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

Losing focus

I’ll have to be blunt here. The “community” of SL has been a major contributor to this debacle. First of all, it took roughly two months before people realised what changes had been made, and their reaction was characterised by the hysteria, conspiracy theories and prokanoia that has been making SL’s user base the laughing stock of the internet since 2003. Like it or not, this is how SL users are perceived by others on the net. And no, it’s not about the sex or the griefing; it’s about SL users’ propensity for over-the-top reactions to everything that happens, it’s about the deeply-rooted belief that Linden Lab is inherently evil and constantly plotting to make their lives miserable and rip them off. Uh… OK. If you think this particular company is so bad, what exactly are you still doing in SL and its related forums and blogs? It’s not like anyone forces you to use SL, really. I could understand hating Microsoft and still having to use Windows and Office because they’re the de facto standards for your RL work and your livelihood depends on them. But SL is not the de facto standard for anything you can’t live without.

SL is chock-full of loud-mouthed “saviours”. People (the “LL is the Devil” people) who go around, telling us all we’re sheep and cheerleaders, that we’re doomed because LL is plotting our demise, and that the only way for us to be saved is by believing them and following them. You’ll see them in the forums and in various blogs’ comment sections, littering the whole place with ad hominems, conspiracy theories and commentary that makes Glenn Beck and Fred Phelps look like Paul Mason from the BBC. How I wish I were exaggerating…

This kind of commentary is pure noise, and it drowns out any useful comments. In fact, it’s far worse: It’s censorship. These people derail the discussion, distract from the important issues, draw attention and focus to unimportant ones, or even to non-issues, and change the entire agenda. As for how they censor people… Well, they shout down everyone that doesn’t react to things with “the end is nigh” screams and seek to denigrate them, marginalise them and discourage them from even having an opinion. It’s the dictatorship of the paranoid morons.

I’ve seen people work their butts off to host informative discussions, transcribe them, sit down with experts on various issues to work them out… And what do they get? They get shouted down. Called names (such as “LL cheerleaders”) etc. This is disgusting.

An inadvertent depiction of the quality of the LL ToS-related discourse.

In exactly the same way, the level of discourse on the ToS so far has been abysmal. Most people started jumping up and down, yelling and screaming in the forums, in group chat, in blogs and in-world, about how “LL IS TRYIN TA STEAL MAH STUFFZ!!!!!!!11111”, focusing on the sell/re-sell clause, which is really a non-issue and is addressed by Section 2.4 – I wonder if they bothered to read it.

The sell/re-sell clause got way too much attention (thanks, in no small part, to the “for any purpose whatsoever” clause). People thought LL was planning to take their creations (even the ones some of them *cough cough* imported to SL’s marketplace from video games’ resources)  and sell them as their own. OK, let me play along with this prokanoid theory.

To whom would LL sell all of that stuff? Who would care to buy stuff made from sculpted prims? Who would care for low-resolution (512×512) textures? Who would want to buy unoptimised mesh products, or rigged mesh clothing made for the sub-par default avatar of SL? Who would want to buy prim-based products? Who would want to buy stuff ripped from video games? Who would care to buy stuff made usually by amateurs who pretend to be professionals?

The answer is simple: Outside of Second Life and OpenSim, no one would want to buy any of those products. Yes, I know it hurts your egos, but most of the stuff sold on the SL marketplace would never cut it in most markets: It won’t cut it in the video game market, not only because much of it is ripped from video games anyway, but because it’s full of wasted polygons and different textures that are unacceptably high-res (although they can be medium-res in and by themselves) and add up to lag, sagging the game engine’s performance. It won’t cut it in the CGI market, because it’s not detailed or refined enough. Even for relatively low-budget movie productions, like the exccellent Sintel, most of the stuff you buy in SL would be rejected as being of unacceptably low quality.

So, always assuming that LL is plotting to steal your precious prim-based stuff, which market would LL approach with the stuff it would steal from you? SL? It wouldn’t work – duh. OpenSim? No way. A majority of OpenSim users hate LL about as much as Cthulhu hates chordates. They wouldn’t buy anything from LL, simply because it’d be sold by Linden Lab, much less if it was pilfered from the SL “sheep”.

Yet, very few people dared point those things out. And those that did were duly shouted down by the raving lunatics. The constant repetition of these conspiracy theories as “facts” led much of the user base to believe that the most important (if not the only) thing that needed to be fixed in the ToS was the sell/re-sell clause. Even at the discussion with Ebbe Altberg a the VWBPE, several people who asked him various questions were talking about the sell/re-sell clause; not about the really thorny “for any purpose whatsoever” clause. In fact, I’ve facepalmed on several LL User Group meetings where various people (some of them were content creators, but most of them weren’t) kept regurgitating this bullshit theory, i.e. that LL magically owned everyone’s stuff and was planning to start selling it.

Although there were groups that tried to influence the Lab in a proper amendment of Section 2.3, the damage had been done. Far too many SL users think that the 8/15/2013 changes to the ToS were about the Lab appropriating people’s content and selling it for its own profit; the “for any purpose whatsoever” clause is something they’ve never heard of. Well, some who have heard about it simply combine it with the misconception they’ve got planted in their heads, simply strengthening it. And what makes matters worse is the propensity of many SL users to say “yeah, OK, I know these are the facts, but I choose to believe otherwise” – don’t laugh, I’ve seen this one too.

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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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