In this situation is it needed novel rules and codes, or can current law be adapted to the new world?

There are some divisions about how will the law proceed. According to one of them, legal evolution for the metaverse era would entail law including itself into code in a manner that balances fundamental rights, such as the freedom of expression, with the protection of public interest. Virtual users may be able to evade enforceability depending on their location or identity settings. That is why the law should ensure that the ownership and transaction in NFTs can be enforceable in rem.[5] For the applicability of this approach, there should be a list of peremptory norms from which no derogation by any state, international organization, corporation or participant in the metaverse should be permitted.

Classic international law has provided for some bases of jurisdiction like territorial, nationality, passive personality. But there will be no national boundaries in the metaverse. For this reason according to another opinion “meta jurisdiction” is defended. We need this for global rules that could be enforced by many stakeholders, not just states. Technologists, nongovernmental organizations and lawyers need to work shoulder to shoulder.[6] Therefore for the solution of problems that may arise in different fields of law the technology authorities and stakeholders need to define its limits by providing a full and universally accepted definition of the metaverses and terms that regarding it.

With the development of metaverses, the internet environment is also expanding and the boundaries between it and the physical world are decreasing. For this reason, the nature of crimes has begun to change. With the spread of metaverses, the necessity of the legal community to analyze some issues and bring solutions to them cannot be ignored. For instance, the security problem of personal and environmental data, which is still not fully resolved, may arise. It cannot be predicted how much of the data collected for the use of services in Metaverse, will be under the control of the user. [7]

Property and land acquisition is also possible in metaverses. That is why via the anonymity brought by being in the virtual universe, more suitable conditions may arise for crimes against property such as theft. Especially, blockchain-based NFTs that make it possible to demonstrate the ownership of a digital property may become the target of attack.[8]

On the other hand, cyber pornography/obscenity crimes may also emerge within the metaverses. For instance, in the Second Life application, some problems such as the design of pornographic child avatars by some users and their use in pornographic images, or even the trade of them have appeared. Moreover, this situation causes underage persons to be exposed to such content and access it easily. The operators of virtual worlds should make it their mission to reduce such abuses.[9]

Another possible crime to emerge is cyber violence. Social relationships established through the Internet are more open to abuse. Although this possibility is already available on the Internet and metaverses are not a new dimension for this, it is more difficult to criminological examine the behaviour of users in metaverses.[10]

Since virtual worlds are more favourable to unpredictable actions and results than the physical world, it is possible for new types of crimes to occur as well as many regulated crimes. The law should ensure justice everywhere people are, without ignoring this. For this, it cannot be denied that it must shape its institutions, laws and practices.

Developments in this area have prompted some governments to take action. Some of them have started to adapt to the new situation that is especially about public law. One of them is The Seoul Metropolitan Government. The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) is the first local government in Korea to establish a metaverse platform, which has emerged as a contactless communication channel in the post-pandemic era, to start providing a new-concept public service by using the platform in its administration. The SMG plans to establish “Metaverse Seoul” a high-performance platform, by the end of next year, and create a metaverse ecosystem for all areas of its municipal administration, such as economic, cultural, tourism, educational and civic service in the coming years.[11]

Barbados, which is another sample, prepares to become the first sovereign country with an embassy in the metaverse. The Caribbean island nation signed an agreement in November with Decentraland, one of the largest and most popular crypto-powered digital worlds, to “outline the baseline development elements for its metaverse embassy”. Thus, embassy transactions like giving electronic visas, building digital lands will be done. At the same time, these transactions will comply with the Vienna Convention, which lays out the rights and protections granted to consulates and embassies.[12]

The steps taken by the states in this regard can be an example for other states. Thus, the regulation of crimes and punishments also can be accelerated and facilitated.

There is competition between the technology companies in this area. That is why there is also the possibility of unfair competition. Companies, which want to protect their existing, may turn the lawless proceedings. The law has to consider and prevent this too. Even, they have already started the competition. If we want to live in a fair world and take part in the digital world by ensuring that the founding principles of the metaverse be centred around basic human rights, sustainable environmental protection and fair labour standards, we can build a decentralized virtual world that shows up out the best of humanity.


[1] “Founder’s letter, 2021” October 29, 2021, (Online), https://about.fb.com/news/2021/10/founders-letter/ , 19.12.2021

[2] Ibid.

[3] Özgün Altuğ, Ayşe Gönen Anaeli, Ece Mert, “Tavşan Deliğinden Aşağıya Bakmak: Metaverse Dünyası & Onu Bekleyen Hukuki Sorunlar”, Metaverse Serisi 01, December 9, 2021, (Online) https://www.mondaq.com/turkey/fin-tech/1139762/tav351an-deli287inden-a351a287305ya-bakmak-metaverse-dnyas305-onu-bekleyen-hukuki-sorunlar-metaverse-serisi-01#_ftn2,  19.12.2021.

[4] Cooper, J., & Contributor, O. “Why We Need ‘Meta Jurisdiction’ For The Metaverse”, TheHill, (Online) https://thehill.com/opinion/technology/583529-why-we-need-meta-jurisdiction-for-the-metaverse, 17.12.2021

[5] Anastasios A. Antoniou, “Cyprus: Law in the Metaverse”, November 11, 2021, (Online), https://www.mondaq.com/cyprus/fin-tech/1129978/law-in-the-metaverse, 18.12.2021

[6] Cooper, J., & Contributor, O. “Why We Need ‘Meta Jurisdiction’ for The Metaverse”, TheHill, (Online) https://thehill.com/opinion/technology/583529-why-we-need-meta-jurisdiction-for-the-metaverse, 17.12.2021

[7] Özden Ercin,“Metaverse and Web 3.0 Cyber Security Risks”, Cyber Security Lab & Blog, December 7, 2021, (Online), https://ozdenercin.com/2021/12/10/metaverse-and-web-3-0-cyber-security-risks/, 24.12.2021

[8]Ibid.

[9] Christian Laue, “Crime Potential of Metaverses”, Virtual Worlds and Criminality, August, 2011, (Online) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/226170289_Crime_Potential_of_Metaverses, 24.12.2021

[10]Ibid.

[11]“Seoul, First Local Gov’t to Start New-Concept Public Service with ‘Metaverse Platform’”, November 11, 2021, (Online), https://english.seoul.go.kr/seoul-first-local-govt-to-start-new-concept-public-service-with-metaverse-platform/, 19.12.2021

[12]“Barbados To Establish World’s First Metaverse Embassy”, November 19, 2021, (Online), https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/barbados-to-establish-world-s-first-metaverse-embassy-51836, 19.12.2021