Thoughts on the (non-)changes to Section 2.3 of LL’s ToS

linden-lab-logoThis post is certainly going to be one of the most difficult for me. No, it’s not personal, intimate or anything. It’s just that what I see makes it very difficult for me to maintain a civil tone – and it’s not only about Linden Lab’s decisions, but also about the way things are affected by the appalling mode of discourse in SL forums and blogs on important matters. I’ll try to do the best I can, though.

It’s already well-known to pretty much everyone that follows SL-related news that the changes incorporated to LL’s ToS on August 15th, 2013, caused significant controversy among SL users, most notably certain content creators. They also spawned two controversial announcements by CGTextures and Renderosity, which I have covered rather extensively here. It’s been nearly a year since then. Throughout this time, much was said, and very little was done. On Wednesday, the Lab announced (in an almost self-congratulating way) that they amended Section 2.3, which caused the controversy. For comparison’s sake, in my previous post, I covered the announcement and also linked to a Google document where I present both the post-8/15/2013 ToS and the new ones side-by-side.

Has anything changed, really?

If you scroll down to page 5 of my Google document, you will see what was added. I don’t see anything that implies any of the changes announced in LL’s official blog post. Instead, there was a slight reshuffling of words and a very poorly-written piece of text was added in parentheses. More specifically:

  • They moved the “sell, re-sell, or sublicense (through multiple levels)” part from the beginning of the list to the end. Does this constitute a meaningful change? In my eyes, no.
  • And they added this piece of text: “(with respect to Second Life, Inworld or otherwise on the Service as permitted by you through your interactions with the Service)”.

These are the only changes that were made. Do they address the concerns expressed over the past year? Let’s see…

Rights you grant to LL

Under the latest iterations of the ToS, you grant Linden Lab the following rights to the content you upload, and the licence you grant is perpetual and irrevocable:

  • Use
  • Copy
  • Record
  • Distribute
  • Reproduce (i.e. copy)
  • Disclose
  • Modify
  • Display
  • Publicly perform
  • Transmit
  • Publish
  • Broadcast
  • Translate (Vaki Zenovka/Agenda Faromet argues it’s the same as “modify”, and I have no reason to think she’s wrong – she’s a very good IP lawyer in RL)
  • Make derivative works of (obviously the same as “modify”)
  • Sell
  • Re-sell
  • Sublicense (through multiple levels)
  • Otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever

As said, the only “change” concerning the rights you grant LL regarding your content has been that their ordering in the list has changed a bit. The list was reshuffled, but what’s in it is still the same. So, in a nutshell, what has really changed? Nothing.

Besides all that, the list of rights you have to grant LL is extensive, and some may find it daunting. However, most of them (with the notable exception of “otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever”) are rights that are absolutely necessary for Second Life to work. In fact, you would need to grant the same rights to any other similar virtual world provider if you were to be able to enjoy and employ its services. Why?

What rights do you need to grant LL and other virtual world providers?

As I have explained here, if virtual worlds are to be able to provide their services, they need to do various things with your content. Virtual worlds (SL, OpenSim, etc) are 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).

Furthermore, all of this content will have to be displayed on our monitors, right? How will this be done? The virtual world (and its provider) will have to serve the data to our computers for rendering. This ought to be obvious, but it often isn’t. Yet, there are some legal requirements if any of this is going to be made possible. You need to provide a licence to Linden Lab, or any other virtual world provider (such as AviNation, InWorldz, Kitely etc), to do all these things for you. Otherwise, they are simply not allowed to do a thing.

When we go in-world (regardless of whether we’re in SL, Kitely, AviNation, InWorldz or whatever) and start ticking boxes, entering parameters, renaming objects, rezzing or deleting stuff in-world… What we are really doing is use a front-end that sends equests to the virtual world’s system to perform these functions for us. If we hadn’t hadn’t given the virtual world’s provider permission to do these things for us, we wouldn’t be able to make anything, rez anything, do anything. And, of course, we wouldn’t be able to sell our stuff. Let’s break it all down to smaller chunks…

Uploading

By uploading material to Second Life (or any other similar virtual world), we grant the provider the right to store this material on the asset server. Otherwise, it will not appear in our inventories.

Copying

The provider 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.
  • The provider will not be able to deliver copies of our material to the people who buy it from our in-world and/or marketplace stores.

Modify

The provider 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 the provider’s system will not be enabled to, as no such privileges will have been given by us.
  • Without such rights, the provider 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.

