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.

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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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