A scrutiny of the recent changes to Second Life’s ToS

About two months ago, shortly after the acquisition of digital distribution service Desura, LL changed Second Life’s Terms of Service. About a month later, the changes in Section 2.3 of SL’s ToS were picked up by the community, leading to heated discussions everywhere (such as the forums). Now, let us have a look at the changes made, as documented by ON SL:

Section 2 became largely a revision of Section 7

This means, in short, that the old Section 7 has now been incorporated into the new Section 2. More specifically:

  • The new Section 2.1 incorporates the old Section 7.6
  • The new Section 2.2 incorporates the old Section 7.7
  • The new Section 2.3 incorporates the old Section 7.1 and Section 7.2
  • The new Section 2.4 incorporates the old Section 7.3
  • The new Section 2.5 incorporates the old Section 7.4
  • The new Section 2.6 incorporates the old Section 7.5
  • The new Section 2.7 incorporates the old Section 7.6, Section 7.7, and Section 7.8

Of the entire Section 2, it is 2.3 that sees the most significant changes from the wording of its counterparts in the old Section 7. Other parts of Section 2 have changed as well, but these changes are minor and don’t point to any change in Linden Lab’s policy.

Section 2.3 – in full

The revised Section 2.3, at the time of writing, is as follows:

You retain any and all Intellectual Property Rights you already hold under applicable law in Content you upload, publish, and submit to or through the Servers, Websites, and other areas of the Service, subject to the rights, licenses, and other terms of this Agreement, including any underlying rights of other users or Linden Lab in Content that you may use or modify.

In connection with Content you upload, publish, or submit to any part of the Service, you affirm, represent, and warrant that you own or have all necessary Intellectual Property Rights, licenses, consents, and permissions to use and authorize Linden Lab and users of Second Life to use the Content in the manner contemplated by the Service and these Terms of Service.

Because the law may or may not recognize certain Intellectual Property Rights in any particular Content, you should consult a lawyer if you want legal advice regarding your legal rights in a specific situation. You acknowledge and agree that you are responsible for knowing, protecting, and enforcing any Intellectual Property Rights you hold, and that Linden Lab cannot do so on your behalf.

Except as prohibited by law, you hereby waive, and you agree to waive, any moral rights (including attribution and integrity) that you may have in any User Content, even if it is altered or changed in a manner not agreeable to you. To the extent not waivable, you irrevocably agree not to exercise such rights (if any) in a manner that interferes with any exercise of the granted rights. You understand that you will not receive any fees, sums, consideration or remuneration for any of the rights granted in this Section.

Except as otherwise described in any Additional Terms (such as a contest’s official rules) which will govern the submission of your User Content, you hereby grant to Linden Lab, and you agree to grant to Linden Lab, the non-exclusive, unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, and cost-free right and license to use, copy, record, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, re-sell, sublicense (through multiple levels), modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same. You agree that the license includes the right to copy, analyze and use any of your Content as Linden Lab may deem necessary or desirable for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service. The license granted in this Section 2.3 is referred to as the “Service Content License.”

Linden Lab has no obligation to monitor or enforce your intellectual property rights to your User Content, but you grant us the right to protect and enforce our rights to your User Content, including by bringing and controlling actions in your name and on your behalf (at Linden Lab’s cost and expense, to which you hereby consent and irrevocably appoint Linden Lab as your attorney-in-fact, with the power of substitution and delegation, which appointment is coupled with an interest).

Paragraphs 1 to 3 now incorporate Sections 7.1 and 7.2 of the old ToS verbatim, and echo the previous LL policy that:

  1. Allows content creators to retain all intellectual rights they already had, subject to LL’s ToS;
  2. Requires that any content you upload must be content you have a legal right to upload;
  3. You (and not LL) are responsible for knowing and enforcing your intellectual property rights w.r.t. your own User Content.

Paragraph 4 is new and concerns moral rights. With this paragraph, LL inserts a piece of shoring language concerning moral rights. with this paragraph LL essentially tells you that someone else has every right to modify an object you’ve made in a way that you may not agree with or may even find objectionable – and you won’t have say in it. For instance, someone may take an unscripted full perms bed you sell as part of a creators’ kit and add adult animations to it, even though you might personally not like this. This is something that has always been implied, but now it’s also on paper – so, I believe LL here are being transparent. Then again, if you don’t want people to modify your objects in ways they like (regardless of whether you like these modifications or not), it’s pretty obvious that you shouldn’t have given them modify permissions in the first place.

Paragraph 5 is the one that caused all the recent furore. It includes the two paragraphs of the old Section 7.1, as well as some new terms and conditions. In this paragraph, you grant LL a very broad licence regarding the use of your content in perpetuity. Several content creators have expressed concern that this licence allows LL to sell, resell and even give away their content for any purpose, without any compensation to them.

The past

In the past, there was no objection to granting LL with a similar licence, because it was explicitly stated that such use was “solely for the purposes of providing and promoting the Service”, as stated in paragraph 1 of the old Section 7.1 and “for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service”, as stated in paragraph 2 of the old Section 7.1.

The present

Now, the language included in paragraph 2 of the old Section 7.1 (“for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service”) is retained, but the wording of paragraph 1 of the old Section 7.1, which allowed LL to use your content “solely for the purposes of providing and promoting the Service” is no longer included in the new Section 2.3. ON SL argues that the retention of paragraph 2 of the old Section 7.1 makes the deletion of the “solely for the purposes of providing and promoting the Service” clause intentional and deliberate, which suggests a shift in LL’s direction w.r.t. what it can do with user content, and for what purposes. I am going to quote paragraph 5 of the new Section 2.3, with emphases.

Except as otherwise described in any Additional Terms (such as a contest’s official rules) which will govern the submission of your User Content, you hereby grant to Linden Lab, and you agree to grant to Linden Lab, the non-exclusive, unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, and cost-free right and license to use, copy, record, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, re-sell, sublicense (through multiple levels), modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same. You agree that the license includes the right to copy, analyze and use any of your Content as Linden Lab may deem necessary or desirable for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service. The license granted in this Section 2.3 is referred to as the “Service Content License.”

These emphases I added are (i) points that are not entirely understood by the community, (ii) points that have changed from the previous ToS. So, I’m going to focus on them for a bit.

  • “You retain any and all Intellectual Property Rights you already hold under applicable law…”: Your content is yours. No one questions your Intellectual Property Rights, no one claims that what you created is theirs. Should really be a no-brainer.
  • Non-exclusive: This means that, under this licence, the content you have created and uploaded is still yours, but you also give LL the right to do certain things with it, for certain purposes.
  • Irrevocable: Once you grant the licence to LL, you can’t revoke it. It’s permanent. This means, among other things, that you can’t ask LL to remove your content.
  • Perpetual: For as long as SL and LL exist, even if you leave SL, your content will still be there. This means mostly (and among other things) that it won’t go away from the inventories of people that bought your products.
  • What LL can do with your content: I’ve emphasised these things with italics: “use, copy, record, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, re-sell, sublicense (through multiple levels), modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and otherwise exploit.”
  • Purposes for which LL can do those things with your content:
    • [F]or any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same. – This is the new and controversial addition to  the ToS.
    • [F]or purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service. – This is paragraph 2 from the old Section 7.1.

