Some thoughts on Renderosity’s announcement

On 9 September 2013, stock content provider Renderosity followed the example of CGTextures and responded to LL’s recent ToS change by announcing that it prohibits use of its products in Second Life. This, of course, triggered yet another round of “LL IS TRYING TA STEAL MAH STUFFZ” drama, including various snarky comments from Renderosity users against Second Life users and content creators. In my original post on the ToS change, I have also quoted their announcement verbatim (in case they decide to rephrase or delete it). In that original post, I also quoted CGTextures’ announcement verbatim and commented on it, so for my thoughts on CGTextures’ announcements, this is what I’ll refer you to.

In this post, I’m going to focus on Renderosity’s announcement. As a reminder, you can find it on their website and here. What I wrote about CGTextures’ announcement holds in the case of Renderosity too. Determining how extensively a texture has been modified is not impossible at all. 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 stock content provider that would want to take legal action against a customer that decided to use a texture of theirs in an SL build. This is something that holds true for both announcements.

But now is the time to put Renderosity’s announcement under scrutiny as well. The language chosen shows – once again – a very poor understanding of how Second Life works and also how all SL clones (i.e. OpenSim grids) work. 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.” For an explanation of why Linden Lab and other grid-based virtual world providers need you to licence your content to them, see this post.

It must also be noted that, contrary to what is written in Renderosity’s announcement, 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.

Is the prohibition retroactive or not?

It must be noted that no clarification is made regarding 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 (Linden Lab) and beating the saddle (the users).

Was it ever OK (under Renderosity’s Marketplace EULA) to use Renderosity products in SL and other grid-based virtual worlds?

Here, we need to have a look at Renderosity’s Marketplace EULA, as it stood at the time they announced the prohibition. In case they modify it in the future, I also quote it verbatim here (emphases mine). This licence is quite draconian and effectively prohibits use of Renderosity products not only in Second Life, but also in any similar virtual world – recent changes to LL’s ToS notwithstanding. Here’s why:

  • 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, even if you want to use these products exclusively for your own, personal, one-off builds; 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. The only loophole provided is the clause that says “[f]or Merchant Resource Products, additional permissions or limitations of rights will be specified in of each Product’s readme file.” By default, though, it’s pretty clear that Renderosity has never been SL- or OpenSim-friendly. And the problem with the complete lack of any clarification as to whether this prohibition is retroactive or not remains.

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. This is certainly the kind of announcement that should make members of all virtual world communities seriously think about whether they want to give their money to stock content providers with such draconian licences as Renderosity.

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Mona

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See also:

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