Terms of Service

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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Allegations of IP theft and copyright infringement are extremely common in Second Life; all you need to do is have a look at social media used predominantly by Second Life users. Personally, I’ve lost count of the often heated discussions regarding who has copied or ripped off whom, what, how, to what extent etc. Oftentimes, the allegations and claims made in such discussions are wide of the mark. Sometimes they’re correct. This, of course, shows that there is a certain degree of confusion regarding fair use and copyright as they are applied to Second Life and similar virtual worlds (most notably OpenSim).

Thus, someone with actual knowledge needs to step up to the plate and inform people. Personally, I can’t really think of anyone more suited for this task than Vaki Zenovka. People who watched the ToS debate closely will remember that, back on October 19, 2013 Vaki (through her alt, Agenda Faromet), an RL attorney, along with other RL lawyers active in SL, held a legal panel to provide proper, precise and concise information on how LL’s new ToS really affect users and content creators. The panel was very successful and answered crucial questions, thus helping to counter a number of widespread misconceptions. This, however, is not the only informational initiative that Vaki has participated in. Last year, together with Tim Faith, another RL attorney (SL username: Yoss Kamachi), she held a panel to inform and educate SL content creators on the topic of copyright and fair use for SL content creators, and they are going to repeat it this year.

As she comments:

We did this last year and it was really successful, so Tim and I are doing it again this year. Are you interested in learning more about what we mean when we talk about “fair use”? Would you like to hear some actual lawyers talk about what it really means, what the current state of the law is, and how it applies to content creation and use in SL?

Of course you would.

So, tomorrow, Saturday, March 1st, 2014 and at 10AM SLT, Vaki/Agenda and Tim Faith will host this legal panel again, offering a great opportunity to those who missed last year’s panel and/or need clarifications on issues like LL’s current Terms of Service, Intellectual Property and Fair Use. The panel will be held at the Justitia Legal Resource Village. Of course, questions are welcome.

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Mona

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See also:

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

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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Yes, yes, I know what you think: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics” was first uttered by Benjamin Disraeli – a common misconception, but really it seems that Mark Twain was actually the person responsible for this phrase. Now, let’s talk about the subject at hand. In my previous post, I said that most of the ToS debate amounts to masturbation.

Every so often, certain people tend to pull out concurrency and virtual land ownership statistics and, without even the slightest trace element of evidence, attempt to correlate them to events concerning Second Life (from the Copybot scare to the introduction of the V2 viewer and from the introduction of mesh to the recent ToS change). Incidentally, someone needs to finally learn a few things about history, because his misuse of the term “Draconian” has contributed a lot to my frequent facepalming: This term comes from the Athenian lawgiver Draco, who made liberal use of the death penalty even for insignificant offences. Ergo, this term simply cannot be used to describe LL’s ToS. Over-reaching is a far more accurate term. But I digress.

It is precisely the ToS that I’m going to talk about – again. Someone (I won’t name names, simply to protect the guilty) took the user concurrency statistics from this year, compared them to last year’s and proclaimed that the new ToS didn’t affect SL user concurrency. Well, duh. The new ToS really affects only a certain category of content creators: artists.

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