Do you already own virtual land in the Metaverse?

Well, you could. If you spent some money, you could be the owner of a Metaverse real estate. With its augmented and virtual reality technologies, the Metaverse extends your physical world. But can you actually own something in an extended reality, a virtual space, like the Metaverse? And how do such forms of digital consumption change our understanding of possessions and ownership?

Russell Belk (York University), Mariam Humayun (University of Ottawa) and Myriam Brouard (University of Ottawa) took a closer look at the Metaverse, NFTs (non-fungible tokens), cryptocurrencies and other forms of digital and virtual consumption. In their recent article, they discuss problems that arise as metaverses evolve and change, as well as consequences of fractional ownership and fractional property rights. For instance, if you own a real-world item (e.g., a painting) you have the right to modify it (e.g., cut it up), to sell it to someone else, or to dispose of it. But ownership of virtual objects is complicated, and in some ways different from ownership of physical objects, as Belk, Humayun, and Brouard (2022) explain. By buying an NFT, you usually do not gain the right to manipulate it, nor do you usually gain any right (like copyright or intellectual property rights) to the original art object (whether it be physical or digital). Will our understanding of ownership change in light of these developments?

You can find more about the research of Belk, Humayun, and Brouard (2022) here.