Metaverse and NFT’s, or the mutation of e-commerce

In the beginning there was nothing … or very little. Starting from bartering, man has never stopped innovating in his own way trade, as if it were second nature … Agriculture and breeding, maritime exploration in search of new products, development of land transport and the sea as in the sky. Commerce gradually crossed borders, cities, villages, roads and dangers to be fulfilled directly at home, camped in front of a computer, tablet or smartphone. Who hasn’t bought online these days? From already several years, the stars have aligned in favor of the markets, these giants of digital commerce through which almost everyone buys …

Widespread, the law has worked to make room for digital commerce for consumers, but also to ensure competition and market stability. The legislator has
it also warned against forms of unfairness, compliance problems and framed the terms of delivery and retraction. The Ministry of Economy was quick to denounce the
drifts of download deliverya recent and yet legal practice of digital commerce.

Yet despite this rapid and daily adaptation, it appears that digital commerce is evolving in a significant and different way. Initially focused on
consumption of tangible products or services, digital commerce is gradually slipping into the sale of virtual products and services … through other worlds …

The metaverse: towards a transformation of digital commerce

What if the Steven Spielberg movie Ready Player One, released in 2018, has it turned out to be a prophetic image of the market of tomorrow? Virtual worlds connected to the internet, where you can buy everything
through currencies and virtual securities? Where would everyone have the opportunity to live the life of their dreams through their avatar? If reality still doesn’t outweigh fiction, some companies have figured it out
the potential that the metaverse could generate in e-commerce and data collection. It is no coincidence that in 2021 the Facebook company changed its name to
Goal in view of its futuristic program. If the concept seems to come out of a science fiction novel, the number of people connected in these virtual universes continues to increase and new
emerging practices … From the purchase of virtual apartments, clothing and works of art …

the metaverse it is based above all on an immersive experience made possible by 3D technologies, immersing the consumer in a virtual world. As surprising as it is
it may seem, the user’s avatar can buy products that are designed virtually and that do not necessarily exist in reality. Recently Nike has invested heavily in the
virtual mode by selling its range of shoes: CryptoKicks whose prices can exceed $ 10,000 … Others have the ambition to make the metaverse a
vector for the acquisition of virtual properties through sale, development, rental management, on the same model as normal real estate agencies.

Virtual reality headsets, tablets, controllers, there are many products sold physically that are meant to optimize the metaverse experience. A high level experience
definition that gives users a greater degree of confidence in the quality of the products they buy. With virtual stores and displays, the digital commerce of
metaverse will no longer be subject to restrictions on opening hours, compliance with delivery times, compliance issues, recruitment of sellers, etc. If the system seems too much
nice to be true, it is still virtual and all the more advantageous as it allows you to test the popularity of a product without producing it, providing the consumer with a
optimal experience.

The first experience of NFT

The strong enthusiasm felt by the metaverse today it is mainly due to the success of the NFTs which laid the foundation for the new electronic commerce. Started on
art market sector with the resounding success of the “Bored Ape Yacht Club” collection, whose images sell at exorbitant prices, the NFTs have progressively opened up to others
sectors … Cinema took advantage of this momentum to invest the NFT market with a first film entirely financed in this way and directed by a certain director named Martin
Scorsese… As you may have guessed, NFTs will have benefited in their infancy from powerful relays, stars, entrepreneurs and influencers. They are also a sign of belonging
social, a closed and exclusive club that brings together a community of individuals who belong to the same family as NFT.

First experience in the commercial metaverse, the enthusiasm around NFT has only prompted large companies to arm themselves to conquer a new world.
Amazon has begun to equip itself with metaverse technology while eBay plans to launch its platform for selling NFTs. Avant-garde and visionary, the fashion sector does not have
escaped this dynamic to take on this new form of creativity. Fashion products, games and works of NFT, diversify the arsenal designed by Gucci, Louis Vuitton or even
Balenciaga in collaboration with renowned designers …

While the glory harvest could suffer setbacks such as the recent fall of NFT with the bursting of the cryptocurrency bubble, the fact remains that the
mechanism fascinates and will continue to improve. NFTs have shown the world that digital commerce is undergoing a profound shift across the metaverse. Mostly
rather than a simple investment, it has become a gateway to a new way of consuming by carving out the lion’s share of 21st century business.

A legal world to rebuild?

Changes in digital commerce don’t happen entirely cloudless and bring their share of questions. If digital, consumer and competition rights
occupy a ready place when it comes to classic markets, some distortions and hesitations must be raised in the metaverse. On the one hand, it seems difficult to imagine the future of the metaverse without the decisive action of GAFAM raising the question of a competitive asymmetry. On the consumer side, some are advocating a legal extension of his
personality and legal protection in the metaverse, while the more conservative propose a distinction of regimes.

Intellectual property law also appears to be affected by these developments, with the uncertain legal status of NFTs having something to do with it. Being “legal aliens”, swinging
between ownership title and simple token similar to virtual currency, the shares linked to them are uncertain. The relationship between counterfeiting and NFT has been particularly the subject of
numerous disputes in the United States. The New York Court in particular ruled in favor of Hermès on the distorted reproduction of his iconic bags in a digital work
in the opera Meta Birkin.

Rome was not built in a day, it will surely take a few years for the metaverse to take root in practice and digital commerce to take on a new one.
dimension. The rules of the game will certainly be established by practice, by the evolution of this new form of business and by the mentalities that surround it. Some complain about the
disintermediation of exchanges and disconnection of morality at the cost of a new way of consuming, which will change in depth. However, this phenomenon is
already on our doorstep… it’s not about the future… but about now!

Tribune written by Raphaël A. Hérimian, business lawyer

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