Virtual Reality Exceptionalism

42 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2018 Last revised: 12 Apr 2018

See all articles by Gilad Yadin

Gilad Yadin

University of Haifa, Faculty of Law

Date Written: January 1, 2018

Abstract

Virtual reality is here. In just a few years, the technology moved from science fiction to the Internet, from specialized research facilities to living rooms. These new virtual reality environments are connected, collaborative, and social — built to deliver a subjective psychological effect that believably simulates spatial physical reality. Cognitive research shows that this effect is powerful enough that virtual reality users act and interact in ways that mirror real-world social and moral norms and behavior.

Contemporary cyberlaw theory is largely based on the notion that cyberspace is exceptional enough to warrant its own specific rules. This premise, a descendant of early cyberspace exceptionalism, may be dramatically undermined by the advent of virtual reality. This technology brings cyberspace conceptually and concretely close to the real world, blurring legally significant distinctions between cyberspace behavior and physical behavior, between “real,” “not real,” and “virtually real.”

There is an opportunity here. Some of the cyberspace-specific legal regimes that developed over the last twenty years are seriously flawed, especially in criminal law contexts. Computer-hacking legislation is overly broad and vague, resulting in the criminalization of minor Internet infractions and the chilling of digital freedoms; cyberharassment and cyberstalking laws are poorly enforced and ineffective, turning cyberspace into a hostile environment for many people; and government cybersurveillance norms have seriously upset the balance between public security and individual privacy, putting society on the path to an Orwellian surveillance state.

Virtual reality brings a new understanding of the human cyberspace behavior continuum that counteracts cyberspace exceptionalism, undermines contemporary cyberlaw theory, and presents an opportunity to move away from problematic cyberspace-specific legal regimes and back towards the well-established laws of the real world.

Keywords: Virtual Reality, VR, Law & Technology, Technology Law, Cyberlaw, Cyberspace, harassment, surveillance, hacking

Suggested Citation

Yadin, Gilad, Virtual Reality Exceptionalism (January 1, 2018). Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law, Vol. 20, No. 3, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3143778

Gilad Yadin (Contact Author)

University of Haifa, Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Carmel
Haifa
Israel

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
55
rank
351,800
Abstract Views
385
PlumX Metrics