As metaverse platforms seek to attract more users around the world, one question that is yet to attain sufficient attention is how they can preserve the online content created by users who are unfortunately deceased or opted to permanently quit online platforms.

Traditionally, login information on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram will be passed to another person, most often immediate family members, either by will or by law. However, even if metaverse platforms adopt this same practice, multiple problems remain.

For instance, who should inherit the copyright to a deceased user’s content in the metaverse if the designated heir has never had a Web3 presence? Will said user’s content exist in perpetuity in the metaverse?

This question was posed earlier this month by Wired in its exploration of “Fannish Next-of-Kin,” which refers to passing over the ownership of digital fan content to a fellow member of a close-knit fandom community in case the fan’s family members cannot understand its niche topics. Currently, some sites — like the fan-fiction platform Archive of Our Own (AO3) — provide such services.

While most current metaverse users are digitally savvy millennials or Gen Zers, metaverse platforms will eventually encounter the same problem. Moreover, if unsuccessful metaverse initiatives were to shut down, their user-generated content (UGC) could be deleted or become inaccessible. Such a situation is counter to Web3’s mission to allow individual users to digitally preserve their content and online identities. 

A more significant, related issue is who should possess the power to preserve content and digital memories in the metaverse.

In a decentralized metaverse, users can theoretically create their own “archives” or “museums” that preserve their content forever. By exhibiting or sharing such content, a user can forge a close relationship with another digital identity. However, users currently still rely on a handful of tech giants to participate in the metaverse. At the same time, major cultural institutions command huge sway in digitally preserving and recreating content from our shared cultural heritage.   

Perhaps this conundrum is inherent in every metaverse platform. Yet it is never too early for platforms to explore how their users’ digital identities and content can remain active forever.

A good start is for platforms to introduce services similar to AO3 that legally transfer the copyright of UGC to another, designated digital identity. Another area is assuring users that the fate of their UGC is not tied to a particular platform and will always remain accessible in Web3.


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