The Drax Files Radio Hour 13: terms and conditions

The Drax Files Radio Hour 13 features Richard Goldberg, artist, creator, member of MadPea Productions (and a personal friend, I’ll say that up front 🙂 ), talking about the Linden Lab Terms of Service. As just about everyone is aware, these were changed in August of 2013, only to cause considerable upset and furore once the specifics of the changes – notably section 2.3 – became apparent.

Ahead of Richard, however, the show features a follow-up chat (3:30 into the show) with Dennis Harper, Senior Product Manager at OnLive, discussing OnLive’s revised pricing structure for their SL Go service (alongside a huge expansion of the number of countries in which the service is available). While pointing out that the service has met with an overwhelming thumbs-up in terms of the added accessibility it brings to Second life for those on the move, he frankly admits that it was clear pricing was an issue.

SL Go: pricing restructure discussed
SL Go: pricing restructure discussed

The company actually moved rapidly in this regard as well. While we were asked not to make any public statements at the time, those of us involved in the preview programme (and, I assume those in the closed beta), were asked to complete a survey and provide feedback and thoughts pricing options and points. There were also some direct exchanges with a number of us on the matter as well.

From Dennis’ feedback, it seems those who did respond to the survey may have been indicating roughly the same amount for a monthly subscription (I suggested $15.00-$20.00 in the survey, with the lower figure being comparable to the company’s CloudLift monthly subscription), with the result that the company opted to go even lower, with the $9.95 charge, while retaining the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) option (which again, I personally felt was important and offered the greatest flexibility of appeal if offered alongside a subscription plan), which has also been dropped to a flat rate of $1.00 per hour.

An important point of note with the subscription mechanism is that it commitment-free. If you sign-up to the subscription service and find that you’re not using the service less than 10 hours a month, you can switch-over to the PAYG model. Similarly, if you start-out on the PAYG model, you can swap to the subscription model if you find it more cost-effective – then swap back, if your usage time then decreases; any unused hours you have under the PAYG plan will be “banked” for you until you switch back.

I’d actually asked OnLive about the status of SL Go for the iOS platform, but Dennis covers that topic in the interview ahead of my getting feedback from OnLive, saying that is it coming, but is still a little way down the road. He also manages to get-in a plug for the OnLive CloudLift service, which also launched at the same time as SL Go.

Richard A. Goldberg
Richard A. Goldberg

Richard’s interview comes at around the 21:30 mark, starting with Drax reading from Section 2.3 of the August 2013 Linden Lab Terms of Service, and specifically Section 2(.3).

Richard and I have been, and without going into specifics, very closely involved in matters relating to the Terms of Service since the changes were made. As such, I’ve come to respect his position and viewpoint – which admittedly, has been pretty closely aligned to my own. As such, this is an interview I’ve been looking forward to hearing since Drax indicated he’d be talking to Richard some three weeks ago.

Richard makes a very strong case as to why the ToS as we have it today goes too far. In essence, this can be defined in a single term: lack of limitations. There might actually reasons why the Lab may wish to extend their existing ToS – such as to offer content creators additional routes to market within the Lab’s stable of properties (such as through Desura), should creators wish to do so, or to make services like SL Go (whose servers must be able to cache data, much as the viewer does, on your behalf).

However, there appears to be no reason why, even allowing for these situations, the Terms of Service need to have a perpetual, unlimited scope or purpose. As Richard states – and the handful of IP and Copyright lawyers I’ve spoken to agree with him – it should be a relatively straightforward matter to sit down look at the ToS wording and revise it in such a way that allows the Lab to meet all reasonable goals and expectations required of their services and platforms and provide a comforting degree of limitation for content creators and artists  with regards to the licences assigned to the Lab (and their sub-licensees) in terms of the scope, purpose and duration of said licences.

Beyond the immediate issue of the ToS situation, Richard paints a very good picture of the broader issues of rights and copyright and the increasingly uphill battle artists and creators face. In this regard, I would recommend anyone wanting to better understand matters listen to this entire interview and consider listening to the views of Agenda Faroment and Tim Faith as recorded in these pages through my transcripts of the October 2013 ToS discussion panel on the ToS, and the SLBA March 2014 Copyright & Fair Use presentation.

Outside of these two items, there’s the inevitable mention of VR headsets, plus pointers to the various links on the web page itself. In reference to one of these – the Petrovsky Flux – I’d also point to my article on the subject and also Ziki Questi’s update, both of which should provide further information on matters.

11 thoughts on “The Drax Files Radio Hour 13: terms and conditions

  1. I do not see any reason why the old TOS had to change for SL Go. They had the sub-license clause in the old TOS.

    Richard’s insight into TOS and copyright issues made for fascinating listening.