Sell/re-sell/distribute

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 the virtual world’s marketplace or in-world system 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 our permission, neither LL nor any other virtual world provider can do any of the following things we take for granted everytime we get in-world:

  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

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7 thoughts on “Thoughts on the (non-)changes to Section 2.3 of LL’s ToS

  1. I was one of the few that realized the impact of this change early on, got branded a wackadoodle and cassandra and clownass as usual by the head-in-sand crowd, which is why I threw LEA25 back in LEA’s faces in protest and changed my usage of SL for creative original content.

    I don’t think the prokanoid/whackadoodle crowd influenced the Linden Lawyers’ efforts as much as the Lab’s utter disregard for the concerns of the customer and incompetence, but on the rest I agree.

    I look forward to your thoughts on the issue I’ve been most concerned about (and addressed on the Botgirl blog post today), which is the content that has actual value outside of SL: writing and prototyping content. No company in its right mind would use SL for prototyping, and the ToS just adds evidence to the 72-hour psychiatric hold papers. (If a company is a person, then you can put it in a padded room, yes?)

    And I’m wondering when folks will wake up to the fact that Hamlet lost his marbles and credibility long ago, and it’s Inara, Honour, Ciaran, Thinkerer, You, and a limited number of others that people should go to for serious commentary. (Although, come on… you’re going down Prokofy Road with the political stuff mixed in. 😉

    -ls/cm

    1. You went a bit off the rails in the end: Prok is a conservative and a borderline racist. I’m anything but that. On the other stuff… The ToS really should be written as a proper contract: In a clear, understandable manner, listing in high-res black & white what can be done, what can’t be done, how it can be done, why, when, and under what circumstances and conditions. As it stands, the “in any manner whatsoever” and “for any purpose whatsoever” clauses are the kind of stuff that would easily turn people away from SL.

      As for prototyping in SL, I’m sorry, but I beg to differ: SL has always been technically unsuitable for prototyping, and any discussion ends there, long before the company’s lawyers look at LL’s ToS. Let’s say I work for an engineering company and we have software like PTC’s Creo, or Dassault’s CATIA. Why in the name of Souvlaki Magnus would we shun such super-powerful software and bother with the Fisher-Price engine of SL and the clunky LSL?

      1. The good people at Fisher-Price are holding on line 2, they say it’s about your allegation that their products are of the same quality as SL and/or LSL 😉

    2. Furthermore, regarding the influence of the prokanoid and the Chicken Littles on the debate, they didn’t influence the Lab’s ToS-related “efforts” directly. Their yelling about the non-important issue was so loud and ubiquitous, that it drowned out any other voice – even the UCCSL focused (rightly) on the “for any purpose whatsoever” part, yet most people in-world keep babbling on about the “sell/re-sell” stuff and the “LL OWNZ MAH STUFFZ!!!!11111” bullshit. I’ve seen them in all sorts of places in-world, in forums, in blog comments, even in LL User Group meetings. They were fed the lines by the loudmouth schmucks who try to dictate the agenda. And they did change the agenda here. This was convenient for the Lab, actually. It required no real effort, it didn’t require them to actually limit their rights in any way, so they went for the easy “solution”, which solves nothing at all.

  2. I’m not sure why sell/re-sell is even in there. Linden Lab do no sell or re-sell items, they facilitate the sale in a similar manner to ebay or Amazon. With Amazon you can store your items in their warehouse and they will deliver the items for you but they do not sell/re-sell those items and they make this abundantly clear.

    The reason they make this abundantly clear is because any disputes are between the buyer and seller, not the intermediary who facilitates the sale and Linden Lab take exactly the same stance, which is why it’s an extremely odd part of the terms of service for Second Life.

    However other products in Linden Lab’s inventory are sold/re-sold by Linden Lab. I would imagine they need these terms for Desura, for example.

    1. There are three explanations to this that I can think of.

      A. It’s corporate legalese CYA (cover your ass).

      B. It’s to do with hardware reappropriation in the run-up to the new virtual world’s launch and the sub-contracting of hosting various SL-related services; it could be argued that subcontractors need certain clearances. This is NOT a totally satisfactory explanation. BT, Forthnet etc don’t need clearances to host e-shop services. For other functions, it makes sense, though.

      C. They might one day decide to sell SL. Very unlikely.

      I gravitate to a combination of A and B for some parts, with the rest residing forever in the minds of LL’s lawyers. And, of course… IANAL.

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