Last August, Linden Lab revised its Terms of Service. The most important changes were made to Section 2, which governs content licences and intellectual property rights. While the entire section was overhauled severely (you can read about the changes in greater detail here and here; I have also covered the issue as exhaustively as I could), it was the changes to Section 2.3 that caused certain content creators to protest in various ways, and led to two controversial announcements from stock content providers CGTextures and Renderosity – for my assessment of these two announcements, please read here. Today, July 16th of 2014, the Lab announced that it has amended the offending section.
The announcement reads as follows:
When we updated our Terms of Service in August 2013, the revised language of Section 2.3, the “Service Content License,” caused concern among certain Second Life creators. The revision to this section was worded in such a way that these creators expressed concern that we intended to appropriate their original creations and sell or license such creations without their permission. As our historical practice demonstrates and as we have since tried to clarify, this was absolutely not our intent. Creators are the lifeblood of Second Life. It is you who have populated Second Life with a petabyte worth of unique content and experiences, and it is important for our collective and continued success that you remain confident in continuing to create in our world. To be clear: Linden Lab respects the proprietary rights of Second Life’s content creators and prides itself in its success in providing platforms on which users can create original content and profit from their creations.
As part of an update to our Terms of Service today, we have made a modification to further clarify Section 2.3. The updated section still provides Linden Lab with the rights that we need in order to operate and promote Second Life, so you will see that we have retained much of the language as the previous version. However, the updated section now also includes limits that better match our intended meaning, and we hope will assuage some of the concerns we heard about the previous version.
First, the modified version limits our rights with respect to user-created content in Second Life by restricting our use “inworld or otherwise on the Service.” Additionally, it limits our right to “sell, re-sell or sublicense (through multiple levels)” your Second Life creations by requiring some affirmative action on your part in order for us to do so. This language mirrors the corresponding User Content License currently in Section 2.4, which has been part of the Terms of Service for years.
We know that the legal language of documents such as the Terms of Service can seem daunting, and we expect that some creators may continue to have concerns about particular elements of the updated agreement. Today’s revision to this section of the Terms of Service more closely expresses our intent – that we do not intend to appropriate or sell your content outside of our Service – and our hope is that the limitations clarified in the updated language of this section will support creators’ confidence in our platform.
As with any document like this, it’s important to read the whole Terms of Service before agreeing to it. Section 2.3 isn’t the only thing that’s changed – we’ve also added the updated policy for skill gaming, which we blogged about here – but we wanted to blog about this update to be clear about what’s different in this section, what it means, and why we made the change.
Back then, Inara Pey had written a very good summary of the impact of that version of the ToS. She pointed out that the post-August 15th, 2013 version of the ToS’ Section 2.3:
- Exceeds any reasonable requirements Linden Lab may have in order to continue to provide and promote any of their services
- Potentially allows Linden Lab to make use of people’s IP without reasonable attribution
- Places users in the position of having to assign rights for items to LL when they are not in a position to do so (e.g. in the case of third-party content)
- Requires artists invited into SL to present their work / give a performance to assign rights to Linden Lab they may not wish to grant / are not in a position to grant, unless such rights are suitably caveated
- Impacts the ability of artists and performers with Second Life to strike exclusive deals outside of the platform for material they may have first presented / performed in-world
- Further damages user / company trust.
For comparison’s sake, I have put together a Google document presenting the previous (post-August 15th, 2013) version and the new one side-by-side, highlighting with red, bold italic letters the changes I have spotted – If I missed anything, please let me know. I won’t comment further on the issue for now; I want to study the issue carefully and then present an informed opinion, rather than “contribute” a knee-jerk reaction.
- Terms of Service | Linden Lab (Section 2)
- A scrutiny of the recent changes to Second Life’s ToS (this blog)
- LL’s new ToS: changes and their impact (this blog)
- Revisiting the announcements of CGTextures and Renderosity re: LL’s new ToS (this blog)
- Updates to Section 2.3 of the Terms of Service – Second Life Official Blog
- ToS in-world meeting, September 29th: a personal perspective – by Inara Pey
- Section 2 of Linden Lab’s ToS: Version Comparison – Google document by yours truly
- Coverage of ToS-related issues on this blog
- ToS-related articles by Inara Pey