Also, if I understand the new ToS correctly, other things that LL might want to do with your content are:

  • Strike a deal with a film studio or a large TV network, use your content as props and not have you come asking for a cut of their profits.
  • (Possibly) sell the entire Second Life concern to another company (technology, servers, personnel, userbase, content and all) without anyone demanding a cut of it.

The Desura Connection

When Inara Pey obtained a statement by Peter Gray, Director of Global Communications and PR Manager at Linden Lab and blogged about it, a user nicknamed Kuurus suggested in a comment posted on the 15th of September that this change may have something to do with LL’s recent acquisition of Desura. Kuurus’ comment is as follows:

It seems to me like the change was in direct affiliation with the new Digital Distribution program they have acquired, meaning that all content becomes theirs to add to this library to be used with license at their behest instead of having to go through the artist.

Whether or not it will hold up in court is not the concern, whether or not the content is compromised is. It is hard to believe that this change in ToS came just before the opening of their Digital Distribution program, is just a coincidence…that is why all creators are freaked out and with this post should be even more…

The Answer is simple, the change to the “…providing and promoting the Service.” line and this concern disappears..otherwise it is a clear and open grab for artist content by SL IMO

Kuurus’ comment led Inara Pey to investigate matters a bit more. It is remarkable that Section 2 of Desura’s old ToS bears a striking resemblance to the new ToS issued by LL, as she commented upon at the time. More specifically, the wording is as follows (emphases mine):

If you send to Desura, or upload to the System, any content of any type (“Content”), including forum posts, commentary, ideas or suggestions whether or not solicited, then: by uploading the Content you license the Content to Desura as set out in this clause 2; and you must ensure that you are the owner or creator of that content or have received permission from the owner or creator to make such submissions and to licence that content as set out in this clause 2.

You expressly authorise and permit Desura to exercise and to authorise others to exercise all of the rights comprised in copyright and all other intellectual property rights which subsist in the Content and you irrevocably consent to all such exercises. Desura is not required to compensate you or any other person in any manner for any such exercise or authorisation. In particular, Desura may use, reproduce, modify, create derivative works from, distribute, transmit, broadcast, and otherwise communicate, and publicly display and perform the Content and other works which are based on them (including by way of adaptation or derivative works) in any form, anywhere, with or without attribution to you, whether or not such use would otherwise be a breach of any person’s moral rights, and without any notice or compensation to you of any kind. This clause does not limit Desura’s privacy obligations under clause 10.

All Content and Applications added and managed by Publishers is governed by the terms and conditions agreement which they must accept prior to publishing their Applications on the System.

Personally, I find the first period of the second paragraph, which states “You expressly authorise and permit Desura to exercise and to authorise others to exercise all of the rights comprised in copyright and all other intellectual property rights which subsist in the Content and you irrevocably consent to all such exercises.“, to be very close to the “for any purpose whatsoever” part of Section 2.3 of SL’s new ToS. It has been speculated by Narates Urriah that this change in the ToS is so that LL will enable SL content creators to sell their products on Desura.

 

The Fallout

This change in SL’s ToS has not gone unnoticed by the community, or by external providers of stock content. By “stock content”, I mean providers of textures, stock images, and 3D models that can be purchased and used by others. I’m talking about services like Crestock, 123RF.com, Turbosquid, Renderosity, CGTextures etc. The ToS change didn’t really fly with two such purveyors of stock content: CGTextures and Renderosity, as both banned use of their content in Second Life.

It must be noted that Peter Gray’s statement did not appease either CGTextures or Renderosity’s people. Also, it is worth noting that, whereas CGTextures’s statement pretty much says “if you had uploaded content you bought from us before we prohibited use of our content in SL, you’re clear – just don’t upload our stuff there anymore”, Renderosity doesn’t make clarify whether this prohibition is retroactive or not. This, of course, places SL content creators who used Renderosity products in an extremely awkward and insecure position, as they might be forced to pull their products from SL’s marketplace for fear of legal action by Renderosity. Below, I’ll post the announcements made by both providers, and will comment on them.

CGTextures’ announcement

Below, I give you CGTextures’ announcement, as posted on their website:

6th September 2013: Terms of Service update, using our images in Second Life is no longer allowed.

What has changed?
From 6 September 2013 you are no longer permitted to add our images to Second Life or other Linden Lab products. The use of textures downloaded prior to this date is allowed.

Why am I no longer allowed to use your images in Second Life?
On the 15th of August 2013, Linden Lab changed their Terms of Use without any announcement or warning. One of the changes is the rights that Linden Lab claims when you upload your work:

2.3 You grant Linden Lab certain licenses to your User Content.

[..]you agree to grant to Linden Lab, the non-exclusive, unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, and cost-free right and license to use, copy, record, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, re-sell, sublicense (through multiple levels), modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same. You agree that the license includes the right to copy, analyze and use any of your Content as Linden Lab may deem necessary or desirable for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service.[..]

As you can see from the highlighted portions, as soon as you upload any content to Second Life you give Linden Lab unlimited and irrevocable rights to do whatever they want with your work.

The previous Second Life TOS (Terms of Use) was appropriate and reasonable: when you uploaded your work, you gave Linden Lab rights to use it in Second Life and not much more.
With their latest TOS update they go way beyond what is reasonable. We would even go as far as to say it’s plain greedy, because they claim any right they could possibly claim and show no respect for you as a user. As soon as you upload your model or texture, they can do literally anything they want with it. In theory their updated TOS gives them the right to take your model and start selling it on 3rd party market places like Turbosquid.com without giving you anything in return.

The CGTextures Terms of Use does not allow resale of our images as ‘Textures’. The updated Second Life TOS allows unlimited resale of user generated content. Put these two together and it is easy to see that they are no longer compatible.

The new Second Life TOS is simply incompatible with our own Terms of Use. To make this 100% clear, we updated our own Terms of Service to state this specifically. So from 6 September 2013 and onward, new use of our images in Second Life is no longer allowed. This means you are not allowed to upload any textures created with our images to Second Life at all (not even bundled with 3D models and also not if you heavily modified the textures).

I used your textures in Second Life Builds in the past, do I have to remove them now?
No, nothing changes for textures uploaded to Second Life previously. If you have used our images on builds uploaded before 6 September 2013, you can continue to use, sell, give away those builds just like before.

Are you talking to Linden Lab to come up with a solution?
We contacted Linden Lab about this problem, but in their response they (falsely!) claimed that their new TOS is more restrictive than the previous version. We asked them in what way it was more restrictive, but we received only nameless, canned replies on how we could get a texture removed if we did not agree with it’s use. Apparently they don’t care about this problem, so we don’t see how we can come to a solution.

