CG Textures has read the ToS. Their opinion is they do not want to give CG’s rights to Linden Lab. Therefore, their ToS was changed Sept 6th to explicitly prohibit use of their content in Second Life. This should tell you something.
I strongly encourage you to read all of CG Textures announcement. CG points out that the Linden change makes it illegal to use images from most, if not all, texture banks on SL or any Linden Lab product.
I believe the information provided to Inara is sincere. But, it is also a mitigation piece meant to spin a problem into something acceptable. The only thing the correspondence says is we won’t do that thing everyone thinks we will do. People thinking so are wrong. But, the correspondence sent to Inare is not binding on the Lab.
They say the Lab has not renounced their practices and policies and made Second Life’s terms as ‘distinct’ as possible. My question is: where is that distinction made?
If the Lab changes the ToS are they not changing policy? They are admitting the wording changes while insisting the policy intent remains the same. We have heard this from the Lindens before. If you follow politics, you are well aware of this game. A law is unpopular, but citizens are told not to worry because the government will never enforce the law as the people fear it may be enforced. But, eventually the law is enforced as people feared by bureaucrats acting on the letter of the law. Or lawyers take advantage of how it is written and using the letter of the law cause us problems. The Disabilities act meant to help people with disabilities has turned into a lucrative business for attorneys enabling them to extort businesses.
You’ll have to decide if this ToS is acceptable to you. But, legally you are giving Linden Lab irrevocable, all inclusive, non-exclusive rights to your creations. You and they now own them and the Lab may do whatever they want with them without any compensation to you. PERIOD.
Hamlet has pointed out what I consider to be an accurate description of what the Lab is attempting in an article titled: Top Texture Site Forbids Its Content in Second Life After Linden Lab Makes Draconian Terms of Service Change. The article has links to more good information on protecting your creations.
Update: Hamlet has added: Linden Lab Expresses Regret for Confusion Over New Draconian Terms of Service, Affirms Respect for SL Content Creators (But Were You Really Surprised?) Hamlet appears to be in the group of ‘Don’t Worry! They didn’t mean what they wrote into the ToS.’ He says to just copyright your work to protect it. But, the Lab will still be an owner of your products no matter whether you copyright or patent your stuff. Copyright just clears up who the ordinal owner is and who has the right to grant rights to Linden Lab.
I also consider the Lab’s finesse of the ToS change for their purpose to be as subtle as a pile driver. They did not make clear to users how they are protected or the Lab is limited. The Lawyers simply removed all protections and limits on the Lab. Now there is no question when things go to court. Just try telling the judge the Lab didn’t mean what they wrote into the ToS.
Again I point to politicians and time. While I believe Hamlet is right and he has nailed the Lab’s intention and motivation of today, there is NOTHING that assures the Lab’s behavior and execution of policies will remain as we know them today. Yes, there is enlightened self-interest. A business does what works for their customers. But, that can change. A company can be bought, broken up, and its assets sold off. That is happening nearly every day. So, I see little reassurance in anything the Lab has said or done since the ToS change.
What to do?
You can complain. I doubt it is going to do much. The problem is LL Legal is disconnected from LL marketing and operations. There is no pressure point for the legal department. They are used to being sued and they get paid well for being sued. The one thing that can actually hurt them, a lawsuit, provides job security and the money will come out of the company’s pocket not theirs. So, the Lab’s top management is the only part of the Linden Lab structure the is susceptible to user pressure. The question is how to apply pressure?
The Lab is numb to complaints.
You can abandon Second Life. Of course the assumption on the Lab’s part is you won’t. Historically that has been true. Some people do leave. But, that has generally been a small number and the loss of income considerable less than even one lawsuit’s cost.
It is reasonable to assume not many will leave over a ToS change that most users do not read. After all the Lab is not going to take your stuff and complete with you. At least not today or in the foreseeable future. So, even with the legal right to complete with you, for now they won’t and may never. You’ll have to make a call.
If you want this ToS changed, you’ll have to think of what hurts the Lab and inflict that pain. That means starting a movement to abandon SL and remove products from the Market Place. One either does that now, or forever holds their peace with the ToS.
If only a few people do that, it will be considered by the Lab as an acceptable loss and part of doing business. If a significant percentage of SL merchants decide to participate in a movement, management will likely take notice. But, there is no guarantee. Nor do we know how long it will take them to realize what the problem is.
There is also the issue with new people coming in. How many will actually be stopped by the ToS? Professionals that intend to model for all virtual worlds will read the ToS and likely stay away from Linden Lab.
Hobbyists won’t read the ToS. So, it doesn’t matter.
With 80% of new signups moving on now, I doubt the Lindens will be able to see a change in the user stats that they can relate to the ToS change.
The only alternative I can think of is to suck it up and deal with it or move to a new grid that is more user friendly. I don’t make that much stuff. So, I’m not concerned. I simply acknowledge I now have a co-owner in everything I upload into Second Life and someday may, while unlikely, find them as competitors.
The TOS change is overkill. Legally the lawyers did their job and have removed the possibility of harm to SL from ownership lawsuits. But, in doing so have alienated some users and made it illegal to bring textures into SL from sources on the Internet.
Now you either use textures already in SL or make your own. With the new Materials System this really sucks.
While Linden Lab may not intend to use such provisions of the ToS now it cannot be ruled out if LL hit hard times or sell SL in the future. The one thing we have to hit LL with is the response by CG Textures, which shows that a serious company takes the ToS seriously. Whenever LL want to trumpet their next new features we should flood the forums with comments about it is a shame that these restrictive terms prevent us from using it how we would wish.
We have lived through this kind of thing before, but each time we have lost valuable content creators. I miss the Greenies (by Rezzable) and Relic (so much great content, some of which I still use), to name only what comes immediately to mind.
The problem is that it is a repetitive pattern that discourages serious creators from participating in SL.
The whole idea of a universal TOS should have stayed within the LL legal department, as a template it is a valuable tool, something for them to adjust to each of LL’s products. That LL may not use user-created content for commercial or promotional purposes without authorization should be written into the TOS.
Perhaps one way to do it would be to contact various library/repository sites and ask them for a statement on the compatibility of their license with the SL ToS.
If we can point to those and document how the ToS wording is cutting off creators from valuable resources, LL may listen. They end up with the choice of either drying up their own well before it even reaches SL, or facing DMCA demands to crack down on a lot of their creators for infringing licenses.
That may have an affect on the Lab. I know I will be asking the texture sites I use, of which CG was the main one.
In a way LL increases the value of its platform in case they decide to sell it someday. With the old ToS SL was a mere platform, now it is a platform with lots of contents. And the creators even pay the upload fee for giving this license to LL…
Listen, LL owns the servers. As such, anything contained within the hardware (data), software (client, virtual objects and virtual real-estate) or other storage medium is also under their ownership.
As sad as this sounds, your work, effort, profit and other gains as a result of buying, selling or creating will ultimately benefit them regardless of any sense of ownership you may think you posses.
This is more in tune with Star Trek’s Borg: Resistance Is Futile (unless you quit using Second Life. That is really the only choice you have any sole control over.)
Online banking must be interesting in your world 🙂
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