Speculating on ToS & Second Life

Quantum Reflections (moderate)

I was thinking about the Great ToS Debate currently underway as I snapped these images of Quantum Reflections↑ by Resonant Osmosis.

The changes concerning “ownership” of everything inworld are scary.  As somebody said in an email chain, it used to be that residents  granted the Lab a license to do whatever they wanted with the content we provided in order to keep the world running. The new wording says that they have an automatic license to do whatever they want with it even if it has nothing to do with Second Life (and yes, I’m paraphrasing a paraphrased explanation).

This has led to much speculation and anger and, in some cases, fear.

Quantum Reflections (moderate)

I don’t know who is speculating correctly. Bryn’s post on the subject made sense to me, but I’m going to throw in a different possible scenario – and I recognize it has limited value because I don’t KNOW anything. Still, my thoughts went in a slightly different direction and I have this blog, so I’m going to summarize my own conclusions.

I’m going to start with a few things we can, I think, reasonably assume.

  • The Lab’s lawyers know more about the company’s plans than we do. They’ve written the ToS to facilitate not only those plans, but also any possible futures that can’t be articulated today. In other words, they’re using a bazooka full of words to shoot down a potential ant.
  • The lawyers know even less about how residents use Second Life than we credit the Lindens (which is to say, they don’t).
Quantum Reflections (moderate)

My theory is that, if the plan was to sell the grid, even though the changes impact authors & musicians & artists & particles & textures, etc., the focus is actually on the builds. The rights to everything inworld has been swallowed up, but I suspect much of what has been included would be collateral damage.

Assuming unlimited rights for any and all purposes of somebody’s written words, art or sound is just plain idiotic. A lawyer would know that they can’t claim ownership of real world copyrights, and I think would recognize that having somebody pay (through tier and membership) to hand over unlimited licenses to their words etc., can’t stand up in court (or at the very least would be a costly battle to fight). The fact that this affects authors and musicians and artists and their ability to sell or license their works in the physical world wouldn’t occur to somebody who doesn’t know what residents do.

I also think that it would be a mistake to assume that they would plan to sell individual objects or creations. I mean, that would require a database of exceptional sophistication – think about what happens when you lose part of your inventory. They can’t find it. Parsing millions of things called “object” to sell one item is beyond their abilities.

Quantum Reflections (moderate)

Changing the ToS in this manner to support the sale of the grid is certainly a possibility. A user created world would have less value without the content – the buyer isn’t going to want to start with a completely empty platform. However, I think there’s another option sitting there.

In one of his many 10th anniversary interviews (and I wish I could find it), Rodvik talked about them working on a newer generation virtual world. Son of Second Life maybe, or Second Life TNG. If that came to pass it would make sense that our current grid would be abandoned.

Getting us all to migrate to the new world might be easier if they ported all the content from this one and moved us automatically. The inventory database would be populated initially with what exists now. They’d have to have the blanket right to do that though, doing it on an individual basis would be far too messy and labour intensive.

I’m leaning toward this scenario – but, then, it’s all just speculation. Whatever the truth is, they need to remove their heads from uncomfortable pockets of their anatomy and fix what is turning into a giant problem they’ve caused.

Quantum Reflections (moderate)
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  1. I don’t consider my actions so far to be inspired by fear, but by a lack of trust in a corporation that strives for new ways to reinforce in that feeling.

    I have plans, too. And I also have limits. I’m not supposed to volunteer my labor or skills to another company, which is why the hidden sponsorship by LL of SL10B pissed me off. (I also don’t provide tech support or documentation cleanup to SL as a “resident.”)

    This flies in the face of Linden Lab’s core business philosophy, which is to guilt and sucker its customers into providing as much of the labor into building and maintaining and supporting SL as possible, meaning as little or no effort is expended by the company in those area.

    We’ll see where the road lies ahead, but when the car runs out of gas, Rod’s not going to be the one who gets out and pushes.


