LL’s new ToS: changes and their impact (UPDATED)

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, an opinion with which I tend to agree. I am going to quote paragraph 5 of the new Section 2.3, with emphases.

In the previous page of this post, I added emphases to help focus on (i) points that are not entirely understood by the community, (ii) points that have changed from the previous ToS. So, I’m going to explain them here.

  • “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. Just like what happens in RL filming, where giving attribution to the makers of each and every small item that might be seen on-screen in a busy scene is impractical.
  • (Possibly) sell the entire Second Life concern to another company (technology, servers, personnel, userbase, content and all) without anyone demanding a cut of it. Pretty much what happened when Yahoo! acquired Tumblr. Did any of Tumblr’s bloggers get a cut of it? Nope. They just kept on blogging as if nothing had happened at all.

The reaction of SL’s community

As was expected, much was made of this change in SL’s ToS within its userbase, in the forums and the blogosphere. 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. I covered their reaction in my previous post on the matter.

On their part, LL issued an official statement, which Exotix (Inara Pey) presented on Her blog. This, however, has clearly not been enough to quell people’s concern. The fact that certain bloggers and forum commenters have chosen to leech off the subject by agitating and misinforming in order to serve their own personal interests (narcissism/ego, personal feuds, driving up page views to raise their income from advertising etc) doesn’t help matters at all and, in fact, has sent the signal-to-noise ratio to the dogs.

So, we have the oh-so-typical prokanoid bouts of “LL now says it owns all mah stuffz” and lots of yelling and screaming, with the usual agitators and “prominent bloggers” fanning the flames. Thus, the level of discourse on this important and sensitive matter has been typically low.

Besides that, 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.” 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 Exotix (Inara Pey). Also, Toysoldier Thor started a survey on SurveyMonkey on the topic of the new ToS, for those wishing to participate. 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.

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