Virtual and Augmented Reality Laws

Virtual and augmented reality laws are changing the legal and technology industries. Now, we must face important issues such as privacy, security, and regulations. Also, there will be issues related to identity and liability because every human activity will soon take place in the virtual world. So, most scholars will agree that some of our laws will have to change.

Augmented reality is an interactive experience that allows the creator to set its own parameters. These parameters can be new rules which may be different from the real world's rules. So, the creator is allowed to provide its proprietary terms and conditions that the users must follow without exceptions. Thus, it allows the virtual world's creator to change or limit its legal liabilities. Virtual reality is different from augmented reality because it replaces the user's real-world environment by completely simulating it. So, in order to create this simulation, there are several special software (e.g., VRML, X3D, WebVR) and hardware technologies (e.g., gyroscopes, motion sensors, headsets, cameras) being used in the market.

Moreover, since the users of the virtual world will be engaging in numerous transactions with each other, there will be an abundant amount of personal information therein. In effect, it can allow the virtual world creators to obtain, store, and transfer the personal information. This personal information may include biometric data which can be obtained from fingerprints, iris scans, or voiceprints. Also, facial recognition software and its legal ramification will be applicable to these technologies. Therefore, the issues of control, access, and privacy will be litigated in our legal system especially because biometric privacy laws will be introduced as new legislation. So far, Illinois, Texas, and Washington have enacted biometric privacy laws and many other states are planning to follow the trend. The California Consumer Privacy Act ("CCPA") is supposed to go into effect on January 1, 2020 and will grant new rights to consumers for the collection of their personal information. The statute is codified under Civil Code 1798.100 that states in relevant part: "A consumer shall have the right to request that a business that collects a consumer's personal information disclose to that consumer the categories and specific pieces of personal information the business has collected."

These emerging technologies will change the definition of harm, injury, and damages because incidents can take place in an artificial world. Stated otherwise, the line between the "real world" and "artificial world" will not be as clear. The user may not know whether he or she was harmed in the "real world" or the "artificial world." The user may have been facing another person's digital self (a/k/a "avatar") that looks real but in reality it is not the real person. What happens when the avatar commits a tort - e.g., assaulting a person or causing an accident - by failing to obey the rules? It may be even possible for the bad actors to create an altered version of that person and present it to the virtual world. These bad actors can present an altered version of that person who is acting in a different way from the real person.

In general, a tort occurs when an act or omission causes someone harm. There are intentional torts, negligent torts, and strict liability which are part of the fundamental principles of our judicial system. However, the virtual and augmented reality concepts will eventually change the judicial system. The courts will be struggling with these technologies and how they affect individual rights and responsibilities. In some cases, well-established legal doctrines will be helpful in their assessments. Yet, there will be new legal questions regarding privacy, security, and regulations. Moreover, since the virtual interactions may take place in different physical jurisdictions, the courts will face jurisdictional challenges - i.e., which court has the power and authority to oversee and resolve the legal action?

We understand the issues related to virtual and augmented reality technologies and how the courts are handling the legal disputes. Finally, our virtual and augmented reality lawyers know what other jurisdictions are doing about these technologies.