This is unfair, why are you changing your license!?
Redistributing our images ‘as Textures’ was never allowed according to our Terms of Use. The reason you are no longer allowed to use our images is not because of a change in our Terms of Use, it is the updated Terms of Use by Linden Lab (which claims unlimited redistribution rights for any uploaded content) that causes the problem. So this is not a new ‘rule’ in our license. Our license update is only to make it 100% clear that new uploads of our images to Second Life is no longer allowed.

Please note: the same is probably true for most other texture websites which do not allow for redistribution ‘as Textures’ or texture websites which prohibit commercial redistribution of their images. Because of Linden’s license change, uploading textures from other websites might also not be allowed.

I use your images to texture a 3D model, and it has been heavily modified with extra layers and baked shadows. Can I continue to use your textures for this?
We are sorry to disappoint you, but no. Even when a texture is heavily modified we can no longer allow it for new uploads to Second Life. We would be ok with it, because such textures are usually not useful apart from a specific model. But unfortunately it is impossible to define in legal text when a texture is sufficiently modified to allow such use. This would create too much confusion, to keep things clear we cannot allow any new use of our images in Second Life.

Renderosity’s announcement

Again, quoting verbatim from their website:

Renderosity Products NOT Allowed at Second LifeSecond Life is owned and operated by Linden Labs. Because of the change to Second Life’s Terms of Service (TOS – http://lindenlab.com/tos), Renderosity products are NOT allowed to be used there for ANY reason.

In the past, we have allowed a Buyer to use Renderosity products for their use in the Second Life virtual world, as long as the Buyer does not sell or give away the files. However, the new TOS at Second Life gives Second Life the complete ‘rights’ over anything uploaded at their site as of the date of their new TOS. Second Life’s new TOS conflicts with our Renderosity license because it says,
“Except as otherwise described in any Additional Terms (such as a contest’s official rules) which will govern the submission of your User Content, you hereby grant to Linden Lab, and you agree to grant to Linden Lab, the non-exclusive, unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, and cost-free right and license to use, copy, record, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, re-sell, sublicense (through multiple levels), modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same. You agree that the license includes the right to copy, analyze and use any of your Content as Linden Lab may deem necessary or desirable for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service. The license granted in this Section 2.3 is referred to as the “Service Content License.”

Our license “grants the Buyer a…NON-TRANSFERABLE license….[Buyers] may not distribute the Product or any of the Product’s files….in any format for sale or free.” Given Second Life’s new TOS, any Renderosity product uploaded there (even for personal use) is in violation of our license because their TOS is ‘transferring’ the rights them. This is a very disturbing TOS for the rights of anyone uploading items to use on Second Life.

My comments on these announcements

First, I’ll handle CGTextures’ announcement. For the most part, CGTextures’ proprietor cuts his clients from SL some slack by saying “[i]f you have used our images on builds uploaded before 6 September 2013, you can continue to use, sell, give away those builds just like before.” But really, it seems that, if you are planning to use textures from CGTextures on new builds, you’re running afoul of the new licence, even if you had modified the texture so much that it would only be useful in a specific build or in a specific part of a specific build: “Even when a texture is heavily modified we can no longer allow it for new uploads to Second Life. We would be ok with it, because such textures are usually not useful apart from a specific model. But unfortunately it is impossible to define in legal text when a texture is sufficiently modified to allow such use. This would create too much confusion, to keep things clear we cannot allow any new use of our images in Second Life.”

I have no option but to disagree with CGTextures’ approach. Let’s start with how “impossible” it is to determine the extent to which a texture has been modified. A .PSD (for Photoshop users) or .XCF (for GIMP users) file contains all the layers that were added to the original image, and it is really not impossible at all to determine if a whole texture or a small part of it has been used, or if it has been mixed with other images (either originally created by the user or bought from other sources and adapted to suit). However, this would need a thorough analysis, which could be costly to CGTextures, were they to take legal action against a customer that decided to use a texture of theirs in an SL build. Then, there’s the “new uploads to Second Life” part, which is confusing and perhaps also shows limited understanding of the SL as a platform. What does “new uploads to Second Lif” mean? Does it mean that, even if you had uploaded a certain texture you bought from CGTextures before 6 September 2013, you cannot use it to texture new products? Does it mean that, from 6 September 2013 and on, you may not upload new textures you bought from CGTextures or textures you made based on textures you bought from CGTextures? The language of this announcement is just as confusing as much of what I’ve seen come from Linden Lab.

And now for Renderosity’s announcement. From the language used, a poor understanding of how SL as a platform works is evident. They say “[i]n the past, we have allowed a Buyer to use Renderosity products for their use in the Second Life virtual world, as long as the Buyer does not sell or give away the files.” When someone uploads a texture or a mesh model to Second Life, they neither sell nor “give away” the files. The act of giving something away, and I invite the people at Renderosity to look this phrasal verb up in any dictionary they like, is to give something as a gift (with everything that gifting encompasses). Textures and mesh models uploaded to Second Life are not given to Linden Lab as a gift. When you upload a texture or a mesh model to Second Life, you do so in order for it to become available and functional in-world. Available and functional for you to sell, use, or even “give away” as a free, promotional product, as a free item to be reviewed by a blogger, or as a demo for people to “try before they buy.”

Furthermore, the original files are not “sold” or “given away” to anyone – they stay on their owners’ (i.e. the people who bought them from Renderosity) storage media. What is uploaded to SL is a copy – and even this copy is then processed by SL’s system accordingly (for instance, textures are automatically resized) to fit the technical constraints of the virtual world.

Another issue with Renderosity’s announcement is that no clarification is made of whether this prohibition is retroactive or not. This could force SL content creators that used 3D models from Renderosity in their builds to pull their products from the marketplace for fear of legal action, regardless of how much of such a product is made up from Renderosity models. This, of course, penalises Renderosity’s customers who, in good faith, bought models from there to use in their builds and sell them. It’s a classic case of (as we say in my country), having a problem with the donkey and beating the saddle.

Also, let’s have a look at Renderosity’s Marketplace EULA, shall we? It says, and I quote verbatim (emphases mine):

This is a legal and binding agreement between you (the “Buyer”) and Renderosity MarketPlace, (“Renderosity”). By installing, downloading, copying, or otherwise using any Renderosity files (the “Product”), you have conclusively accepted all of the terms and conditions of this License

Purchase of the Product from Renderosity grants the Buyer a limited, non-exclusive, non-transferable license to use the contents of the encapsulating zip file. The Buyer may use the Product commercially in the form of rendered images but may not distribute the Product or any of the Product’s files. The Artist (Author) retains all copyrights to the files. The Buyer shall not copy, modify, reverse compile, or reverse engineer the Product, or sell, sublicense, rent, or transfer the Product to any third party.

This License does not grant permission to produce a real, tangible replica of the 3D mesh/model/product acquired. An additional license for production rights may be purchased by contacting Renderosity and will be subject to negotiation and approval by the vendor. Renderosity will contact the vendor on the Buyer’s behalf.

