But that means my content belongs to LL!
You retain any and all Intellectual Property Rights you already hold under applicable law in Content you upload, publish, and submit to or through the Servers, Websites, and other areas of the Service, subject to the rights, licenses, and other terms of this Agreement, including any underlying rights of other users or Linden Lab in Content that you may use or modify.
This means that you have all Intellectual Property Rights to your content. It’s yours. Period. But, if a virtual world’s platform is to be able to function, its systems and personnel need to have your permission to perform the functions you expect and demand them to perform for you. Remember that your rights to your content are further assured by the non-exclusive nature of the licence you grant LL (or its OpenSim counterparts). The claim that “LL owns your stuff” simply cannot be substantiated in any way whatsoever by anything that is written in the entire body of the ToS. Remember: You retain any and all Intellectual Property Rights you already hold under applicable law in Content you upload, publish, and submit to or through the Servers, Websites, and other areas of the service, subject to the rights, licenses, and other terms of this Agreement, including any underlying rights of other users of Linden Lab in Content that you may use or modify.
“For any purpose whatsoever”…
And here’s the really thorny part. Until 2013, we understood that LL (and any other similar virtual world provider) could take a few snapshots of our regions, which might include trees, rocks, houses, vehicles, birds, etc. that we uploaded ourselves or bought from others, and use these snapshots for its promotional material, without paying royalties to us. After all, when you go out in RL and take pictures to use in a street photography exhibition, do you pay royalties to the companies that have made the traffic lights, the cars, the windows and doors, or the garbage cans that are included in your pictures? I think not.
But still, a contract is a contract, and such over-reaching language simply sounds scary. Almost as scary as LinkedIn’s or Instagram’s, in fact. Linden Lab never explained what it had in mind, and what additional rights it needed.
Various people suggested that the timing of the 8/15/2013 ToS changes (which coincided with the acquisition of Desura) could perhaps point to the Lab having plans to offer Desura’s marketplace as another medium through which its users could sell their wares. They were duly shouted down. To be honest, even I had some misgivings about this notion back then. However, now that LL is working on its next-generation virtual world, it seems that they’ll need permissions (rights) to transfer any existing content that can be transferred there and may want to make the procedure simpler. But, without any clarification from the Lab, we simply can’t be sure.
This, of course, does not make “for any purpose whatsoever” acceptable. The Lab’s ToS need to be perfectly clear as to what the Lab can do with our content, for what purpose, for how long, when, and where. “For any purpose whatsoever” doesn’t provide anything like that. It’s unacceptably over-reaching, and doesn’t help maintain trust between the company and its users. This is precisely the part that had to either be deleted or changed in order to clarify the Lab’s purposes to the users and rebuild trust.
How exactly are SL content creators affected by the current ToS?
The impact of LL’s current ToS was summarised very well by Inara Pey. I’ve mentioned her points before, I’ll do it again now. The post-8/15/2013 versions 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.
So, in a nutshell: The people that are really affected negatively by these versions of the ToS are content creators that use stock content from providers with very restrictive EULAs, as they are required to grant rights they are in no position to give, and artists, who simply will not be in a position to trust Linden Lab with their work; exclusivity is not only about the business side of an artist’s work; it is often part of the way an artist expresses themselves through a specific piece of art (such as a work of art that is presented, and then taken apart).
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