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  2. LL has stonewalled the issue from day one, and Ebbe Altberg arrived, said “perhaps we’ll look at it, but I can’t promise anything”, and then has stonewalled the issue since then.
    When you combine that with the general impression that it shouldn’t be hard to write a reasonable ToS, the only logical conclusion is that LL adamantly believe they need the ToS to look like this.
    And when they refuse to explain *why* they, against all analysis and industry standards, need it to look like this, we can only assume crash positions.
    I really don’t understand why LL feel it is to their advantage to feed this uncertainty.

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    1. I agree – to a point.

      “against all analysis and industry standards”

      Actually, what the Lab have done is pretty much in keeping with “industry standards” – that’s part of the problem. It doesn’t make it right, but as Richard states in the interview and Agenda Faromet explained back in October 2013, the Lab are actually following a well-trod path where rights claims are concerned. It’s a part of the problem simply because so many other organisations and businesses present users with the such licensing requirements, that it tends to reinforce the Lab’s position that it doesn’t need to change the ToS. This makes it that much harder to persuade them that they should.

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      1. Granted, many social networks or similar sites are known for their rabid rights grabs.
        But I see Second Life positioned alongside other platforms thriving on artistic user-generated content, such as image, 3D or art sharing sites, and I would *hope* that LL sees Second Life there as well.
        In that category, ensuring the creators’ fair rights and ability to use both the content and the platform professionally without giving away their own or their clients’ rights is certainly an industry standard.
        This may be my naive delusion about what role SL fulfills – and wants to fulfill. I imagine I heard words coming out of Ebbe Altberg’s mouths that he saw SL in a similar light, but the actions speak otherwise.

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        1. “But I see Second Life positioned alongside other platforms thriving on artistic user-generated content, such as image, 3D or art sharing sites”

          Which is precisely my point. Many of these sites have similar ToS conditions as the Lab now encompasses. Desura, for example, prior to LL’s acquisition, laid claim to rights as broadly as the LL ToS now does. There are many other examples which go will beyond social media networks / sites. And this does make it an uphill fight in getting the Lab to look at things more broadly.

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          1. I know that Desura in particular has insane terms. (Frankly, I am surprised the community ever accepted those). But it is still my impression that in this space, the standard is a more fairly balanced approach, even if there is a slide. So I see LL as leading the charge into that territory, more than following the trend, and it saddens me that a company built on such idealistic visions is now laying the ground for a style even Facebook shied away from.

            But no matter where you perceive the needle is on the scale currently, Second Life is my home turf, and that is why I beg and implore LL to do the right thing and not add more weight to the wrong side of the scale.

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  3. Richard’s presence in TDFRH was constructive. He presented a level-headed, down-to-earth approach to the ToS. If the public face of the opposition to the Augst 15, 2013 ToS changes was Richard or someone like him, then, from a PR point of view, the Lab would have no excuse for kicking the can down the road, as no one in it (or associated with it) would be able to say “oh come on, why bother? The only opposition we have is from attention-seeking drama queens. Let’s leave it at that, they’ll soon forget about it.”

    SL Go looks good, but it still has some way to go. Most notably, there is some latency w.r.t. the mouse cursor. Also, it needs to have its camera offsets changed immediately, as they’re even worse than the official viewer’s and make navigating in-world a chore. I’m going to add a shameless plug here and point to my own posts on the matter – and I sincerely hope SL Go’s people will have a look at this particular topic as soon as possible. On 7″ tablets like my Lenovo A3000, using the menus (which were taken from LL’s official viewer) and smaller HUD buttons isn’t the easiest thing in the world. And I also would love to see them adopt Firestorm’s Quick Prefs and Phototools. Hmmm… Maybe RLV would be a nice option for them to add, why not?

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    1. Re: SL Go. Latency is potentially always going to be an issue. There’s obviously a lot going on between your tablet screen and the SL servers – including a lot of intermediary process at OnLive.

      Pinch-zoom is a means of getting around visibility issues – although as I’ve noted myself, it’s not terribly convenient on smaller screens sizes, and 7-inch is perhaps the smallest practical limit for many. However, as OnLive have always stated, the nature of the service means it can’t be delivered to all screen sizes when dealing with the full viewer UI. So what we have is a reasonable and fair compromise. As to adopting any TPV elements, time will tell on that and whether OnLive feel it’s worth the overhead in terms of merging and integration or in providing a choice of viewer options.

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      1. Wait and see, then. But at least they could (and should) improve the camera offsets. And no, I don’t think anyone would complain – no one complains about Lumiya’s offsets, which are a lot better than the official viewer’s.

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