The Buyer shall not redistribute the Product, in whole or in part, in any file format for sale or for free. The Buyer shall not store the Product any place where it could be used by another person or party (whether it is on a network or on the Internet). The Buyer shall not convert or recreate the Product to any other media format and re-distribute the files, regardless of whether it is for sale or free. The Buyer shall not use the Product in such a way that the original materials could be extracted. Products sold at Renderosity shall not be used for illegal purposes

The Buyer may copyright any newly created rendered images using the purchased, original Product files, provided the original Product files remain protected from being extracted from the derivative work. The Buyer may use the Product in rendered images for any personal or commercial projects, as long as the Artist’s work is protected from extraction and the Buyer has not violated any other terms of the License. The Buyer may backup copies on hard drives, CD or DVD of the zip file for personal archival purposes only. The Buyer may not store files online. For Merchant Resource Products, additional permissions or limitations of rights will be specified in of each Product’s readme file. Software programs and utilities may have an additional license from the company or vendor that developed it. The Buyer agrees to be bound by the additional permissions and limitations contained in the Merchant Resource Products and Software Programs or utilities. For any product to be considered a Merchant Resource, Software program or utility, it must be clearly stated as such.

Why did I say that Renderosity’s Marketplace EULA makes its wares useless for use in any grid-based virtual world? Just read the draconian licence above. I’ve emphasised the main points, and I’m going to give them the scrutiny they need.

  • Non-transferable licence: This means that you may not allow someone else to do with the product you bought from Renderosity what you, the buyer, are allowed to do, regardless of the validity of the reason for which you may want or need to grant such rights to a third party. This includes, of course, contracting someone more skilled than you to work on it – it’s not allowed under Renderosity’s EULA. It also means that paragraph 2 of Section 7.1 of SL’s old ToS is also prohibited: “[F]or purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service.” Plain and simple as that.
  • The Buyer shall not redistribute the Product, in whole or in part, in any file format for sale or for free. The Buyer shall not store the Product any place where it could be used by another person or party (whether it is on a network or on the Internet). The Buyer shall not convert or recreate the Product to any other media format and re-distribute the files, regardless of whether it is for sale or free.” What does this mean, in practical terms? That you simply may not upload a Renderosity product to Second Life, InWorldz, AviNation, Kitely, or any other virtual world grid. Why? Because, by uploading a Renderosity product to any of the aforementioned grids, you:
    • Are storing the product in a place where it can be used by another person or party.
    • You are (in a very wide sense) redistributing it.
    • You are converting it to another media format or allowing it to be converted to another media format and redistributing the resulting files.

All of this means that Renderosity’s Marketplace EULA is a licence that simply never permitted – if we are to talk strictly technically – use of its products in any grid-based virtual world; not to mention that much of it makes zero practical sense and would cause the likes of Glyn Moody to raise an eyebrow. Of course, Renderosity, whose staff knew about it all along, was more than happy to have clients from the “losers” in Second Life (see the comments under its announcement) and other virtual worlds and take their money, so they sidestepped the fact that their EULA effectively prohibits usage of their products in any grid-based virtual world, as seen in the points I mentioned above. Oh, it also means that self-congratulatory, snide remarks and snickers from various people (users and commentators) within the OpenSim community were both immature and premature.

The SL community’s reaction

As was expected, much was made of this change in SL’s ToS within its userbase. As reported by Hamlet Au, two longtime content creators, renowned artists Tuna Oddfellow and Shava Suntzu of the Oddfellow Studios, have removed their work in protest of the recent ToS change, citing concerns over what this new ToS entails. Shava Suntzu explains:

“These Terms of Service would give Linden Lab permission to recreate the show, the methods, the scripts, everything about what we do as well as the images and art primitives, and resell it as a kit, or print posters, create textiles, whatever they wanted, or sell the rights to the art to another company who bought their company, or have that company sell the textures on the open market.”

It’s worth noting that they chose to proceed to take this rather extreme action, despite having registered their copyright and despite the official statement LL’s Director of Global Communications and PR Manager Peter Gray provided. In response to the statement, Shava Suntzu argues “‘Oh, but we wouldn’t really [take your content]!’ doesn’t rate” and points out that some large corporations do have in-world presences and in-world content, which, under the new ToS and according to Mr. Oddfellow and Mrs. Suntzu’s interpretation, is claimed by LL as its own. “[H]ow does this relate to notions such as Coca-Cola’s limited license to creators to use their logo in-world to create fan art? Does that art ‘belong’ to Linden Lab? I’d think not. Do private logos for Harvard University or the US Armed Forces automatically devolve to being Linden Lab property due to the Terms of Service?”

Tuna Oddfellow and Shava Suntzu's Oddball - Image by Tillie Ariantho

Tuna Oddfellow and Shava Suntzu’s Oddball – Image by Tillie Ariantho

She also says that, although they have registered their copyrights in the US, this does not cover them in every possible scenario. “If they [Linden Lab] go bankrupt, I have to establish my rights to the receivers, who will assume anything not locked down is with the property. Date by date. Image by image. How likely might it be that Linden Lab goes into receivership someday, you figure? Want to bet your creative output on it?” For those unfamiliar with the work of Oddfellow Studios, I must say that their show consists of thousands of images, which are copyrighted.

So, they see that asserting their copyright against a potential receiver if LL sometimes goes under is unfeasible. “Tuna and I are small fish. This would be worse than the IRS audit from hell, if it went poorly, and relative to many artists, we’re likely savvy and relatively prepared. And Linden Lab can fix it on their end by replacing that paragraph [in the Terms of Service] with a limited license. So why won’t they?”

I must say that, despite some rather small errors, Mrs. Suntzu has made some perfectly valid points:

  1. Hamlet Au’s oft-recurring suggestion that every SL content creator registers their copyright with the US government is simply not going to cover all scenarios and is also meaningless for the numerous people who, by means of their in-world commercial activity, may fund their in-world presence, supplement their RL income or even make a living out of their SL business, but simply cannot afford the costly legal action against a company that might buy SL off from LL and have an army of lawyers at its disposal.
  2. Now that Section 2.3 of the ToS has changed, LL should have provided a Limited Agency clause. They did not.
  3. Rectifying the problem that was created by the ToS change is actually easy and not doing so is unjustifiable.

Besides that, the level of discourse on this matter within SL has been of a low level, but I don’t think that’s news. There were (and still are) the usual prokanoid bouts of “LL now says it owns all mah stuffz” and lots of yelling and screaming, but that’s really not news, either. Last Sunday (29 September 2013), an in-world meeting was held on the topic of the ToS change. Its goal was, as the introductory notecard read, “to understand the situation, to agree on our interpretation, and to contemplate a next step, if necessary.” Unfortunately, the meeting was restricted to only one region and attendance was capped at 40 attendees, most of whom arrived at the venue well before its beginning. For those who were unable to attend, the transcript is available in .pdf form here (courtesy of Toysoldier Thor), and a poignant summary and commentary is provided by Inara Pey. Also, Toysoldier Thor started a survey on SurveyMonkey on the topic of the new ToS, for those wishing to participate.

