In December 2021, a fragmented artwork by the artist Pak called “The Merge” was sold for $91.8 million, the highest price ever paid for a ‘digital’ piece of art publicly sold by a living artist. The Merge consists in a series of NFTs (non-fungible tokens), which are uniquely identifiable (thus, non-interchangeable) units of data stored on a blockchain.
The possibilities afforded by NFTs are set to be crucial in the evolution of the metaverse by introducing the concept of property in a 3D digital world. NFTs allow new ways of owning and transacting digital goods. Money in the metaverse is represented by cryptocurrencies, that allow users to buy and sell among other things, NFTs.
The metaverse is conceived to be a place “where people can socialise, work and play.” Ultimately, it allows users to merge reality and the virtual world. The high expectations of the metaverse have led to a change of Facebook’s branding to Meta and, more importantly, an expenditure of $10 billion in 2021 by Mark Zuckerberg’s company alone. Other tech giants such as Microsoft or Google are also making big moves towards the development of the metaverse. In January 2022, Microsoft concluded a $70 billion deal to acquire Activision Blizzard, one of the most important video game developers in the world. Google is preparing for the metaverse. The company is further developing its augmented reality technology, and has recently invested nearly $40 million in a private equity fund for its metaverse projects. We may just be witnessing the beginning of the next digital revolution, boosted by the technologies that will shape the metaverse, including NFTs.
Those acquiring NFTs can become owners of the original copy of virtual goods such as virtual paintings, real estate, cars, boats, etc. Thus, NFT owners can sell or trade them. Against this background, questions have been raised regarding the need for intellectual property rights (IPRs) to protect such a ‘property’ in the metaverse.
The present article highlights some of the opportunities the metaverse can provide, as well as some challenges that it may also face. In particular this article focuses on IPRs and their impact on the development of the metaverse.
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