ToS in-world meeting, September 29th: a personal perspective

An in-world meeting was held on Sunday September 29th to discuss the controversial wording of Section 2.3 of the revised Terms of Service issued by Linden Lab in August 2013.

The overall goal of the meeting was, to quote the introductory note card: “to understand the situation, to agree on our interpretation, and to contemplate a next step, if necessary.”

As things were limited to a single region, attendance was capped at 40 attendees, most of whom arrived well ahead of of time. The planned format for the event was to have it moderator-led, with people directed to contact the moderator via IM and wait to be called to the floor to speak. Given the number of attendees, this was a sound approach which would hopefully avoid the meeting becoming a free-for-all.

The East, West, North Ampi-Theatre, venue for the ToS discussion meeting, Sunday September 29th
The East, West, North Ampi-Theatre, venue for the ToS discussion meeting, Sunday September 29th

This is a summary of what I feel to be the key points from the meeting. It is not intended to be a verbatim transcript (I leave it to others to post these), nor should it be taken as representing the views of the meeting organisers. It is a personal perspective, followed by a personal opinion.

After a brief opening statement from the meeting host, Ernie Farstrider, ToySoldier Thor gave some information about an on-line survey to which content creators are being pointed. At the time of the meeting, the survey had gained some 65 responses at the time of the meeting, with 26 claiming the changes are sufficient for them to cease uploading new content to the platform.

The survey is still open, and those wishing to take it can find it at Survey Monkey.

Tali Rosca pointed out that the re-worded ToS can be incompatible with the licences supplied by third-party content creators (e.g. CG Textures and Renderosity), thus causing them to ban further use of their products in Second life.  As such, she suggested that contacting other suppliers of materials used within SL, obtaining their feedback and using it to help the Lab understand that the ToS changes do present an issue.

Crap Mariner pointed to the issue facing artists and performers in Second Life: that the ToS potentially impacts the ability of artists and performers to strike exclusive deals outside of Second Life (e.g. a publishing deal) for material they may have first presented / performed within Second Life.

Mathilde Vhargon raised the impact of the changes for those who operate galleries and exhibition spaces within Second Life, and who invite artists from outside of the platform to display or perform their work. The re-worded ToS requires such artists and performers to assign rights to Linden Lab they may well have no desire to assign, thus leaving them unwilling to display or perform their work.

Mathilde also indicated she feels it important for Linden Lab to understand that for those who  are handicapped or otherwise unable to work, the platform represents their livelihood. As such, apparently arbitrary decisions by the Lab can have extreme personal and social consequences.

As a result of the meeting, a new in-world group, the United Content Creators of SL, has been set-up for those who wish to be a part of a “grassroots movement” to try to influence the Lab’s thinking.

Personal Feedback

The meeting was well-ordered, and some salient points were made. However, I feel that an initial step was missed in the endeavour, and that was to outline a set of core concerns with Section 2.3 which could be agreed upon and form a basis on which to make a reasonable and constructive approach to Linden Lab in seeking to open dialogue on the matter (i.e. “agree on our interpretation”, to quote the goal of the meeting). A summary of such concerns might be that Section 2.3:

  • Exceeds any reasonable requirements Linden Lab may have in order to continue to provide and promote any of their services
  • Potentially allows Linden Lab to make use of people’s IP without reasonable attribution
  • Places users in the position of having to assign rights for items to LL when they are not in a position to do so (e.g. in the case of third-party content)
  • Requires artists invited into SL to present their work / give a performance to assign rights to Linden Lab they may not wish to grant / are not in a position to grant, unless such rights are suitably caveated
  • Impacts the ability of artists and performers with Second Life to strike exclusive deals outside of the platform for material they may have first presented / performed in-world as part of the creative process*
  • Further damages user / company trust.

I was concerned at some of the suggestions put forward for bringing matters to the attention of Linden Lab. These included e-mailing Rod Humble through both SL and non-SL accounts, repeatedly Tweeting him, and for people to file support tickets  on the matter with Linden Lab.

