One thing that’s always said about Second Life and its clones is that content is created and provided by their users. It’s one of the major boasting points in any discussion on these platforms; providers and users alike take great pride in this fact. So, in this light, these virtual worlds are essentially technical and technological platforms that allow users to:
- Create their own content
- Modify their own content
- Modify others’ content, if they have been given appropriate permissions
- Import content, either created by them or acquired by third-party sources, for the purposes of:
- Creating a base for a certain product (such as uploading a mesh model or a sculpt map)
- Enhancing/finishing/modifying their own content
- Enhancing/finishing/modifying others’ content for which they have been given the appropriate permissions
- Sell their own content
- Re-sell or give away others’ content, if they have the appropriate permissions
- Manage content (change permissions, rename, copy, delete, link to)
- Arrange content in-world (for the purposes of decoration, landscaping etc).
Also, these technical and technological platforms display this content on our monitors by serving to our computers so that they’ll render it – although this should be rather obvious. But there are some legal requirements before all this happens. Namely, you need to licence Linden Lab, or any other virtual world provider (such as AviNation, InWorldz, Kitely etc), to do all these things for you.
You see, you may be the one that’s ticking boxes, entering parameters, renaming objects, rezzing or deleting stuff in-world, but in reality, what you do is send requests to the virtual world’s system to perform these functions for you. If you hadn’t given the virtual world’s provider permission to do these things for you, you wouldn’t be able to make anything, rez anything, do anything. And, of course, you wouldn’t be able to sell your stuff.
In other words:
- 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 enabled 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 even simpler terms, without your permission, Linden Lab (and its OpenSim counterparts) cannot do any of the following things we take for granted everytime we log into Second Life or its clones:
- Store our content on their servers (inventory etc)
- Enable/allow us and others to use it
- Maintain other people’s content after they’ve left SL
- Make it available to the mechanisms that enable the platform to function
- Enable its sale and resale on our behalf with their internal mechanisms that facilitate in-world and marketplace commerce
Does this mean that your content belongs to LL? Certainly not. Remember what is explicitly written in paragraph 1 of Section 2.3 of the current ToS:
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.
This means that you have all Intellectual Property Rights to your content. It’s yours. Period. But, if a virtual world’s platform is to be able to function, its systems and personnel need to have your permission to perform the functions you expect and demand them to perform for you. Remember that your rights to your content are further assured by the non-exclusive nature of the licence you grant LL (or its OpenSim counterparts). So, besides the “for any purpose whatsoever” clause, which really should never have been added to the recently-updated ToS (for reasons I have explained elsewhere), there is absolutely nothing in the ToS that can justify and/or substantiate any claim that “Linden Lab claims it owns your stuff”, as some people irresponsibly claim.
- Terms of Service | Linden Lab (Section 2)
- LL’s new ToS: changes and their impact (this blog)
- Coverage of ToS-related issues on this blog
- ToS-related articles by Inara Pey