Copy this copyright policy for your grid

(Image courtesy Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr.)

(Image courtesy Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr.)

In doing this month’s stats report, I updated the Terms of Service and Intellectual Property Rights policies for a few grids. And I got to wondering about all the other grids that don’t have these policies posted. Out of 213 active grids this month, I only have links to 23 Terms of Service pages, and only 14 pages that explain how to get infringing content removed from a grid.

The lack of good content protection is keeping many creators away from OpenSim.

But I understand that creating a policy is hard work, and grid owners have a lot of other stuff they’re dealing with all the time. So here’s I’m offering a basic policy that any grid can use. Feel free to copy and paste, and adapt for your own needs.

If you’re a commercial grid, I also strongly recommend that you register with the US Copyright office to get DMCA safe harbor for a one-time fee of $105. Several big grids have already done so, including InWorldz and Virtual Highway. You can register even if your grid is based outside of the United States — after all, who’s more likely to sue you than your U.S. users? One international grids that’s done that is Kitely, which is based in Israel.

Remember that the DMCA isn’t a special US law that forces websites or grids to take extra steps to protect content. Every country out there has pretty much the same steps. The DMCA registration is insurance to protect you against being sued as long as you follow those steps.

I’m releasing this sample policy under a CC0 license, which is as close to putting it into the public domain as you can get. I am not a lawyer, and this is not intended as legal advice, but is for informational purposes only.

My goal in writing this is to have a common-sense policy that a human being will actually be able to read and use.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS POLICY

Our grid respects the rights of content creators and will immediately take down infringing content.

Users who repeatedly infringe on others' intellectual property rights will be banned. 

Export of non-exportable content via OAR region backups, IAR inventory backups, viewer-based exports or hypergrid teleports is not permitted. 

If you are a content creator, and discover copies of your content on our grid without your permission, please email [email protected] with the following information:
  • Your legal name and real-world contact information, including address, telephone, and email.
  • Enough information for us to locate the infringing content, such as in-world locations and owners' names.
  • Enough information for us to know that you are the original copyright holder, such as a link to your Second Life Marketplace, Kitely Market, or InBiz listings for that content.
  • The following legally-mandated statement:  "I have a good faith belief that the use of the described material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law. I swear that the information in the notification is accurate and, under penalty of perjury, that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed."

You can also create an online form for takedown requests, such as what Kitely has here.

Why the need for legal names? Because copyright ownership is a legal thing, associated with legal persons and corporations. A typical avatar has no legal standing. A grid can choose, if it wants, to take down infringing content without a legal complaint, but it isn’t required to do so. Plus, the “John Smith” who uploaded the allegedly infringing content to your grid might actually turn out to be the creator themselves, under a different name.

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • Mircea Kitsune

    I don’t encourage something that can be qualified as theft or that griefs content creators. But personally, I’m more interested in a grid that’s free and where people care less about copyright, than for a grid where everyone keeps having a funeral about their stuff being copybotted and so on. I’d rather use the space I’d put this policy in to encourage creation of freely licensed content, that everyone can share without feeling like they’re wronging someone. That’s just me of course, and I don’t wish to talk for everyone… I don’t aim to be ignorant toward artists who suffer from this problem either.

    • Again, the two aren’t contradictory. You can encourage creators to distribute content freely — or even mandate it as part of the Terms of Service of your grid. (Why not? It’s your grid. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to come!)

      But you do have to make it as easy as possible for folks to take down infringing content if it does show up on your grid.

      Otherwise, if they can’t figure out how to get it taken down, they’ll have to go to your hosting provider and your domain registrar and take down the whole grid, or — if they’re a major content creator and have a lawyer on staff trying to justify her salary — you might get sued. In fact, even a small creator can sue you (if you’re not registered as a safe harbor under the DMCA) if they are really really mad about their stuff being ripped off and decide to start suing everyone.

      Having an IPR policy in place protects you, the grid owner, even more than in protects copyright holders.

      • Mircea Kitsune

        Theoretically that is true. Even if at least for the main grid, I never heard of Linden having to take down assets from the server due to copyright… although I imagine they received thousands of complaints over the years. I also can’t imagine any large corporation (unrelated to SL) being that desperate to go on Opensim and look for IP infringements there… like CocaCola to see if anyone placed their logo on a sim. Of course, “better safe than sorry” is a good rule to follow here… so again I can’t contradict this either.

  • hack13

    You do know there is another international law that protects people like me as service providers called the Internet Privacy Act, which states I cannot look at my user’s data and I am not responsible for my users data, unless it is brought to my attention by another party such as legal action.

    • I’m not sure how that would apply here… On a small grid, where the owners are doing almost everything manually, they see everyone’s payment information, for example, and their email addresses. Plus, you have to look at user data to do support requests, etc…

      I think the best thing you can do is promise not to violate your users’ privacy rights without asking their permission first, up front, on a case-by-case basis.

      • hack13

        Customer data, such as billing and email, etc stuff is legal but the moment you start sifting through there data if they are in a country that is part of the united nations, and I catch you going through my inventory without telling me you can in your Terms of Service at signup I can sue you, for violating my rights.

        • Even if I ask you to, in a support request?

          • hack13

            If you ask me to in a support request, I must make clear your granting me permission. Thus when I have to login to a clients account, I first tell them the following:

            “You are requesting me to login with your account, during this time I may need to interact with your inventory, and other account features such as friends list, appearance, etc. You grant me this right, by you resetting your password and giving me the reset password.”

            Instead of me resetting their password, I have them reset it as kinda like them signing a waiver.

          • Thanks, I just added that to the policy.

            I think one reason that people are afraid to put up these kinds of documents is they think that unless they’re perfect, iron-clad legalese-type documents, they’ll get sued right and left, and that no policy at all is better.

            But by not having anything in place, you’re not avoiding the issue. Just like if you don’t go to the doctor, it doesn’t mean that you’re not sick. Or if that if you die without a will, that you get to take your stuff with you. Instead, there are laws in place that govern what happens. Like, without a will, you stuff automatically is given to whoever the law sees as your default inheritors.

            Or if you hire someone to develop content without a contract then, by law, you’re only buying one-time rights.

            And by not having a Terms of Service in place, you are taking full responsibility for every single thing that happens on your grid — content, behaviors, everything. Including stuff you have no practical control over.

            A policy created by an attorney who’s knowledgeable about virtual worlds is best. (Don’t use the Second Life guys!) But even a simple, crowd-sourced policy like this one posted here is better than nothing in that it will reduce your exposure and liability. But, again, like you pointed out, I am not a lawyer.

            Finally, no agreement will protect you 100 from lawsuits. If your bad behavior is egregious, people will still sue you. And if people are really really mad, they’ll sue you, regardless of whether they have a case or not. And some folks out there just enjoy suing people. The best you can do is lower the risks of lawsuits, and having a clear and understandable terms of service is, I think, a good start.

  • hack13

    I suggest for some good follow up, Just posted a story on Understanding Copyright Law over on Grid-Press, I think you might be surprised as what you can do with content created in world that is copyright, and not CC.