Below I’ll give some of the most important points made during the meeting:

  1. Tali Rosca pointed out that the wording in Section 2.3 of the new ToS may be incompatible with the licences supplied by several third-party stock content providers (such as CGTextures and Renderosity), which, as we know, resulted in them banning use of their material in Second Life. So, she suggested contacting other suppliers of stock content (images, textures, 3D models, soundbites) that is used within SL for feedback, in order to help LL understand that the new ToS are problematic and what the problems with them are.
  2. Crap Mariner presented another issue, which concerns artists and performers active in SL: the new ToS impacts their ability to strike exclusive deals outside of Second Life for material they have first presented and/or performed in-world.
  3. Mathilde Vhargon spoke of the impact the revised ToS have on people operating galleries and exhibition spaces in-world and who invite artists from outside SL to exhibit or perform their work in-world. Under the new ToS, these artists are basically required to grant LL rights they may not wish to grant, which will make them not want to come in-world and display or perform their work. Furthermore, Mathilde pointed out that, for many people with disabilities, their in-world work represents their livelihood and arbitrary decisions on such matters can have extreme personal and social consequences.

The meeting also resulted in the founding of an in-world group named United Content Creators of SL, for those who wish to be part of a “grassroots” movement to try and influence LL.

A touch of reality

As said earlier, discussion of this matter has been – as usual – tainted by endemic prokanoia, yelling, screaming and panic. I’m certainly not going to say LL is in the right on this matter. To say the least, the decision to reword Section 2.3 of the ToS in this manner, i.e. removing the clause of paragraph 1 of Section 7.1. (“solely for the purposes of providing and promoting the Service”) and replacing it with “[F]or any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same,” was ill-advised and short-sighted, at best.

Does Linden Lab plan to steal mah stuffz?

In one word: NO. They are not claiming anyone’s content as their own. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post (but you may have forgotten, since it’s rather long), whatever rights you grant to LL are non-exclusive. This means that you allow LL to do certain things with your content (basically, the same things you can do), but you are not asked or required to give up your rights. Ask any lawyer worth his or her salt, they’ll tell you the same. So, calm the Hell down, quit reading prokanoid panic-mongering, shit-stirring, sensationalist, attention-whoring posts and stop screaming. Not that anyone’s going to want to listen to you if you keep this screaming up, anyway.

Then why…?

I’m going to revisit the Desura connection for a bit, and I’ll explain the similarities between Desura’s old ToS and LL’s new ones. Just as Google decided to merge and streamline its privacy policies across its range of products and services (Gmail, Blogger – formerly Blogspot – , Youtube, Google Drive, Google Maps etc), so did LL try to merge the ToS of two once entirely separate services, with different licences and terms of service. The result is what we have now. As to why this far-reaching clause was introduced, I’m convinced that there was no malicious intent on behalf of LL – instead, I think Inara Pey is right in explaining it by means of Hanlon’s Razor:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

OK, so he doesn’t use the word “stupidity” – she chose to replace it with “short-sightedness”, but in the business world, the dividing line between the two can become extremely thin and blurry. Of course, neither stupidity nor short-sightedness are an excuse; LL should have avoided this debacle in the first place. Now that it happened, it ought to provide a swift and prompt response to content creators’ concerns.

Is LL planning to sell our stuff on Desura or to enable us to sell our stuff on Desura?

This requires me to dwell on the Desura connection a bit. The Lab is predictably secretive as to its business planning and what it intends to do with its services. I wouldn’t expect them to be open and candid about their next moves, but I wouldn’t put it past them to consider expanding the SL marketplace over to Desura. However, there are a few technical facts that need to be considered – and this leads us to the next section:

Exactly how much sense would it make to sell SL-specific content on Desura?

This is where things get interesting. Most of the popular content on SL’s marketplace is content that is designed for SL’s much-maligned default avatar:

  • Skins and “system clothing” (i.e. clothing layers) designed for the default avatar’s UV maps.
  • Rigged mesh clothing weighted for the default avatar.
  • Poses and animations designed for the default avatar.
  • Furniture and houses sized for the ill-proportioned shapes people make as a result of the default camera offsets.

Where exactly would all of this content be useful? Only in Second Life and its OpenSim derivatives, because no other platform uses SL’s default avatar, which is treated with derision by pretty much everyone in the 3D graphics world – and I’m barely scratching the surface here, not taking into account the fact that no one outside SL would want to buy anything that uses SL’s sculpted prims or simple prims, however tortured they may be. And, outside of SL and its clones, who really has any use for 512×512 and 1024×1024 textures anyway? If you go to any stock texture provider, the textures are of resolutions far in excess of anything used in-world. But really, does LL need to spend the time and money to add all of this content to Desura only to have its own users buy these products from yet another source? And let’s say they do bring this content on Desura; how will this content become available in other grids? Do other grids give their users the ability to upload/import finished products they might have bought elsewhere? And what about objects that are scripted in LSL? For further examples of SL-specific items that would be utterly useless outside of SL, please see this comment by Ezra on Hamlet Au’s article echoing the Desura connection idea.

All of this automatically shoots the “LL are conspiring to sell mah stuffz on Desura” and “LL are planning to enable SL content creators to sell their products on Desura” arguments down – in fact, I wonder how on Earth the people that put these arguments forward didn’t think of these simple issues.

Furthermore, why would any SL content creator who wants to sell their products to users of other grids need Desura in the first place? They can very easily sign up to Kitely or InWorldz or whatever and start selling their goods there right away – OK, the scripts would probably have to be reworked.

As for mesh content creators – yes, these could be used outside of SL, but really, I doubt most of them would stand a chance against anything you could find on websites where seasoned professionals, with years of rigorous training and hard work under their belts, sell highly-optimised, well-designed 3D models, created in pro-grade software, for serious money. And you know what? These people wouldn’t even need Desura in the first place – and LL didn’t need this change in its ToS to enable its own mesh content creators to sell their products elsewhere.

Besides, as Iris Ophelia pointed out on that same article by Hamlet Au, offloading SL-specific content on Desura, which has a certain niche market and userbase would probably do more harm than good to Desura itself.

The impact of the new ToS

The impact of the ToS change has both been exaggerated (the “LL IS OUT TO STEAL MAH STUFFZ!!!” prokanoia that’s spreading through the SL blogosphere at insane speeds) and almost insultingly downplayed. This doesn’t serve the discussion and handling of the matter at hand at all. SL’s content creators need to learn what things like “non-exclusive licence” mean, and they also need to understand how SL as a content-delivering and content-rendering platform works. The same applies to third-party stock content purveyors. Also, LL needs to understand how these actions have affected (i) its userbase, (ii) its users’ trust in the company, (iii) its corporate image.

As I hope everyone understands, we need to grant Linden Lab the non-exclusive right to have the same power over our content (regardless of whether said content consists exclusively of material we made ourselves or includes material acquired from third parties) to enable them to provide Second Life as a service. What are these rights, and why does LL need them?

