Friday, September 13, 2013

Texture Website Bans Use Within Second Life Following Linden Lab ToS Change, Lab Responds With Statement Expressing Regret

By Bixyl Shuftan

CGTextures, a website for 3D artists, has been the subject of attention recently due to a change in it's Terms of Service: "using our images in Second Life is no longer allowed." They stated this was in reaction to Linden Lab changing its own Terms of Service.

[..]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. You agree that the license includes the right to copy, analyze and use any of your Content as Linden Lab may deem necessary or desirable for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service.[..]

CG Textures stated Linden Lab's old terms of use was reasonable, giving the Lab "rights to use it in Second Life and not much more. With their latest TOS update, they go way beyond what is reasonable." They accused the Lab of greed and were showing a lack of respect for it's users, "as soon as you upload your model or texture, they can do literally anything they want with it." In theory, they could take content made from their textures and resell them, which is against CGTextures own terms of service, "The new Second Life ToS is simply incompatible with our own Terms of Use." They stated they contacted Linden Lab, and got only "nameless, canned replies … Apparently they don't care about this problem, so we don't see how we can come to a solution."

Jo Yardley of The 1920s Berlin project was among those expressing worry, "I hope Linden Lab realizes this is a big problem that damages one of the most important parts of Second Life; creativity." While she felt it was unlikely texture websites would be checking Second Life contents for their work, "for those of us who take this stuff serious, it is rather annoying and scary."

Hamlet Au of New World Notes suggested the Lab's actions weren't greed, but the intent was to protect itself from possible lawsuits, given that content builders in Second Life often accuse others of copying them, saying that the Lab never copied and sold any of it's users creations, "It's simply not in the company's interest to do so," saying such a move would bring disaster for them. He suggested that if a content creator was truly serious about protecting his/her products, they should be trademarked or copyrighted before being uploaded, "all that said, Linden Lab should probably add some language to their ToS which allays the fears of sites like CGTextures and developers like Jo Yardley."

The following day, Linden Lab issued a statement which appeared on New World Notes, Modem World, and presumably other blogs and newsletters:

“Recently we updated our Terms of Service to unify the existing terms of service for our various products into a single version. This updated version included a clarification with respect to the specific rights which a user grants to Linden Lab when submitting user-created content (referred to as the ‘Service Content License’) and, except as set forth in any related Linden Lab policies (referred to as ‘Additional Terms’), the right to ‘re-sell’ such user-created content.

“As previously indicated, the updated Terms of Service encompass a wide variety of Linden Lab products and services. We made every effort to incorporate Second Life’s existing policies in a distinct manner. We realize that the general nature of portions of the new Terms of Service may have led some individuals to believe, mistakenly, that Linden Lab was renouncing existing Second Life policies and practices or attempting to expropriate content created by Second Life residents. To that end, we want to further elucidate and reiterate our practice with respect to the Service Content License (and specifically Linden Lab’s right to re-sell user-created content) in Second Life. 

“As an example, Linden Lab’s Second Life Mainland Policies (cited as “Additional Terms” in the updated Terms of Service) have long included Linden Lab’s right to “re-sell or otherwise alter abandoned parcels of SL’s mainland,” including, if and to the extent necessary, any user-created content incorporated into such parcels. Additionally, Linden Lab often acts as an intermediary between Second Life residents (for instance, in its capacity as the operator of the Second Life Marketplace) which necessitates that Linden Lab have certain rights (such as the right to re-sell) in order to effectuate such exchanges or transactions.

“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.”

The readers responding to Hamlet's reassuring comments were mostly skeptical, with questions about Linden Lab's intentions. For Jo Yardley's blog and Modem World, the responses were more mixed. The SL Universe forums also has a thread on the subject (here).

Jo Yardley added in the comments under her blog post, "They can say what they want, but as long as the TOS does not support their recent statement and still has the same wording, people will still be worried and websites will still not allow us to use their textures. They have to put the old phrase back, or nothing will change." Those words seem to sum up the feelings of many content creators. Others feel the controversy is much ado about nothing, but another change in the Terms of Service to reflect the Lab's clarification wouldn't hurt.

This isn't the only ToS update to spark controversy for Linden Lab this year. In May, another change in Second Life's Terms of Service, one reguarding third party Linden exchange services, caused a crisis in which a number of overseas residents talked about leaving the Grid.

Sources: CG Textures, Jo Yardley, New World Notes, Modem World 

Bixyl Shuftan

1 comment:

  1. Regardless of any plain English clarification, this language means that the moment LL sells the company my art, methods, and anything else in SL is the property of some entity I don't know. If LL goes bankrupt, my art is an asset up for auction. Even more discussion on my G+ under Shava Nerad -- Oddfellow Studios had gone dark, with nothing but a notecard giver on the legal issues. I've contacted EFF and the Berkman Center, both of which I have worked with closely.

    If that's what they meant? They need a more limited license, and put a little work into it. This is a blunt instrument. Then they should be ok with spending a thousand dollars on better language for a limited license.

    If this is exactly what they meant and their qualifications are disingenuous? We need to move to InWorldz or some other opensim grid, and find our new Anatevka. Don't mourn, organize.

    Black out your sim and leave.