Linden Lab

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.

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linden-lab-logoLast 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.

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As everyone who hasn’t been living under a sculptie rock knows, LL has changed its Terms of Service on the 15th of August. This change has been met with a copious flow of virtual lachrimal fluids and pretty much equal amounts of drama w.r.t. the modifications to Section 2.3 of the ToS. I’ll be honest and blunt from the outset: I don’t like the wording in Section 2.3 at all, because it’s reaching too far; much farther than necessary or meaningful.

However, this is no excuse for drama-whoring. Drama-whoring is, to put it politely, counter-productive. To effectively oppose something, you need to have arguments based on solid logic and not on false assumptions. You need your arguments to be structured and well-supported by facts. And, if you are given a chance to negotiate a change in what you don’t like, you need to go to the negotiations with a number of proposals that are likely to be accepted by both parties. At least that’s what real professionals do. That said, I am not even going to pretend that I’m satisfied by the SL community’s response and the coverage of this issue. Honestly, most of what’s been written is complete and utter hogwash.

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I know Tzimis Panousis didn’t have Second Life’s users in mind, but this sketch sums up the mindset and actions of quite a few people.

Offended? You shouldn’t be. After reading Inara Pey’s transcripts of the legal panel regarding the ToS changes, I think no one has any excuse for being a nincompoop anymore. All this time while blogging about this issue, I have been trying very hard to remain polite regarding much – actually, most – of the debate on the 15th August change to Linden Lab’s ToS, all the while facepalming like nobody’s business. Far, far too much of what is still being regurgitated comes from people who:

  • Lack basic text comprehension skills,
  • Have a propensity for drama-whoring,
  • Have axes to grind and want to agitate others,
  • Are hypocritical turds; although they go out of their way to offer everyone who never asked them a TL;DR tirade about how much they hate Second Life and the “evil” Linden Lab (if we believe them, we’ll end up believing that the Lab is what caused the Cataclysm as described in the Bible), they stay in Second Life and troll the related blogs and forums with one intention: to spew their bile.
  • Are idiots who mindlessly reproduce all the bullshit that comes from the people that exhibit any (combination) of the four aforementioned attributes.

Of course, I don’t expect the dramacrats, the “OH NOES! THE SKY IS FALLING!” idiots, the prokanoids and the agitators to sit down and honestly review their words and actions. Of course, that’s not to say the current ToS don’t need to be improved. But, as I’ve said before in a far more (undeservedly) polite manner, all this drama is sheer idiocy. Oh, do read Tateru Nino’s take on the matter too. But I digress – she’ll be summarily dismissed as an “LL groupie” or an “FIC member”.

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Mona

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-mc

As I had reported earlier, a meeting was held on 29 September in-world to discuss the changes to Linden Lab’s ToS and, most importantly, Section 2.3. That meeting resulted in the founding of an (ad hoc?) group named United Content Creators of SL, whose aim was to form a “grassroots” movement that would attempt to influence LL to revise the parts of the ToS that affect content creators adversely. Since then, a legal panel was held on Saturday 19 October to clarify matters and provide more accurate information on the real impact of the ToS changes; Inara Pey gave an excellent coverage of the panel. RL obligations meant that I could not attend all of it and I haven’t had a chance to listen to the recording in full, so my thoughts on it will be presented in an upcoming post.

As Daniel Voyager reported, the UCCSL sent a letter to Linden Lab requesting a meeting to discuss the ToS changes. The letter is as follows:

October 22, 2013

Rod Humble, CEO

Peter Gray, Director, Global Communications

Linden Lab Headquarters

945 Battery Street

San Francisco, CA 94111

VIA: Certified Mail, Email & SL Forums

Dear Sirs:

The United Content Creators of Second Life is a group of residents and content creators, in both the commercial and artistic communities, who share concerns regarding the August, 2013 Terms of Service, specifically Section 2.3. To resolve these issues and concerns, we ask that you sit down and meet with the UCCSL Council.

Please contact Kylie Sabra in world to set a time.

Warm regards,

The UCCSL Council

Kylie Sabra, Council Facilitator

I shall refrain from commenting on the style and tone of the letter sent, as this is besides the point and won’t serve anyone. I will, however, go once again on record for saying that the conspiracy theories I saw ever since people caught wind of the ToS changes (the very ones to which they consented by clicking on the “I agree” button without even reading a single line) have only done a great disservice both to the platform and its community, further harming the reputation Second Life and its users “enjoy”. Now, I saw via Indigo Mertel that Peter Gray has responded via email, which has also been posted on Google Drive.

The letter in full is as follows:

Dear Kylie, et al,

Thank you for your email. We appreciate your group’s concerns and have seen others express similar concerns as well.

We greatly value Second Life’s content creators, whose collective contributions help make the virtual world the vibrant experience that it is today. We remain committed to providing Second Life as a platform on which residents can create and profit from their creations. This philosophy is central to Linden Lab, and is something that we are ultimately seeking to extend to all of our products and platforms. Accordingly, the revision to our Terms of Service was made in order to further extend the ability for content creators to commercially exploit their intellectual property through user-to-user transactions across Linden Lab’s other products and services (including our distribution platform, Desura), not just within Second Life.

We believe that it would be more fruitful to avoid further debate of the assertions made to date regarding the intent and effect of our updated Terms of Service, and instead focus on whether there may be an approach to address the concerns that have arisen in the community, while also ensuring that our policy remains applicable to our other products and services, and without reverting to the prior wording.

To that end, we are currently reviewing what changes could be made that would resolve the concerns of Second Life content creators, specifically protecting content creators’ intellectual property ownership while permitting Linden Lab to, among other things, act as an agent of content creators (such as yourselves), licensed to sell and re-sell such content.

We are optimistic that we will be able to arrive at a mutually agreeable and beneficial way forward, and ask for your group’s continued patience as we work to do so.

Best

Peter

As I suspected, the Lab sought to streamline its ToS across its entire range of products and services after the acquisition of Desura. In this effort, as was pointed out by Inara Pey, they used a boilerplated text. This, however, meant that certain aspects of Second Life were not catered for and, in fact, were adversely affected. The rest is history – a history that was, once again, repeated as a farce: conspiracy theories, “LL IS TRYING TA STEAL MAH STUFFZ!!!!1111!!!!” screams, and all sorts of idiotic drama that I’ve seen far too many times before.

Now, let’s see what Mr. Gray’s email says, shall we?

  1. LL recognises that it makes money from enabling SL’s content creators to sell their wares.
  2. LL plans to use Desura as an additional outlet for SL’s content  creators to sell their products. To whom? Well, you can bet that these products would be utterly useless anywhere outside Second Life and its OpenSim clones. So, my guess is that SL content creators will now be able to sell their products to people who will use them in OpenSim.
  3. LL is not going to revert to the previous wording. Period.
  4. LL is willing to discuss limits on the licence users are expected to grant it w.r.t. their content.

I know some people would say “no, LL must revert back to the previous ToS”, but that’s not going to happen. That LL is willing to discuss limitations to the licence SL content creators are expected to grant w.r.t. their uploaded content is a good thing and an opportunity worth using appropriately. So, now’s the time for a proper, level-headed negotiation to take place – and for the tin-foil hat brigade to stop yelling (yeah, right).

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-lU