On August 15th, 2013 Second Life users were issued a new Terms of Service Agreement upon logging into this virtual world. If you are here, then you accepted the new TOS Agreement License.
There are major differences between the preceding TOS and the new TOS. One difference in particular has caused uproar amongst Content Creators in Second Life, with good reason.
Below, in excerpt, is section 2.3 of the August 2013 TOS.
This is the section that has caused residents of Second Life, especially Content Creators, the most concern.
2.3 You grant Linden Lab certain licenses to your User Content
" you agree to grant to Linden Lab, the non-exclusive, unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, and cost-free right and license to use, copy, record, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, re-sell, sublicense (through multiple levels), modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same."
What Does that Mean for Second Life Users?
At an October 2013 meeting at the Rose Theatre in Second Life, members of the Second Life Bar Association and the United Content Creators of Second Life explained what this agreement means legally for all residents.
You may see this meeting on Youtube here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxls7dPNB-Y . The meeting is lengthy, approximately two hours long.
For those of you who cannot sit through a long meeting I will explain what the TOS agreement means legally according to Agenda Faromet of the SLBA.
When you create something you have exclusive rights over your creation. When using the various forms of media on the internet you give certain permissions. That is how facebook , Twitpic, Linkedin, Youtube, for example, work. When you have exclusive rights you have the right to make copies, share or transfer, modify, publicly perform or publicly display your creation. Any activity on the internet involves all of these. You give your permission to these services to be able to do this. That is how the internet works. Non-exclusive means more than one person has the rights to do the above with something you created. Perpetual means never ending, it goes on forever. Irrevocable means you cannot take back your permission. Sub- Licensable means permission is passed on to other parties without the permission of the creator, it is not necessary to get permission from the creator. Unlimited means, there are no limits or restrictions.
Agreeing to the newest TOS from Linden Labs gives Linden Labs permission to do anything they wish, whatsoever, with your content. As Agenda said, "The Terms of Service Agreement,( August 2013) is ;" non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, world-wide, unrestricted, unconditional and unlimited".
The words "sell" and "re-sell" are included in section 2.3 of the TOS, however, as explained by Agenda, these terms are usually used in Patent and Trade Secrets agreements not in Copyright agreements. You should note that Linden Labs can sell and resell your content even if those words were not included in the TOS.
There it is, the reason many people are confused, angry and fearful about their work on Second Life. It is not a user friendly agreement as the preceding TOS was. These type of user agreements are everywhere on the net and some are "friendlier" than others. Linden Labs has stated it was their attempt to streamline their business by creating a TOS to cover their products. As for Linden Labs' other products, this TOS may serve them well, however, in the case of Second Life it has presented some great difficulties.
What could improve this TOS Agreement?
The conclusion of the meeting in October produced the following recommendations on improving the TOS Agreement:
To improve the TOS, the agreement must contain; a) A limit for the purpose for which content can be used b) A limit to the scope for content uploaded to LL Services so content will only be used within the scope of the licenses. c) A limit to the Terms of the license, if you delete something or close your account the license ends (for example).
The August TOS 2013 includes all content presently existing and in the future, content before the 2013 TOS is also included in this license. To try to cover content by date, time and existing licenses at the time of use, would not be a viable method for any company to attempt.
Many groups and individuals contacted Linden Labs asking for clarification or requesting revision or at least a meeting to discuss the TOS. The TOS was the subject of blogs, and gamer magazines and internet sites. One such site, Wagner James Au's NEW WORLD NOTES, received an answer from Peter Gray, Linden Lab's spokesman on September 12, 2013.
You can read the entire response online at
Below is an excerpt from the response from Peter Gray, LL, to Wagner James Au's New World Notes blog:
"As evidenced by Second Life’s extensive history, functionality and well-documented policies for providing a platform on which users can create and profit from their creations, Linden Lab respects the proprietary rights of Second Life’s content creators. We regret that our intention in revising our Terms of Service to streamline our business may have been misconstrued by some as an attempt to appropriate Second Life residents’ original content. We have no intention of abandoning our deep-rooted dedication to facilitating residents’ ability to create and commercialize such content in Second Life. In fact, we strive to provide Second Life’s residents with evermore opportunities to do so."
For more than a month this writer has spent countless hours reading every document, blog, article and discussion on the latest TOS Agreement for Second Life. This is the best example of Linden Lab's response to the reaction of residents to the TOS Agreement, it was sent to a number of bloggers and websites. Repeatedly, Linden Labs declares it is" not their intent to appropriate Second Life resident's original content".
If it is not Linden Lab's intent to appropriate Second Life resident's original content why is it not clarified in the TOS? If the TOS does not include or reflect the intent of Linden Labs then a revision would be in order. For anyone who has spent hours pouring over the TOS agreement, it is not a matter of misconstruing the terms in the TOS as Mr. Gray suggests. The TOS is a legal, binding agreement and in its' present form, it clearly gives the rights to Linden Labs to appropriate Second Life resident's original content
As residents of Second Life, we can only deal with what is written in the TOS and from a legal standpoint, the TOS as it presently exists, does not reflect the intent mentioned in the above statement from Mr. Gray and repeatedly from Linden Labs. Linden Labs needs to revise, clarify and limit this TOS in order to reflect clearly what the purpose of this agreement intends.
Recent replies from Linden Labs state that they will review the TOS but it will take time. A new CEO, Ebbe Altberg, joined Linden Labs on February 10, 2014. Mr. Altberg hasn't really had time to delve into the TOS Agreement as of yet although in his introductory remarks, he maintains much the same position as Mr. Gray's response in September 2013.
It has now been over six months since the Terms of Service Agreement was introduced to the residents of Second Life. How much time it will take for a review and revision of the TOS is anyone's guess. Would it be impossible for Linden Labs to revert to the older TOS, preceding the 2013 one, while Linden Labs reviews and revises the present TOS? The preceding TOS wasn't perfect, but it was workable. This would go a long way to calm the residents of Second Life and could be shown as an act of good will from Linden Labs while it corrects the flawed TOS, 2013.
The more time passes it creates more speculation, conspiracy theories and lack of trust . As expressed on many blogs some creators have left SL and some are continuing on trying to find a solution, maintaining their content but not producing any new content and waiting for further response from Linden Labs. One detailed blog on the immediate effects of the TOS so far on Second Life is Hypergridbusiness:
It is a difficult position to be in, on the one hand, we have the troublesome, all encompassing TOS, which clearly needs some form of revision and on the other, we have Linden Labs stating they have no intent whatsoever of appropriating Second Life resident's original content even though their TOS says just that. One side is legally binding and carries a lot of weight; the other is not and doesn't do much to quell resident's concern. Therein lies the dilemma. We wait and hope we hear news from Linden Labs regarding revising the existing TOS soon.