The problem here is such approaches tend to be counter-productive. Rather than generating the desired response, they make it that much harder for a balanced case for change to be presented, and run the real risk of the Lab simply refusing to listen to any and all concerns on the matter. In the case of the suggestion to file support tickets, for example, not only would it unnecessarily interfere with support staff dealing with genuine support issues (e.g. be counter-productive), it would also likely result in orders being passed down to close all such tickets as “incorrectly filed” (e.g. concerns pass unheard).

Obviously, this is an emotive subject and as such, it will generate emotional responses. However, if real change is to be wrought with Section 2.3, there needs to be a clear, rational and objective approach to both the issue and to Linden Lab in order for matters to be rectified in a manner which addresses core concerns / needs on both sides.  Whether this can be achieved, remains to be seen. In the meantime, those wishing to keep abreast of further outcomes from the meeting can do so through the United Content Creators of SL group.

Related Links

* Reworded to prevent unecessary and detracting debate on matters outside of the core concerns.
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10 thoughts on “ToS in-world meeting, September 29th: a personal perspective

  1. That is a good and precise list of concerns, though I would suggest striking the point about “the ability to strike exclusive deals”. That ability is forfeited the moment your content hits the Internet in any way. Exclusive is exclusive; not “exclusive except already shown in some corner of the Internet”, so bringing it up here muddies the waters and creates an opening for a dismissive “you’ve misunderstood licensing rules” counter. Better just use the ironclad arguments. (It’s a common warning for e.g. photographers who promote their work on sites like Flickr).

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    1. @Tali – You’re wrong. There are many workshops in SL where writers share their drafts with others, and they get critiques and feedback from others. This is similar to the RL workshopping experience, and is an expected part of the creation process. Publishers *expect* a writer to run things by proofreaders and trusted friends and peers. I’ve run things by friends before sending them off to the publishers, helped friends by marking up review copies before they did the final press, and my wife’s done proofread and review for author friends.

      Linden Lab’s grab at the rights for the work-in-progress up to a final ready-for-submission work puts this collaborative process at risk.

      -ls/cm

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      1. Good point.
        The original sentence specifically talks about material people “may have first presented / performed in-world” which to me has a definite ring of publicly releasing the material to a non-controlled group. But I can see how it can also be considered “presented” to a select group of collaborators. So I’ll revise my comment and instead suggest that this aspect is made clear; that LL lays claim to unfinished material during the creative process and hence “hijacks” a license before the creator has a chance to decide how to release it.

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      2. Along the same lines, the ToS also undermines confidentiality, making SL unsuitable for business use. This may be worth a mention, too, though LL has (wisely, in my opinion) dropped their focus on inworld business meetings.

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  2. Can only add to this that the Lab will not change its position regarding this subject!
    This is not granted as 100pct sure, but my sources are pretty sure about it!

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    1. It doesn’t take sources to realise that when it comes to changing something like the ToS, it’s an uphill battle. I personally, and realistically, would say the chances are slim. Hence why I suggest that approaching the Lab with a list of valid and contructive concerns about the changes, rather than a list of demands (which they will immediately baulk at), is the preferable way forward. This at least is less confrontational and may open the door to reasonable dialogue on the subject.

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  3. All that can be made to gain back the already slim trust on the company should be done asap, each day the wave gets bigger and it can turn into a Tsunami!
    And at least some ensuring that SL creaton is not the ghetto of internet one, must be enforced, if not by the Lab, by Us , Sl users!
    I can feel that LL Tos is badly done, i can’t accept other communities to trash Sl content creators as many are doing (just enough to read some of the posts on renderosity!), can’t accept the ego off many of those same Sl content creators when i know of much more amazing ones that do all for free (see mods for Silkrin as example!) but I do know that at Least the Lavb should guaranty that SL user content is real,unique and as much worth then any other!
    Linden Lab must do some, can’t keep ignoring, whatever their intentions!

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