Project Sansar: The “Oh Crap!” Problem

Hamlet Au writes about the competition that Project Sansar® will be facing. It is an opinion piece. See: Project Sansar Faces Heavy Competition from Major 3D Platforms & Needs “Something Special” to Survive.

Some Bad Habits

Some Bad Habits

A point brought up in the article which I had not thought of is the Linden Lab ToS (Terms of Service). If the same ToS is used for Project Sansar that is in place for Second Life™, some think it could render Project Sansar DOA. 

The supposed deadly point being that competing projects, game development platforms, leave ownership of their users’ creations vested in the users. There is no shared ownership, which is the problem with Linden Lab products, they require we share our ownership with the Lab. That precludes any future use of a creation that requires exclusive ownership rights.

The fuzzy understanding of ownership and activity, who is doing what, is confusing. I believe the Linden lawyers have missed the point’s nuance and so far Linden Lab’s management has not had the motivation to seriously rethink what they have been told by the lawyers. May be a survival issue would likely change that. But, this ToS thing may not reach that level.

If we create or own something and place it in the SL servers/system, does storage there require any change in ownership rights? I think of placing my stuff in a locker at a skating rink or gym. There may be a disclaimer of liability for protecting my stuff, but there is no need for me to share ownership with the owner of the locker. And what about all those files I pushed up to the cloud?

With digital and other works it is a copy of my creation that is being placed in storage. I think that starts to raise issues of copyright infringement, but if I put a book I own/wrote or a copy I made in the locker, I don’t share ownership.

The problem comes up when I ask the owner of the locker (SL system) to make copies, sell, and distribute them. This requires rights be granted to the one selling and otherwise distributing my/your/our creation.

But, does the seller/distributor need to own my creation? No. They need the right to sell and distribute it. In most such distribution agreements there is a clause that allows either party to end the agreement and the author/creator of the item retains ALL rights to their work.

The Lab has some special edge cases that are uncommon to most similar agreements. Consider. We bring something into SL and place it in the market place. A number of those items are sold to other people using the system. We can remove the item from the market place and cancel our account with the Lab. But, the Lab has a responsibility to those other users that purchased our item while we were selling it. They now own the item just as I own a copy of a book. But, in SL the Lab must reproduce that book and download it to my computer each time I want to read it.

The Lab is stuck with a ‘perpetual’ obligation. Therefore, they need reflect that in their ToS. But, the Lab goes farther than requiring just the minimal requirements. They want non-exclusive ownership. But, why? Could it be the Flickr problem?

The viewer renders a virtual world and in that rendering is a house (sort of a book-like thing legally) I made and sold to someone. Now a third, fourth, fifth, or more party is involved and the Lab is distributing some form of my house to them. You see the complications of who owns what and who can use what for what purpose building.

The Lab and Flickr both have to be able to grant some rights to other parties. And because those other parties’ term/time of use is indeterminate, termination of the users’ agreement with the Lab or Flickr is quite complex. Thus the simplification of a perpetual grant of rights to them.

With Sansar it becomes a matter of who hosts and distributes the content. If the Lab does that in the style of Second Life, a very similar ToS is going to be needed. If you distribute your Sansar experience on a DVD, a different ToS similar to many other games could be used. I suspect the prior is the more likely scenario.

So… no, the Lab’s current ToS is not likely to render Project Sansar DOA, depending on what Sansar actually turns out to be.

As others move into creating virtual worlds with user created content and distribution complexities similar to SL’s we will likely see Sansar’s competition providing ToS that are similar to the Lab’s.

2 thoughts on “Project Sansar: The “Oh Crap!” Problem

  1. I left SL for opensim because of the TOS. I create things that I sell on other marketplaces and platforms . And I license my work to publishers who can’t accept that SL claims an unlimited right to license to anyone including my clients competitors! So I can’t grant SL the license they are demanding.

    I’m just one person. I do run into others who feel the same way in opensim. But you are right that we are not enough people for SL to care about.

    Any professional character creator should be wary of the SL TOS though. Take it to a lawyer who specializes in IP licensing.

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