  2. Inara Pey

     /  September 30, 2013

    The potential for moving some assets (notably mesh, maps – UV, diffuse, specular, normal, etc), to whatever is coming down the pipe in terms of LL’s “new” VWs has been on my mind a lot as well. It’s a possibility – however, it still doesn’t explain the really damaging term within the revised ToS Section 2.3, and that’s the granting of equitable rights to the Lab for “any purpose whatsoever” .

    This does tend to fit the “selling-off” of SL more than paving the way towards any “SL 2.0”. But I also don’t actually run with the idea of “selling off” of SL either – not yet, at least.

    By Humble’s own admission, any replacement for SL is liable to be at least five years out; as such, the Lab are unlikely to want to divest themselves of their major revenue-earner until after said replacement is showing it can attract users and carry a reasonable load for revenue generation. While businesses do think in five-year chunks, I’m not entirely convinced it was such thinking which prompted the change.

    I tend to apply Occam’s Razor to the situation: that it is a case of trying to fold the old Desura ToU into LL’s ToS. BUT, even allowing for that, matters could easily be cleared-up with on simple caveat being re-inserted into Section 2.3 to replace the term “for any pupose whatsoever”. The question remains: are LL willing to accept this and see to it?

  3. I might think Second Life: TNG is okay, but no way am I trying Second Life: Voyager or Second Life: DS9. And no, I’m not trying a 16-bit-graphics virtual world called Second Life: Enterprise, either!

  4. “Parsing millions of things called “object” to sell one item is beyond their abilities.”

    This only is true if you choose to ignore that they already do. It’s called Marketplace.

  5. Glad someone pasted your post on the forums. There are SO MANY NOW (insert happy dance here) that I am sure I won’t be able to keep up. While as I said in my email I would really REALLY like to believe in your view of things, the current LL leader has a long record of not doing things for the good of the people. That was put the words in a very “politically correct” manner *wink*. So I am doubting your scenario is the actual one.

    While there may be no real plans to sell off the content of the citizens there IS the real injury that has already occurred for some artists, especially writers. Most (not all) magazines and publishing houses have a contract which stipulates that your work will only be published by them if it is original AND that you can guarantee it has not and will not appear in any form somewhere else. THAT is what some of the hubbub is about — and rightly so. With the advent of the new TOS, any work that has been in SL is no longer under the control of the artist or writer.

    • Oh I think there’s a problem now – no matter what the reasoning behind the ToS changes – and I think they Lab needs to task their lawyers with fixing it. The Lab also needs to do what it really, really hates – communicate. They could think of it as a form of punishment for once again not thinking things through. :)

  6. David Cartier

     /  October 1, 2013

    Good analysis and probably (mostly) correct. We know that there is a team out there, actively developing at least the foundations of an SL 2. Simply introducing the innovations and workarounds of IBM and all of the other commercial, educational and military OpenSim developers would mean a vastly improved product, but they are aiming at something much more than that.
    Even so, Linden Lab needs to put their TOS where their mouths are. They may very well, probably do have a benign intent, but any future owner of Second Life, itself, may not.

    • I talked a while ago about how companies strip out functions they don’t consider part of their “core business”. In most cases, and I think in the Lab’s, the areas that get cut are the ones that interface with their consumers.
      Communication is not one of the Lab’s areas of expertise or even on the radar.
      I don’t know what they’re planning – but they need to start doing more analysis of the impact of decisions on their users and learn to engage.
      They can’t be surprised in this day and age that people will assume nefarious motives. :)

  7. In what other business is it normal operating procedure to have a long-standing business arrangement, and then suddenly unilaterally change it with no option? You can’t do that. That isn’t a contract. There is money at stake, and other intangibles, like the amount of time invested. These are demonstrable losses. A class action lawsuit it seems to me would get someone at Linden Lab’s attention.

  1. Speculating on ToS & Second Life | Second L...

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