AR isn’t just a futuristic concept; it’s a burgeoning reality reshaping our digital landscape. This principle was evident in a recent Darabase Meets podcast episode (episode video embedded below), during which legal expert Brian Wassom broke down some of the legal intricacies and transformative potential of AR.

With a background representing traditional media and his deep interest in technology and how it shapes media and culture, Wassom’s exploration of the issues facing AR as a medium was both natural and inevitable, and fueled by his conviction in its impending importance.

Both Simple and Complex

The legal position surrounding AR is in some regards both simple and complex, and presents numerous challenges and opportunities. Speaking from his significant experience in the space, Wassom delves into how the convergence of physical and digital realms engenders multifaceted legal considerations. Existing laws such as the Lanham Act cover trademark, copyright Passing Off considerations, and the USA’s First Amendment rights clearly already apply to AR. This new medium also presents new questions though as different interaction mechanics, and the context of use challenge the norm and the case law that supports them. Wassom highlights the case of Pokémon Go! in Milwaukee, where attempts to regulate game publishers collided with First Amendment protections. Yet while the approach may have been flawed, in this case, other issues could have been raised legitimately and changes were indeed made following the case, including the rights of property owners to have control over what commercial content is presented in their locations.

Wassom remains optimistic about AR’s transformative potential. He envisions a future where AR fosters a shared immersive layer over the world, enriching our collective experiences. However he cautions against the potential for consumer confusion, particularly when it comes to commercial content and the consequent legal implications. The need to navigate established legal principles within this novel medium is paramount, signaling a potential shift in legal interpretation rather than wholesale legislative overhaul.

Augmenting Humanity

Looking ahead, Wassom anticipates the evolution of AR beyond flashy gimmicks to seamlessly integrated experiences. He envisions a future where new wearable form factors facilitate subtle interactions, enhancing efficiency and interactivity in our daily lives. Yet he acknowledges the inherent risks of AR-induced detachment from reality, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a balance between digital engagement and real-world presence. This presents many opportunities and reaffirms the very human nature of the medium.

As many others have suggested, AR holds the promise of augmenting humanity’s experience of the world, transcending the confines of traditional media. Wassom’s insights underscore the imperative for a nuanced legal framework that fosters innovation while safeguarding fundamental rights. As AR continues to permeate our lives, it is incumbent upon policymakers and practitioners to adapt and evolve alongside this transformative technology.

In Wassom’s view, the future of AR is an opportunity to redefine our relationship with reality and reimagine the boundaries of digital expression. As we navigate this uncharted territory, let us embrace the possibilities of AR while remaining vigilant against its potential pitfalls, ensuring that the augmented future we envision is one grounded in legality, ethics, and shared prosperity.

Header image credit: Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

David Bomphrey is co-founder and COO of Darabase

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