  • By uploading material to Second Life, we grant LL the right to store this material on the asset server. Otherwise, it will not appear in our inventories.
  • LL needs to be given the right to make copies of our material. Otherwise:
    • We will not be able to rez copies of our material to work on and create variants of said material.
    • We will not be able to even set permissions on our material.
    • LL will not be able to deliver copies of our material to the people who buy it from our in-world and/or marketplace stores.
  • LL also needs to be given the right to not only copy, but also modify and even study our material. Otherwise:
    • When we rez a copy of something we made and try to work on it in-world (and this work can be something as simple as renaming the object, or some quite complex editing and rescripting), we simply will not be able to, because LL’s system will not be enable to, as no such privileges will have been given by us.
    • Without such rights, LL will not be able to identify the causes of undesirable behaviour in our objects and scripts and work on troubleshooting and bug fixing (such as the problems encountered during region crossings while using vehicles). They also will not be able to work on ways to quell the efficiency of objects and scripts created for griefing.
  • As far as the right to sell and resell our objects, this is necessary for the function of both in-world and marketplace sales. We upload our objects, make them available for the buying public, and SL’s marketplace in turn sells the product on our behalf, i.e.:
    • Delivers a copy of our product to the buyer
    • Acts as a mediator/reseller agency:
      • Takes a fee for the transaction
      • Gives us the remaining part of the price
      • Distributes part of the revenue to whomever else we may want

In other words (and to make things even easier to understand), LL need you to licence them to:

  1. Store your content on their servers (inventory etc)
  2. Allow you and others to use it
  3. Maintain other people’s content after they’ve left SL (the “perpetual” bit I spoke of in the beginning)
  4. Make it available to the mechanisms that enable the platform to function
  5. Enable its sale and resale on your behalf with their internal mechanisms that facilitate in-world and marketplace commerce
  6. Use it in their advertising campaigns
  7. Take images of it for promotional purposes
  8. (Possibly) make a deal with a film studio or a large TV network, use your content as props and not have you come asking for a cut of their profits.
  9. (Possibly) sell the entire Second Life concern to another company (technology, servers, personnel, userbase, content and all) without anyone demanding a cut of it.

These are things that every grid-based virtual world needs to do simply in order to provide its service to its users. Also note that, by reading Renderosity’s Marketplace EULA, it becomes apparent that people who bought material from Renderosity simply don’t have the right to give LL, AviNation, Kitely, InWorldz or any other similar virtual world these rights that are essential for providing the service. This is why I say that all the snickering from certain parts of the OpenSim community was immature and premature.

This, however, does not mean that the new ToS have not caused certain problems. Inara Pey summarised them succinctly in Her commentary of the ToS in-world meeting. She points out that the new Section 2.3:

  • Exceeds any reasonable requirements Linden Lab may have in order to continue to provide and promote any of their services
  • Potentially allows Linden Lab to make use of people’s IP without reasonable attribution
  • Places users in the position of having to assign rights for items to LL when they are not in a position to do so (e.g. in the case of third-party content)
  • Requires artists invited into SL to present their work / give a performance to assign rights to Linden Lab they may not wish to grant / are not in a position to grant, unless such rights are suitably caveated
  • Impacts the ability of artists and performers with Second Life to strike exclusive deals outside of the platform for material they may have first presented / performed in-world
  • Further damages user / company trust.

The way I see it, the biggest problem here is the damage done to user/company trust. The far-reaching “for any purpose whatsoever” clause damages users’ ability to trust Linden Lab with their work. This affects Second Life in multiple ways. We must never forget that Second Life is, among others, a major creative and vocational outlet for people with disabilities who otherwise might not be able to work and either supplement their income or even support themselves through their SL-generated revenue. This, as Mathilde Vhargon pointed out in the in-world meeting, has considerable personal and social impact.

Now, a Randroid (i.e. an admirer of child dismemberer William Edward Hickman) or a Friedmanite neoliberal would say (OK, they wouldn’t  dare say it openly, but that’s their view on things, as we saw with the recent US government shutdown caused by Ayn Rand-adoring Republicans who don’t want taxpayers to have affordable healthcare): “why should Linden Lab give a shit about the crippled freeloaders with the huge sense of entitlement who live off the creative tools graciously and benevolently given to them by the company?” Besides the fact that this is where neoclassical policies show their inhuman face, this is also exactly how an attitude of this kind actually harms Second Life and, of course, Linden Lab itself.

Linden Lab practically endorses Draxtor Despres’ excellent series of videos The Drax Files, in which we see, among other things, that:

  • Second Life is presented as a valid platform for fundraising for humanitarian purposes (RFL of SL in collaboration with the American Cancer Society, the One Billion Rising anti-rape campaign, which was also endorsed by the company itself)
  • Second Life is presented as being able to provide people who were thrown out of the employment market due to disabilities or even extremely high unemployment (caused by reckless austerity policies) in certain cases with a creative and even vocational platform
  • Second Life is presented as a platform that artists can use to create works that would be impossible to create in RL.

Now, had The Drax Files not been essentially adopted as promotional material by the Lab, one could possibly (in light of the recent changes to the ToS) dismiss them as the work of a fanboy wearing glasses with rose-tinted lenses. But the conscious decision was made by the Lab to promote and reinvent SL’s image through these videos. If the Lab now goes and adopts a Friedmanian, amoralistic stance towards the licences it demands on the work of the very people it tries to attract, it will basically shoot itself in the foot and further damage SL’s already tarnished image.

Also note that the importance of user/company trust must never be underestimated. While I am sure that Peter Gray’s statement was made in a sincere effort on the Lab’s part to put things right, this trust has been damaged and serious work needs to be undertaken by the Lab to rebuild it.

“Peter Gray’s statement holds no water”

Bullshit. Regardless of what is claimed by some, it is not an informal comment provided to a blogger or two and it’s not simply an employee’s personal opinion. It’s an official corporate statement, which can very well be accepted as a valid document in a court of Law.

Where do we go from here?

It is obvious that this revision of the ToS was, to say the least, short-sighted and ill-advised. But it is not obvious to the Lab. Now, contrary to what is claimed, LL does not claim ownership of anyone’s intellectual property and all such talk needs to stop now, because it’s not only counter-productive, but also harmful. But, as explained earlier in the points Inara Pey made, it does put users in an untenable situation and this is clearly not helpful at all. Now, you and I know very well that the best way for LL to rectify things is to replace the “for any purpose whatsoever” clause with paragraph 1 of the old Section 7.1, i.e. “solely for the purposes of providing and promoting the Service” and issue an appropriate statement.

Unfortunately, that’s not how the corporate mind works. Companies only recognise and rectify their mistakes if they are costing them revenue or are putting them at risk of losing revenue. Otherwise, if they are in such a position that the mistake won’t actually hurt their market share and fixing it might cause the media and the public to start pointing fingers, then, it’s going to be easier to try and ignore both the existence of the mistake and any criticism of it.

So, how do we get LL to reconsider its stance?

First of all, SL content creators need to understand that the new ToS do not constitute an appropriation of their intellectual property by Linden Lab and all such wording needs to be removed from blogs, in-world “grassroots” groups etc. Why? Not only because it’s factually wrong, but also because it sets the entire discussion off on the wrong foot: with wording like this, the other side in this discussion (i.e. Linden Lab) will perceive it all as “yet another round of false accusations” and will simply not bother to listen to even the calmest of voices, especially given that LLdoesn’t face any real competition. The only “competitors” (i.e. virtual worlds where content designed for SL can be used) have concurrencies lower by two orders of magnitude – at least. So, if this screaming, shouting and yelling continues, LL will be very well inclined to adopt a “fuck you” attitude, reassured in the “Catch-22” situation users are currently in.

