Should owners be concerned about digital graffiti?

Everyone knows graffiti about properties. After all, it has existed since the Roman Empire. Graffiti can be art, but it can also be explicit, harmful, and unsightly. No wonder property managers strive to keep them out of their buildings. It’s a struggle that costs the country $ 12 billion a year. And, as if that weren’t hard enough, administrators and homeowners have another challenge to face: the advent of virtual signage.

More and more technologies are being created that combine the physical and digital worlds. One of them is augmented reality (RA). Initially unlocked by ubiquitous mobile phones, augmented reality games and apps display layered digital content over the real world. Games like Pokemon Go are just the tip of the iceberg and only the first indications of where this field is going. We are on the brink of a rebirth of augmented reality. With tech giants Facebook and Apple working on their own augmented reality eyeglass games, you won’t soon have to stare at your phone screen to see a digitally augmented world. While the details of these devices are still unclear, when these glasses are released in 2021 and 2022, respectively, we will probably be able to see a range of layered virtual content about what we are seeing in real life, without ever picking up. our phones.

This technology has great potential, from showing maps and social media in the corner of your field of vision to revolutionizing Zoom calls. It also has a wide range of advertising applications. Cookies now allow advertisers to show you the ads they want you to see on your computer. In a year or two, these ads could be displayed in layers on the bus stop, the back of the Uber travel headrest, or the blank side of the podium in the street office building.

The new world of augmented reality can manifest in different ways. We could end up with a scenario where companies operating augmented reality infrastructures sell advertising just as search engines and social media do today. This carries all sorts of risks and challenges of its own. For example, what if a competing building is advertised in a digital space located on your property? What if a brand that is out of sync with your values ​​advertises on your property? If programs allow users to post layered comments and images around the world, ads may be the most harmless of digital images.

If that thought didn’t make your spine tremble, you wouldn’t have heard it. Are you ready to accept Reddit-style virtual posts wallpapered up and down the sides of your very real, very physical building? This emerging risk is something that Mark Zettl, president of JLL Property Management, is following. “You need to be foresighted about this type of virtual marketing and monetize it and protect it so that people don’t use it without your consent,” he said. Unfortunately, it is not clear what kind of legislation can be passed to protect digital real estate from physical assets.

According to Robyn Chatwood, lawyer and head of Dentons technology practice in Australia, “flagship building owners may want to own these rights, but today they can’t control who presents information about their buildings in an augmented reality app “.

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Then there is advertising for other products and services. “What happens,” Zettl asked, “if you have one tenant in your building and another competing on the street?” You certainly don’t want competing ads to overlap with your property, at least not if you don’t get paid.

Without clarity on the legal system surrounding this type of property rights, homeowners could be left alone for now. In the early days of our augmented reality world, the best thing many homeowners could do is pay attention to the virtual signage that goes up around their property, so that they have the ability to identify and expect to stop the perpetrators themselves. . One way to solve this hypothetical problem may be for property managers or their tenants to buy themselves all the virtual advertising space for their properties. While it may seem extortionate, we are entering the wild west of augmented reality laws, and gambling may be necessary for the situation.

They may end up passing laws to link ownership of virtual space to ownership of physical space. On the other hand, we could also see a new real estate ownership horizon, where digital or NFT non-expendable tokens control the ownership of physical and virtual real estate domains. In what appears to be an increasingly familiar trend, homeowners are set against rapidly changing digital boundaries. This one is a little closer to home. For Zettl, these questions are already here, not in the future. “In my opinion, there’s some component of Google glass, that’s the future,” he said. Graffiti is an ancient phenomenon, which could use the gray area of ​​augmented reality to cause even more pain to the modern owner.

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