Why LL and other virtual world providers need you to licence your content to them

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:

  1. Store our content on their servers (inventory etc)
  2. Enable/allow us and others to use it
  3. Maintain other people’s content after they’ve left SL
  4. Make it available to the mechanisms that enable the platform to function
  5. 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.


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10 thoughts on “Why LL and other virtual world providers need you to licence your content to them

  1. First, to use the term “irresponsible” in referring to the people who are adamantly fighting the TOS is . . . well . . irresponsible. There is a great deal of the language we find offensive. And while the one line you quoted, “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.” might sound good on the surface, it does not in anyway mitigate the potential harm of the rest of the language in Section 2.3 of the TOS.

    You then mention that the clause “for any purpose whatsoever” should have never been added, but dismiss it with a waive of the hand.

    While we appreciate that Linden Lab needs to protect their rights to use our content for the platform to function legally, the language in Section 2.3 simply goes too far.

    You have not stated you are an attorney, and certainly neither am I, but Linden Lab has absconded with far too much of my hard work. There are many creators in SL that sell their work in RL, that is where the real issues come into play. My art is sold in RL. It’s hard to sell something for which you no longer have full rights. The last I checked, no man can serve two masters. I should think it would follow that two parties can’t claim full rights to use, as they wish, one object. Tug-of-war is pursuant. If, for example, a large retailer wanted to purchase one of my pieces of art for distribution, one of the things they are going to want to know is if I have unencumbered rights to my work. i.e. Does anyone else have rights to it. Thanks to the new TOS, I can no longer say that no one else has rights to my work.

    I”m not alone in this. Many fashion designers test market their work in SL before taking their patterns public for production. They also require unencumbered rights to their work.

    Linden Lab has now placed us all in the predicament of proving that our work is copyrighted while they move ahead to use “for any purpose whatsoever”. The onus–and expense–falls on the creators to protect their rights. Linden Lab has deeper pockets than you or I, and are fully aware that few, if any, will fight to protect their rights.

    While you were kind enough to have reported the first paragraph of Section 2.3, I will be kind enough to reciprocate and post the remainder. As far as my unusually incendiary response, I can only say that I strongly object to being referred to as “irresponsible”. You may not agree with us, but respect for the opinion of others should never be laid to the wayside in an effort to elevate your own position.

    Second Life Terms of Service, August, 2013

    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).

    Respectfully submitted,

    Kylie Addison Sabra


    1. Kylie, I understand your concern over the “for any purpose” part of paragraph 5, Section 2.3 of the ToS. If you take the time to read this post, you’ll see (a) that I posted the entire section 2.3 of the ToS, (b) that I criticise LL for adding this far-reaching, unnecessary and user-company trust-breaking clause. See the post that came right after that one, too.

      As to what I view as irresponsible, you’ll have to agree that all the screaming and “LL is trying to ‘steal’ people’s intellectual property” is utterly counter-productive and will destroy whatever chance there could be for users to influence LL towards changing this part of the ToS.


      1. Thank you for your clarification. I do see now that you linked to the full TOS. I agree, that “LL is trying to steal people’s intellectual property” is an overstatement of the facts. I do know this is an emotional issue; as such, people tend to respond emotionally. It is the goal of the UCCSL to reach out to Linden Lab and the SL community with the voice of reason. Simply put, the August, 2013 TOS goes too far and should be revised.

        Thank you for your kind response, Mona.


        1. If we don’t get people to understand the real impact of the new ToS, and if we don’t handle the situation with a level-headed approach, nothing will be achieved. This is why I’m breaking the huge, 9-page post down to a series of smaller ones where I can explain things bit by bit.


          1. I’m trying to clear things out for people, so that we can focus on what’s really important (the unnecessary and over-reaching “for any purpose” clause) and on why it is important and – yes – bad for business.


          2. Thanks Mona. I’m including a link to your blog on our “In the News” document and on my blog.


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