Leading virtual reality regulatory trends revealed

VR remains unregulated, but standard fair use policies, copyright acts, trademark acts, and anti-dilution acts are being applied in the wake of disputes related to content ownership and IP theft. Regulators are mostly concerned about the protection of personal data and users’ privacy. Given the maturity level of VR, any vigorous attempt to regulate runs the risk of stifling the evolution of the technology. As a result, most regulators are taking a wait-and-see approach.

Leading regulatory trends in virtual reality

Listed below are the leading virtual reality regulatory trends, as identified by GlobalData.

China

Around the world, regulators are concerned about the social impact of video games, especially amongst children. Chinese regulators – who oversee the world’s biggest gaming market – froze the approval of new domestic online game licenses in late March 2018. Subsequently, in 2019, China imposed a ban on games that feature blood or corpses. Although the impact of this new rule on the Chinese VR industry is unknown, developers of popular first-person shooter VR games, such as The Brookhaven Experiment, Serious Sam VR, and Resident Evil 7 VR, risk losing ground in China.

Game developers will need to reintroduce censored versions of the titles to avoid legal risks. However, China’s desire to dominate the global VR market leads us to believe that regulators will not attempt to stifle the industry with heavy-handed regulation. Age restrictions are likely to emerge in the coming years, which will prevent children from accessing violent games. HTC, which dominates the Chinese arcades market, will also revamp its Viveport Arcade portal to comply with regulations.

Self-regulation

US-based VR companies have created their own ethical guidelines to protect their businesses from outside interference. The XR Association, previously known as the Global Virtual Reality Association (GVRA), includes Google, HTC, Oculus, Samsung, Sony and Acer. It promotes the growth of immersive technologies through best practices for the immersive tech industry.

Data privacy

Data privacy is a global concern. The growing awareness of the need to protect user data is a result of regulations such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Japan’s Act on the Protection of Personal Information (APPI), and California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CPA).

Adopting an extraterritorial approach, GDPR and APPI necessitate companies to process locally generated data, especially biometrics, within the region itself, irrespective of their base stations. The regulations also mandate companies to have transparent privacy policies, stipulating the purpose and use of user-generated data. As a result, new privacy policies from Facebook and HTC make it clear that user data is stored on the devices and that they do not share information such as credit card details with affiliate third parties for security reasons. As guided by regulators, the companies also equip users with features to request, access, correct, and suspend their personal data from privacy centres. Facebook has also updated the Oculus code of conduct, which prevents users from promoting or accessing illegal, abusive, and explicit content.

This is an edited extract from the Virtual Reality – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.

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