Update, December 1st: Following my line to the Lab, the ToS was re-issued with Section 10.1 corrected to reference Section 11.5 instead of the incorrect Section 10.2, which had been removed with the original December 1st update. This article has been amended to reflect the update.
On Tuesday, December 1st, 2015, Linden Lab issued an updated Terms of Service (ToS) covering their Second Life and Blocksworld products – and for the first time, at least in recent updates, outline the specific changes which have occurred within the ToS, defining them as:
- Removal of references to Desura (sold to Bad Juju Games in November 2014) and the Linden Dollar Authorised Reseller programme (discontinued as of August 2015)
- Explicitly addressing the Lab’s intolerance of harassment of Linden Lab employees
- Clarifying of the arbitration provision in accordance with applicable Californian law.
In addition, and in light of the formation of Tilia Inc., the Lab’s virtual currency subsidiary, the Terms of Service have been expressly expanded to define “the terms on which Linden Research, Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiaries (“Linden Lab”) offer you access to its interactive entertainment products and services.”
The alterations to reflect the fact the at the Linden Dollar Authorised Reseller programme is no more can seen in the massively foreshortened Section 4.7 of the revised Terms of Service, which once again make it clear that the only point of reference for the exchange of Linden Dollars for physical world currency may not occur anywhere outside of the LindeX, nor may Linden dollars be purchased other than via the LindeX.
The update to reflect the Lab’s intolerance of staff harassment can be found in a revision to Section 6.1. iv, to whit:
(iv) Post, display, or transmit Content (including any communication(s) with employees of Linden Lab) that is harmful, threatening or harassing, defamatory, libelous, false, inaccurate, misleading, or invades another person’s privacy; [my emphasis]
There has been speculation this relates to certain personal attacks directed towards Ebbe Altberg through the likes of Twitter. However, it would seem more likely (I would hope) that this section is intended to address similar attacks which have been made through the Lab’s own forums, etc., over which they have full jurisdiction.
Section 10 contains the changes to the arbitration process, with section 10.1 being greatly streamlined in content and focused directly on the requirements of the Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”).
While I am not a lawyer – and so the following statement is purely speculative on my part – it would appear that included in these changes is an attempt to prevent class action suits from being bought against Linden Lab as a part of the arbitration process:
Should either you or Linden Lab elect to resolve the Dispute by way of binding arbitration, the arbitration shall proceed in accordance with the then-current Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”), except that in no event shall the arbitration proceed as a class or representative action. [my emphasis]
One error with these latter updates is that they still reference section 10.2, which has in fact been removed from the ToS as a part of the updates; something that has been raised with the Lab. Section 10.1 now correctly references Section 11.5.
A further change, not mentioned at the head of the ToS can be found in Section 4.1, where the final paragraph has been revised to read:
You may not sell, transfer or assign your Account or its contractual rights, licenses and obligations, to any third-party (including, for the avoidance of doubt, permitting another individual to access your Account) without the prior written consent of Linden Lab.
This raises an interesting question around the subject of shared accounts – often used by groups where an account might be used by more than one person for administrative purposes, etc. While the sharing of account passwords has always been frowned upon, the revision to section 4.1 tends to suggest that these accounts could now be deemed as a violation of the ToS unless the Lab’s written consent is granted. I’ve written to the Lab on this point and am awaiting a reply.
Those hoping this update might see a further improvement to the wording in Section 2.3 relating to IP rights will be disappointed. The section is untouched and remains as much a mess of a word salad now as it did following the “clarification” of July 2014.