IP, Web 3.0, and the Metaverse

Web 3.0

What are Web 3.0 and the Metaverse, and what do these things mean for intellectual property (IP)?

According to Investopedia, Web 1.0 was ushered in by web browsers such as Netscape Navigator in the mid-1990s. Early website pages were primarily static, with little if any interactivity.

Web 2.0 was marked by “interactivity, social connectivity, and user-generated content” and the rise of apps like “Airbnb, Facebook (now Meta), Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Uber, WhatsApp, and YouTube,” many of which contribute to the “gig economy.”

And now,

Web 3.0 represents the next iteration or phase of the evolution of the web/Internet and potentially could be as disruptive and represent as big a paradigm shift as Web 2.0. Web 3.0 is built upon the core concepts of decentralization, openness, and greater user utility.

There’s no commonly accepted definition of Web 3.0, but decentralization is a core feature:

In Web 2.0, computers use HTTP in the form of unique web addresses to find information, which is stored at a fixed location, generally on a single server. With Web 3.0, because information would be found based on its content, it could be stored in multiple locations simultaneously and hence be decentralized.

Since the blockchain is inherently decentralized, it’s a natural “home” for Web 3.0. As Amazon Web Services (AWS) explains,

In a decentralized blockchain network, no one has to know or trust anyone else. Each member in the network has a copy of the exact same data in the form of a distributed ledger. If a member’s ledger is altered or corrupted in any way, it will be rejected by the majority of the members in the network.

According to Seeking Alpha,

The term ‘metaverse’ is a portmanteau that combines the words ‘meta’ and ‘universe.’ It is used primarily to refer to an anticipated future iteration of the internet that’s often hailed as Web 3.0. This evolution of the internet is expected to see the rise of online 3-D or virtually integrated environments that provide users access to virtual reality and augmented reality experiences.

Virtual reality already exists in many forms, from virtual reality headsets to massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft.

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, recently offered this glimpse of the “metaverse.”

How does IP come into all this?

Already, digital versions of real-world objects are available for purchase in VR worlds. For example, you can buy licensed H&M fashions and Ikea home décor for your Sims characters.

Many brands have jumped into the blockchain world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), including Taco Bell, Crockpot, Campbell's and Twitter.

An NFT isn’t itself a form of intellectual property. It’s more like a receipt for a specific item of IP. Some creators of NFTs don’t seem to understand that distinction. For example, as Esquire and many other publications discussed,

An anonymous NFT group called Spice DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) made waves when they triumphantly tweeted about their acquisition of a rare art book: Jodorowsky’s Dune, the guidebook to an ambitious but ill-fated film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. These spiceheads had big plans to convert the book into NFTs, burn the physical copy, and adapt the story into an animated series. There’s just one problem: little did they know, the purchase didn't mean they actually own the copyright to Dune. All they own is one very, very expensive book.

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