SL content creators also need to understand how the new ToS really affect them. As said, their IP rights are not claimed by LL – but they are impacted by the new ToS in the ways explained earlier, and this is what needs to be explained to the Lab.

Let’s also examine the means proposed for promoting the cause of changing the ToS to something more sensible, shall we?

  1. Email Rod Humble en masse through SL and non-SL accounts: It wouldn’t bring the desired reaction. Wanna bet that all these emails would very soon end up in the spam bin and any further emails would be filtered as spam, causing even false positives?
  2. Tweeting Rod Humble and Linden Lab en masse: Same risk.
  3. Mass filing of support tickets: Counter-productive. It’d interfere with the support team’s effort to address genuine support issues and would also be liable to result in an order being given to close all such requests as “incorrectly filed”, which would, in turn, result in concerns not being heard.

Neither are blog posts saying “you’re paranoid, just register your copyrights and you’re gonna be fine” helpful at all. This approach is entirely superficial and irrelevant.

What is needed here is a concerted, reasonable, sensible, rational and objective approach that will:

  • Show LL in what ways its users are really affected
  • Show LL in what ways its service and its image is affected
  • Show LL that the chosen wording was not necessary at all in the first place.
  • Show LL that rectifying this blatant, perfectly avoidable error will actually help restore users’ trust in the company and its platform, as it will be seen as a display of sincerity, honesty and dedication to the users whose creativity make SL what it is.

This is the kind of effort the community needs to undertake and support, and not the kind of irrational cries that have prevailed until now.

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See also:

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-k9

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20 thoughts on “A scrutiny of the recent changes to Second Life’s ToS

  1. Well made but one question remains, how to voice all your more the valid points?
    All or almost all, accepted the new Tos without a single blink and it took more then a month to start wondering and finding out the issues that we all agree with in August!
    So why any is expecting the Lab to voice our concerns and rectify some as fast as we all know it should, due to the collateral damage it can cause (A drop in the ocean can really becomes a Tsunami! And it seems pretty obvious that any Non Sl user now if does a search about Sl in any engine can be scare enough by all to simple not even try it at all!).
    The Lab is well aware and had already measured the gains and losses, I doubt any way that we can (users) find to make us heard will be of any use!

    1. To make a corporation hear you, you need to speak in a language it understands and you need to bring compelling arguments. This means that:

      1. Emotional posts and approaches won’t do. Instead, a measured, rational and objective approach is best.
      2. Flinging accusations all over the place won’t make them listen – they’ll make them go on the defensive and shut their ears.
      3. Anything said to them needs to be connected with profits and losses, in the short run and the long run.

  2. Linden Lab high instances still seem to misunderstand their user basis!
    One that relies in trust between two parts and that has seen to much of that being eroded by one side only, Linden Lab itself!
    So trust us and listen for once, not Me, Nor Mona, but All on a simple matter, make us trust you again!

  3. The corporation writes a TOS that claims a right to all my work, plus the work of my licensors, and it’s up to me to reestablish trust? No. They need to explain, apologize, and change the TOS. Anything less is a slap in the face.

    1. *sigh*

      This is a typical example of an overly emotional comment, written by someone who doesn’t understand the situation at hand, how licencing works, and how corporations roll.

    2. With an approach like yours, LL (even though its action was clearly wrong) will not listen. When someone makes a mistake and is in a position of power (and LL is in a position of power both in relation to you and in relation to all their “competition”), they need to be shown exactly why they are wrong and, w.r.t. corporations like LL (or any other corporation), why their approach is bad for business. If I were a representative of any corporation and were approached by someone with your attitude, even if I was wrong, I simply would refuse to listen to you.

      And your attitude is making things worse for those who, as we speak, are working hard to persuade LL to reconsider its stance on the matter.

      And another indication that you simply didn’t bother to read my post but just came here to spout off is that you claim I said the users should apologise to LL, which is a blatant factual error.

      1. LL runs SL. Our digital creations exist on their computers. We are at the mercy of the people who run the servers. They know that. They have, until recently, used their power with integrity and self control. Now they write a TOS that gives them all kinds of rights over my content that I did not give them when I created it. There is nothing I can do about that. I have to remove years of work from the server. Am I emotional about that? Yes.

        I understand licensing very well, which is why I am upset. The other reason I am upset is that the only response from LL has been “golly we’re sorry you are upset, but you can still sell your content.” They did not address the fact that they are claiming the right to use and license my content. My attitude is not at issue here. Their overreaching TOS is the issue.

  4. What about the possible future bad reputation of a company who actively sought non-profit organizations’ investment and presence there and is now taking action which might in time cause such organizations to feel they can no longer stay?

    It seems to me that if there is at some point a number of cases of distress and potential tragic consequences (The popular media love to have stories like this and are not interested in SL as a business with regard to their coverage, but only want to exploit it for shock value.) where there is some significant problem among disabled persons who have depended on SL as a platform to live a more expanded life than they might otherwise have. If that sort of ‘moral outrage’ is stirred up, it will be even harder for SL or any buyer of it wanting to revitalize it or keep going in a similar manner to how it is now.

    The knock on effect would be that people would see SL as even shoddier than they have seen it in the past due to the media coverage of the sex scene, marriage breakups blamed on SL, etc.

    Surely in any company there are those who weigh these influences in terms of possible loss of credibility and public goodwill.

    1. I already mentioned what you said about disabled persons and their livelihood. 🙂 Now, as for the other aspects you mention, LL should really think about them very seriously.

      1. 1. The reality is that LL became a investor ran company back in 2006-8, when the TOS started this bit change from, what yours is yours … to what’s yours is also ours, but we don’t want to be required to take on any responsibility to protect it.

        2. Could this be related to the mass exodus of the Fortune 500 companies after the major change in 2007-2008 that gave LL even more rights over other’s content? One can only imagine the reaction of these big corporations when their lawyers reviewed the IP changes in the TOS. I bet they went nuts and tried to ask for exceptions to their content, though it would not be in LL’s norm to do that and there is no blogs or comments suggesting that LL did give anyone special rights that excluded them from the IP stance. Infact, the exodus of the big corps suggest the opposite. But, to LL’s credit, one can understand the need for such a clause to ensure continued investment funding, since Second Life is a virtual entity, and the only real tangible value is indeed the creator communities content. Remember, this was also the time period when Phillip and Cory exited. With them gone or owning less than a controlling value, who would be there to fight them from this ideal?

        3. One thing is pretty evident – You don’t refuse to negotiate with Fortune 50-500 companies and survive intact. It’s been long pondered the timing of all the exposés in the press about the seedy side of Second Life. Could it be corporate payback for being refused exceptions? The timing seems to support that query, as it was after most of the big corps had left, divesting themselves of their Second Life investments and ensuring no mud or dirt was cast on themselves.

