Law, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality
227 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2017 Last revised: 17 Apr 2020
Date Written: February 27, 2018
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are going to be big -- not just for gaming but for work, for social life, and for evaluating and buying real-world products. Like many big technological advances, they will in some ways challenge legal doctrine. In this Article, we will speculate about some of these upcoming challenges, asking:
(1) How might the law treat “street crimes” in VR and AR -- behavior such as disturbing the peace, indecent exposure, deliberately harmful visuals (such as strobe lighting used to provoke seizures in people with epilepsy), and “virtual groping”? Two key aspects of this, we will argue, are the Bangladesh problem (which will make criminal law very hard to practically enforce) and technologically enabled self-help (which will offer an attractive alternative protection to users, but also a further excuse for real-world police departments not to get involved).
(2) How might the law handle tort lawsuits, by users against users, users against VR and AR environment operators, outsiders (such as copyright owners whose works are being copied by users) against users, and outsiders against the environment operators?
(3) How might the law treat users’ alteration of other users’ avatars, or creation of their own avatars that borrow someone else’s name and likeness?
(4) How might privacy law deal with the likely pervasive storage of all the sensory information that VR and AR systems present to their users, and that they gather from the users in the course of presenting it?
(5) How might these analyses reflect on broader debates even outside VR and AR, especially order without law and the speech-conduct distinction?
Keywords: Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Law & Technology, Criminal Law, Torts, Privacy, Right of Publicity
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