This 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:
- Reproduce (i.e. copy)
- Publicly perform
- 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”)
- 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…
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Store our content on their servers (inventory etc)
- Enable/allow us and others to use it
- Maintain other people’s content after they’ve left SL
- Make it available to the mechanisms that enable the platform to function
- Enable its sale and resale on our behalf with their internal mechanisms that facilitate in-world and marketplace commerce
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