AI is perhaps one of the fastest evolving technologies ever devised, with enormous capabilities to entirely reshape the very foundations of a range of businesses, enable significant financial development and forever alter our way of living and interacting with one another.

There are high expectations that the metaverse, which relies greatly on AI technologies, will in turn revolutionise how users interact with one another within new social media platforms and how they connect to entertainment, gaming and work devices in the cyberspace. Despite the challenges that major tech companies are facing at the time of writing, the metaverse is indeed harnessing its status as the next generation of the internet, already enabling the growing number of users to socialise and work in a virtual world all the while making real life financial transactions within the multidimensional system.

Intellectual Property

The advent of AI in the artistic and creative industries, most notably in the metaverse sector, will continue to pose a series of challenges to the underlying principles of intellectual property law. For instance, AI generated works such as videogames, paintings, music, photography and video can indeed alter the established concepts of the creator, author and inventor.

While there are no legal certainties as to how to deal and properly protect AI generated works, concepts such as just reward, and moral rights could potentially be applied to "compensate" AI-generated inventions or creations. This, however, contravenes the notion that only human beings are genuinely capable of intentionally creating a work of art, and therefore only they can be granted Intellectual Property Rights ("IPR") over their creations. By strictly applying existing copyright laws to AI-created content, the protection falls short insomuch as it "excludes" the robot with only the human computer programmer being awarded rights in relation to the code that enabled the machine to artificially create the copyrightable work, but technically not over the resulting work itself.

On account of these fast-paced changes brought about by the use of AI technologies in the creative industries, traditional IP concepts such as artistic creations, inventions, and presumably even trademarks, amongst other works, will be continuously put to the test and the regulatory framework must therefore quickly adapt to the new paradigm. Perhaps the mere notion of what makes up a creation at its most basic may also have to be redefined. This could comprise analysing the scope of rights and obligations (if any) that are inherent to these creative expressions, as understood by humans, and how they may qualify as a new protectable subject matter (if an AI created work can even be classified as such), and whether or not the human intent should continue to be a prerequisite of an artistic creation. In any event, the lack of definition may pave way for AI works created in the metaverse to directly enter into the public domain and further disrupt the author-consumer relationship.

Data Protection

Both the GDPR and the UK's retained version of the GDPR, including the Data Protection Act 2018 have a significant focus on large scale automated processing of personal data and as such the deployment of AI tracking technologies in the metaverse will be ever scrutinised by the regulators. Articles 13 and 14 of the GDPR deal with the right to be informed of: (i) the existence of solely automated decision-making producing legal or similarly significant effects; (ii) meaningful information about the logic involved; and (iii) the significance and envisaged consequences for the individual.

Article 15 of the GDPR on the other hand regulates the right of access to: (i) information on the existence of solely automated decision-making producing legal or similarly significant effects; (ii) meaningful information about the logic involved; and (iii) the significance and envisaged consequences for the individual. Article 35 of the GDPR further addresses the so-called Data protection impact assessments ("DPIAs") whereby organisations must carry out DPIAs if their processing of personal data, particularly when using new technologies, is likely to result in a high risk to individuals. (i.e., any systematic and extensive profiling or other automated evaluation of personal data which are used for decisions that produce legal or similarly significant effects on people). DPIAs are therefore likely to be an obligation for using AI systems to process personal data in the metaverse.

The Impending AI Regulatory Framework in the UK

As AI is already becoming part of everyday life and the potential of the metaverse in a wide variety of industries, legislative action is required in order to guarantee that every sector benefits from their use. Policies and regulatory frameworks accordingly need to keep pace with the fast-changing demands of AI and the expansion of the metaverse, with the purpose of not only maximising growth and competition, promoting innovation, but also protecting the safety, security, choices and rights of users.

The UK in particular is a global force in AI and is strategically situated to pave the way over the next decade as an authentic research and innovation capital, a centre of global talent and a flourishing regulatory and business ecosystem. Various of the UK's achievements in AI were enabled by the 2017 Industrial Strategy, which laid out the government's plan to turn the UK into a global hub for the AI revolution.

In April 2018, the government and the UK's AI ecosystem agreed a near £1 billion AI Sector Deal to boost the UK's global position as a leader in developing AI technologies which are so deeply intertwined with the metaverse. The latest National AI Strategy signifies a shift in direction for AI in the UK, acknowledging its capabilities in the metaverse in order to foster an expanding innovative space in both the private and public spheres.

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