On Monday December 9th, 2019 Linden Lab blogged about filing DMCA complaints with Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) Refresh!
The blog post comes with a warning the what it contains should not be construed as legal advice, and reminds SL content creators have the right to file a complaint against those violating their intellectual property. Specifically, it points to their Intellectual Property On-line Web Form, as well as reminding content creators of the Lab’s Intellectual Property Infringement Notification Policy, which provides core and important information about filing DMCA complaints with the Lab, and provides a link to the on-line form.
To be honest, I am a little surprised by the Lab is only now blogging about the on-line DMCA form – which has actually been available since June, 2019 – indeed I blogged about it on June 25th, see: Lab release on-line DMCA complaint form for SL, and I don’t remember seeing a prior post from the Lab on the subject. However, that they are blogging now should be taken as a worthwhile reminder of both their DMCA policy and the new form.
As always, it is recommended that the official blog post is read in full, particularly the notes at the end of the post in reference of filing complaints.
Such discount offers aren’t new to Second Life – they’ve been rolled out regularly for the last few years. However, the December discount is different in that it is offering 10% off the US $99.00 cost of Annual membership – the first time that the Annual plan has been included in a Premium membership discount offer (Monthly or Quarterly have been the subjects of past offers).
I noted in my December 4th Web User Group meeting summary, the Lab would “soon” be offering that same 10% discount for existing Premium members wishing to take advantage of the offer, and extend their membership by a further year for US $89.
Well, “soon” turned out to be sooner than I’d anticipated, as hours after that summary was published, the Lab announced the Premium pre-pay is now available for existing members. In short:
Premium members can pre-pay for another year’s membership beyond the end of their current subscription period, using the Annual plan at the 10% discount, providing they do so before January 2nd, 2020, when the current Premium promotion ends.
Existing Premium members on either the Monthly or Quarterly plans will have to “upgrade” to Annual.
For those in EU countries subject to VAT who are on either the Monthly or Quarterly plans, note that the Annual is additionally offered VAT-free (VAT was re-introduced on Monthly and Quarterly plans in July 2019).
How well this offer suits you will depend on your existing plan / circumstance. Given the overall pricing differential between Annual and Monthly or Quarterly, it’s hard to see how this offer cannot have appeal for those who are in a position to take advantage of it. For those already on Annual, however, it comes down to how the offer period falls compared for your usual renewal period (sadly, for me, the timing is not that favourable, but ho hum). For those who do find it favourable and are in a position to take advantage of it, I can only say, “go for it!”
On Thursday, December 5th, Linden Lab unveiled the promised 4th theme of Premium Linden Homes that will soon be made available on the Bellisseria continent, alongside the existing Traditional, Houseboat and Trailers & Campers themes.
The preview has been made available as a part of the American Cancer Society / Relay For Life of Second Life 2019 Christmas Expo, (and I’ll have an article on that event available shortly), with the preview also offering the chance for one Second Life user to win a special Premium Subscription / Linden Home auction package featuring one of these new homes.
The new theme is called “Victorian”, and as with previous releases of Linden Homes offers Premium members a choice of four individual house styles within each parcel, all selectable as required from the “mail box” fronting each parcel. As with the Traditional homes, this new theme features wooden-clad houses, with the styles as follows:
The Shelley: a two-floor Queen Anne style house, complete with circular turret and a covered porch on three sides of the house with rooms laid out in a 3 down, 2 up configuration.
The Doyle: the one single-storey home, offering four rooms.
The Hardy: a two-floor house that might be considered a folk-style house, offering a large front-to-back through room that could easily be split into two individual rooms, and two smaller rooms on the ground floor and three rooms upstairs.
The Verne: a two-storey house with an octagonal turret (were it complete on all sides) which is suggestive of Gothic Revival (but could also fall into Queen Anne), comprising two ground floor rooms (one of which could easily be split into two) and two rooms at the top of a circular staircase.
Those of a literary bent might also note the houses are named for period writers: Sir Percy Shelley, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Hardy, and Jules Verne.
I left the design and structure, floor plan choices to be faithful period reproductions based on the research done, and that even extends to the layout of the regions for the era.
– Patch Linden, describing the new theme to me.
There is currently no official release date for these new homes beyond Very Soon™ – a clue to their approaching availability might be when the regions see in the SSP continent are cloned at Bellisseria.
Note that these Victorian theme house are available within the current Premium subscription packages they arenot anything to do with the Premium Plus subscription offering that will be coming in 2020.
Those who would like to both support the American Cancer Society and the RFL of SL 2019 Christmas Expo and win one of the new Victorian theme Linden Homes in a custom designed parcel can enter the One Of A Kind Linden Homes auction via the 2019 SL Christmas Expo website. The auction is open to Premium and Basic users, and the complete prize package comprises:
A 6-month Premium subscription package (the 6 months will be added to any existing membership for those who are already Premium).