        4. If all this is true, then that would have left Second Life to be a noose around the neck of LL, as it was and still is perceived as a “tainted” company in the world of investors and businesses from the outside. Could this be why, even with a seemingly bogus suggestion that Microsoft wanted to buy them out, they could not generate any real interest in buying them out?

        5. It seems that solution to redeem the Linden Lab reputation was to diversify under the guidance of Rod Humble, which was a valid and smart move for the LL brand. This enabled them to be more than just the maker of Second Life and show they could do more mainstream things and possibly attract more interest in buying them out. That doesn’t bode well for the community of Second Life, but realistically it is the reality of how investors think. They want their investment money back and with the heart and soul originals all gone, there is nothing to stop them from pushing the profit line higher.

        6. We know the thing that keeps users in SL over the many alternatives available today is the content and that is really probably what the investors were buying into – their proof of value to get them to invest, because short of servers and the building they rent in, is there really any other tangible value to the company?

        7. Could this be why LL has continue to tighten the IP noose more and more? Could it mean that that the longer the users accept the TOS blindly and keep making content the more likely that any legal battles would fall in LL’s favor? Only an attorney can answer that. Maybe its time a group of creators making original stuff talk to one. That would seem to be the only way the creators and users could possibly have a chance of coming out with anything of value if this is indeed what’s happening.

        8. Legally speaking it probably makes sense to do what they’d done as a corp, and make no mistake LL is a corp. Reselling creator content – especially the mesh stuff that has come in the last few years – to other outlets for game design would garner a lot of interest. Second Life’s content creators have long held the record for great, detailed and artistic content of value. Sales of packets could continue to fuel the new games LL has launched in recent years and pay back the over 28M said to have been brought in by its investors, if they haven’t been paid back already. Even if they have, LL would still have to provide the investors with profits over their initial investment in the form of dividends and such. Imagine the value of all that content if, that is indeed their exit plan.

        Just some questions and thoughts to ponder, but I personally have not facts to support my questions and ponderings. Just felt like a good corporate detective thang to try and connect all the dots and guess at what happened and what could possibly happen in the future with these new legal rights LL has given themselves.

        1. 1. LL was never anything but an investor-ran company, whether we like it or not. From the moment terms like “Venture Capital”, “start-up” “seed money” are thrown into the discussion, we know that the people who put this money in will come back and demand not only the money they poured in, but a hell of a lot more, including complete control of the company. And we all know that investors are basically gamblers who don’t give a shit about things like “corporate culture”, “consumer confidence”, “consumer loyalty” etc. They’re only in it for a very quick buck, addicted to the jouissance of profit. Essentially, investors are money junkies.

          2. Applying Occam’s Razor, I’m inclined to say that the big companies left SL because they quickly found out that even the (relatively) small expense of running an in-world corporate presence could not be justified at all. First of all, SL did not have the promised user base and, frankly, I don’t expect it or any other virtual world to ever have the kind of user base that will justify a big in-world presence for a company that is not directly related to what a virtual world can do. Second, SL’s graphical capabilities at the time were rather primitive. Would you expect a car manufacturer to be able to exhibit its best car’s design in-world? No. Third, The companies that started in-world presences and then disappeared simply got it wrong. They expected people to flock to their completely empty sims (no representatives, no personnel, no nothing – save for a few ad boards. Exactly why would anyone bother to visit these sims and not go to the far more beautiful and better implemented “traditional” websites instead?

          3. See above.

          4. What tainted SL was the overhyping it got as a start-up, the fact that its management has a long history of not understanding SL’s place in the market, and the sensationalist coverage of various controversies, whose impact was exacerbated by the SL community’s propensity for prokanoia, drama whoring and believing whatever bullshit is spread through the grapevine. This is what tainted SL and its user base, and we don’t need to seek corporate conspiracies. No one’s out to kill SL, and no one wants to buy SL, because – frankly – no one wants its users.

          5. Diversification of a company’s portfolio doesn’t bode ill or well for its already existing products and their users. It’s utterly irrelevant.

          6. Consumers stay because of (i) the content they can buy, (ii) the fact that in SL they can find other users to interact with, (iii) they can also find various communities and subcultures to enjoy. Creators, on the other hand, stay because it’s SL that has the users. All the other virtual worlds are at least two orders of magnitude smaller in terms both of user base and concurrency. So, don’t expect to see any mass exodus of users and creators. As for LL’s tangible value, it has a rather powerful virtual reality platform, which keeps getting improved. Now, why am I saying it’s powerful? Well, besides the fact that right now it has quite a bit of eye candy, it delivers said eye candy on top of completely and obscenely ineffective, lag-inducing, resource-hogging user-generated builds with rather decent frame rates. Also, they have a few other products.

          7. I’m not too keen on speculating. Besides, right now what’s important isn’t trying to guess what LL might have been trying to do with the new ToS, but showing them that the “for any purpose…” clause is bad for business and needs to be changed right away. The only reasons I can imagine for this particular change are (i) to allow LL to bring some major TV network or film studio in-world, have them film something in existing regions, with various bits of furniture, vehicles and whatnot as props, without having their creators coming in and demanding a cut of the profit and (ii) to possibly sell SL as a concern to another entity someday with everything in it (including you, me and every other user) without users demanding a cut of the profits. Like Yahoo! acquired Tumblr – did any blogger ask for a cut? Nope. The other changes now are actually an attempt on behalf of LL to be more transparent about things.

          8. I want to see the idiot who’d buy the ridiculously high-poly mesh I see in SL and use it elsewhere. Also, given that Desura is not connected to any “competing” virtual world (i.e. SL’s OpenSim clones), how exactly are these products going to end up in them? And don’t forget that the mesh content you see and enjoy in SL is useless without its texturing and scripts. Since there’s no way of delivering that stuff to AviNation, InWorldz, Kitely and other OpenSim grids (which are the only places where SL content is useful), then this point is entirely moot.

  5. They are covering their butts! Simple as that! They must of been sued one too many times and don’t want or can’t afford to lose anymore. They taking control of all in SL so we cannot sue them over it.
    This seems to happens in all corporations. If they are losing money they change the way they are doing business and there is not much we can do about it.
    I guess we all would cover our butts with any business we own. Such as your desires to save your hard work and possible income, SL is doing the same.
    LL made and owns SL, they have more power than we do. We will not see them change. They are fully aware of the possible loss of content creators. They have thought this out well.
    In the past when changes were made, many left SL, LL did not waiver. They are willing to lose in order to gain with prospects of new content creators that may come along, or ones that will stay.
    Other, *ie FB, social media companies have made many changes without regard for us as the user. It is their interests they are protecting. We have to deal with it or leave!
    Unfortunately there is no other outlet that is like SL. No real competitors. Other 3d words do not compare nor have as much content that already exists as in SL.
    I have tried other worlds and they are so far behind SL in regards to the content. Would take 5 years to get up to where SL is at. There have never really been enough people to make this happen.
    Just another sad day in SL. I have missed so many of the old creators that have left, I hate seeing more leave. I truly don’t blame them, but we all lose here!

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