As everyone who hasn’t been living under a sculptie rock knows, LL has changed its Terms of Service on the 15th of August. This change has been met with a copious flow of virtual lachrimal fluids and pretty much equal amounts of drama w.r.t. the modifications to Section 2.3 of the ToS. I’ll be honest and blunt from the outset: I don’t like the wording in Section 2.3 at all, because it’s reaching too far; much farther than necessary or meaningful.
However, this is no excuse for drama-whoring. Drama-whoring is, to put it politely, counter-productive. To effectively oppose something, you need to have arguments based on solid logic and not on false assumptions. You need your arguments to be structured and well-supported by facts. And, if you are given a chance to negotiate a change in what you don’t like, you need to go to the negotiations with a number of proposals that are likely to be accepted by both parties. At least that’s what real professionals do. That said, I am not even going to pretend that I’m satisfied by the SL community’s response and the coverage of this issue. Honestly, most of what’s been written is complete and utter hogwash.
The drama flames have been fanned by the announcements issued on this matter by CGTextures and Renderosity, which were both touted by many SL bloggers as “proof” that Linden Lab is somehow trying to “steal” people’s content. I have covered both announcements on my blog (CGTextures and Renderosity: 1 and 2), quoting them verbatim (just in case they decide at some point to revoke them and delete them) and commenting on them, albeit with some reservations back then. The reason that I had those reservations and misgivings was that I was not entirely sure of what my own understanding told me, as I am not a lawyer. However, I am now given the opportunity to revisit both announcements, with greater confidence in my thoughts and conclusions, thanks to Vaki Zenovka (via her alt, Agenda Faromet), an RL lawyer that, together with her colleagues Tim Faith (SL username: Yoss Kamachi) and Juris Amat, held a legal panel on the 19th of October, in order to help clear things out and answer people’s questions. Also, I must thank Inara Pey for transcribing the legal panel and making things accessible to everyone.
Revisiting CGTextures’ announcement
First of all, please use the links provided in the previous paragraph to open the announcements (both CGTextures’ and Renderosity’s) in a new browser tab (or window) – for brevity’s sake, I won’t quote them here again in their entirety. Also, I had commented on CGTextures (although I had a few misgivings back then) earlier. At first sight, it appears that CGTextures’ proprietor cuts SL users a little slack by saying “[i]f you have used our images on builds uploaded before 6 September 2013, you can continue to use, sell, give away those builds just like before.” But, what about using those CGTextures-sourced textures on new builds? Then you’d be running afoul of the new licence, even if you had modified the initial texture so much that it would only be useful in a specific build or in a specific part of a specific build: “Even when a texture is heavily modified we can no longer allow it for new uploads to Second Life. We would be ok with it, because such textures are usually not useful apart from a specific model. But unfortunately it is impossible to define in legal text when a texture is sufficiently modified to allow such use. This would create too much confusion, to keep things clear we cannot allow any new use of our images in Second Life.”
The announcement contains a factual error: It is not impossible to determine the extent to which a texture has been modified. 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). Even other image file formats can be examined to determine this. Of course, this would require proper analysis, which could cost money, were CGTextures to sue a customer that decided to use a texture of theirs in an SL build.
Another problematic area with CGTextures’ announcement is the “new uploads to Second Life” part; it is confusing and shows that CGTextures’ proprietor has a very limited understanding of how SL works as a platform. Does it mean that, even if you had uploaded a certain texture you bought from CGTextures before 6 September 2013, you cannot use it to texture new products? Does it mean that, from 6 September 2013 and on, you may not upload new textures you bought from CGTextures or textures you made based on textures you bought from CGTextures?
What I wrote w.r.t. CGTextures’ announcement applies to Renderosity’s announcement as well: Determining how extensively a texture has been modified is not impossible at all. Also, Renderosity demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of how Second Life as a platform works. As a matter of fact, they fail to understand how Second Life’s OpenSim clones work too. 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.” But 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). When you upload a mesh model or a texture to Second Life, you don’t give it away to Linden Lab. You don’t give it to LL 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.
So, Renderosity’s announcement is factually wrong and terribly flawed in logic: Contrary to what their announcement claims, 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.
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