The announcement of the fee change unsurprisingly caused some upset, with a couple of forum threads popping-up on the subject (see: MP fees raising to 10% per sale. Thoughts? and Second Life® is still a world of opportunities). Various points are raised in both threads, some fair, some perhaps not-so-fair. While I’m the first to note that I’m not in any way, shape or size a “merchant” or “commercial creator” in SL I thought I’d try to step back and try to take a broader look at fees and tier, etc., in general.
The first point to note is that in making the claim that the increase to the MP transaction fees still leaves them “significantly lower than most digital content commissions across the industry” while citing Apple and Google as examples, the Lab did so with a certain amount of spin.
The 30% charged by Apple, for example, incorporates payment clearing, fraud, indemnity, insurance, and dunning; local tax law enforcement & reporting; service provisioning and distribution, etc. Due to the nature of Second Life these fees are incurred separately to the MP – but they are still incurred by many merchants using the MP, and when taken into consideration, they amount to somewhat more than 10%, a point Cat Hunter makes in this comment.
Also in their blog post, the Lab note that that fee change is to help offset costs incurred at the Lab due to investing in new Marketplace features and improvements. This is fair enough; however, given that the first of these changes is apparently within weeks of being deployed (improved MP search filtering), it might have been an idea to perhaps to wait until these changes had been introduced before announcing the fee increase – and then to champion them alongside the improvements that have been made over the last 12-18 months, such as the much-requested Store Manager capability and the notifications and redelivery capabilities and wishlists and favourites¹.
However, there is a more intrinsic reason for fee increases – be they with transaction fees or anything else (such as the recent increases in Premium subscriptions), and it is one the Lab perhaps doesn’t communicate clearly: and that’s trying to reduce virtual land tier.
This is something that users have (rightly or wrongly – there are actually arguments on both sides of the coin) been demanding for at least the last decade. And since the start 2018, Linden Lab’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg, has repeatedly stated the company would like to reduce land tier – but would only be able to do so if the resultant loss of revenue the company would suffer as a result could be compensated for through other means².
In fact, the Lab have taken steps to reduce tier: in 2016 there was the private region buy-down offer³ (the interim boost to LL’s revenue as a result of the fees payable likely long since having passed), and in July 2018 reduced private region tier from US $295 to US $249 for Full regions (that now stand at US $229), and Homesteads from US $125 to US $1094.
While it is hard to accurately quantify, given the various factors involved (e.g number of grandfathered, skill and educational regions, the more recent slight increases in region count, etc.), it is – with the help of Tyche Shepherd’s Grid Survey and the Internet Wayback machine – possible to reasonably (conservatively?) estimate the impact of the July 2018 tier reductions at around a LS $300,000 a month fall in the Lab’s land revenue. This may not sound a lot – but it is something LL would likely want to recoup – and it can only be done through increases in other fees, as Altberg noted in his comments on the matter.
This should not be taken to mean the transaction fee is wholly associated with compensating for the tier reduction, but it’s not unreasonable to assume it might nevertheless help, either now or in the future. More to the point, and regardless of where the revenue from the MP fee increase is used, it wouldn’t hurt for the Lab to remind people of the strategy to pivot revenue away from land tier and to other options when making similar fee adjustments elsewhere (or indeed, the introduction of new fees, even it they may also help offset the cost of implementing new options and capabilities).
There are two final points that come to mind when looking at the MP transaction fee change. The first is that of all the fee changes thus far introduced, it is the one that merchants can most directly compensate for, as some in the forum threads have noted. Merchants can raise their MP prices, for example, whilst keeping their in-world prices lower (which is allowed5); or those with in-world stores might focus more on sales through that channel, with associated group advertising.
The second point comes back to the timing of the announcement. It would seem that the increase has been made so that the Lab can benefit from the likely increase in MP sales during the run-up, and indeed over, the holiday season. There’s nothing wrong with this per se; but given the increase has likely been on the cards for a while, it would have perhaps have been preferable had LL given more of a lead time on its implementation so allow merchants more time to prepare for it, and so help them in compensating in what might come across as a reduction in their own ability to generate revenue through the same holiday period.
As those who follow the development of the “new” Linden Homes are already aware, a further theme is due to be previewed at the RFL SL Christmas Expo, and it appears that when released, this will take the form of a large-scale increase to Bellisseria’s southern extent.
This year Linden Lab, the Society’s partner in the fight against cancer, is joining the 9th Annual SL Christmas Expo. Not only will Linden Lab be decorating Linden homes as part of the Lights of Hope contest but the Expo will be the venue of the BIG REVEAL! The long-anticipated ALL NEW Version 4 LINDEN HOMES will be UNVEILED at the Lights Of Hope! Expo visitors will be treated with the newest premier member homes as well as some very VERY Special Linden surprises and incentives!
The additional regions can be seen in the Bellisseria development / test SSP continent. If I’m honest, in their current form, that look like an artificial, rectangle-like bolt-on to the more organic form of the original continent – but this may well change as the new expansion grows over time. It this, it has something of the “bolt-on” feel of the original Houseboat expansion.
What’s interesting about the new extension, however, are the individual parcels. These are somewhat different to those seen with the Traditional Homes and Houseboats. Also, whereas the Traditional Homes sit alongside what are clearly roads, the profiles of the houses in the extension regions not only have a different outline, that also appear to be built around a different style of road / footpath.
Nor is that all. The south extent of the existing regions of Bellisseria show the continent’s railway line passing through a cutting in the mountains and onward into the new regions.
The extension of the railway lines tends to demonstrate that – as promised – they will be a prominent feature of the continent and the new Linden Home theme. On the flip side, the new regions do not appear to include Houseboats – which might disappoint some – but they do appear to offer beach houses and island homes.
In his SL16B Meet the Lindens session, Patch Linden indicated that there are likely to be commercial opportunities arising in Bellisseria – at the time suggesting one of these opportunities might come with the Trailers and Campers. Such opportunities have yet to appear, and whether or not they will as a part of the eventual deployment of the new Bellisseria extension (whenever that happens) remains to be seen.
Another point of interest with the SSP development regions is the demarcation of a series of SSPXT regions (located to the east of the main continent and shown in teal or green). It’s not clear what these are to be, but one guess is perhaps the green regions will be shaped into outlying islands, and the teal regions might form some kind of archipelago. Then again, they might be something else entirely – time will tell as to whether they stay and are developed (and become clearer) or not.
In the meantime, and beyond the promise of previewing them at the 2019 SL Christmas Expo, it’s not clear when the new Linden Homes theme will become available – but doubtless, many are watching the SSP development regions with interest. However, those wishing to obtain one of the new homes – whether Premium or not – might want to enter the Christmas Expo’s One Of A Kind (OOAK) auction – on offer is a 6-month Premium subscription and one of these new Linden Homes provided on a specially designed parcel, and with extras. See EPIC OOAK Linden Home Auction @ 2019 SL Christmas Expo for more on this.
With typical timing, I’m taking time off from the blog to enjoy an evening at the theatre (seeing Jonathan Pie, aka comedian Tom Walker, in case you’re interested!), when Linden Lab blogs about Name Changes, the updates to events I’ve mentioned in my Web User Group updates, and on Marketplace updates!
Linden Lab is working to make Name Changes “available by the end of January”.
As per my previous reporting on the subject, Name Changes will be an Premium (and Premium Plus – see below) benefit.
Changes will incur a fee (yet to be disclosed) which will be levied as a single transaction for “one or both of your First and Last Name.”
Last Names will be be list-selectable, and users can help LL curate the list.
Between December 16th, 2019 and January 15th, 2020, the Lab will hold a Last Name competition for SL users (Basic and Premium) to suggest suitable last names to add to the first list of names to be made available. Five will be selected, and those submitting them will be able to change their names completely free of charge. Details to follow in a later Lab blog post.
Note that in addition the to official blog post above, Linden Lab have also indicated that:
Those signing-up to Second Life will not be required to pick a last name, but will continue to have “resident” appended to their name until such time as the opt to go Premium or after they have completed the sign-up process, if they opt to go directly to Premium when setting up their account.
The fee applied to Name Changes will likely be in US dollars, and will be at a lower rate for Premium Plus (once available) than for Premium.
For further information on these latter points, please refer to:
Events are being overhauled to present more functionality, such as the ability to set an alert on an event you want to attend, to follow your favourite events hosts, share event calendars, and more.
This work will include a new look for events (see the concept art below, courtesy of Linden Lab).
The updates will be accompanied by the introduction of event listing fees, at the rate of L$50 er event for Basic members, and L$10 per event for Premium members, who will – as a follow-up update to these initially changes – be able to schedule recurring events.
The Marketplace sales commission will increase to 10% of the item price.
This marks the first fee increase on the Marketplace in a decade.
It is seen as a means of off-setting the cost of on-going improvements and enhancements to the MP.
Marketplace Product Listing Enhancement fees will be reduced by 10%.
The blog post also points out further Marketplace enhancement that are close to being ready to be deployed, or are in development, including:
The ability to filter limited quantity and demo items (close to being ready for deployment).
Improved navigating shopping and order history for shoppers.
A means to prevent limited-quantity item redelivery for the Merchants.
Longer-term, the Lab is working on Mobile-friendly layouts for the Marketplace and planning both a complete facelift for the Marketplace and on a vendor system “that better connects in-world sales and tracking with Marketplace transactions”.
I’ll continue to report on all of the above as news surfaces on them via in-world meetings and / or official blog and forum posts.