Copy this Terms of Service 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 policy links 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. I am not a lawyer, and this is not intended as legal advice, but is for informational purposes only.

Feel free to copy and paste, and adapt for your own needs.

In particular, if you have a redeemable currency on your grid, you’ll need to have a real lawyer draw up your policy because the laws on this are very strict. The policy below is for grids with no in-world economies or fictional currencies only.

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. My goal in writing this is to have a common-sense policy that a human being will actually be able to read, instead of just blindly agreeing to them.

TERMS OF SERVICE
Our grid's goal is to have a safe, respectful virtual environment for our residents and visitors. By logging in, or teleporting in via hypergrid, you agree to abide by our rules.

We promise:
To protect your privacy as much as legally possible. (In other words, in all cases except a legal subpoena.) We will use your personal contact information only for billing, service announcements, and for other communications that you have previously agreed to. If we need to look at your personal data for any other reason, such as support, we will ask your permission first.
To respect intellectual property by promptly taking down infringing content, and by asking for permission before using users' content in marketing materials or in any other way other than what's required for normal grid operations.

To make sure to give adequate notice before we shut down the grid so that you can make backups of all exportable content and get a refund of any money owed to you by the grid.

To allow you to make backups of your own creations, and of content marked exportable by its creators.

You promise:

To not harass other users, or personally attack them based on race, gender, sexual preference, religion, or other affiliation.

To respect the intellectual property rights of others by uploading only appropriately licensed content, and by exporting only content that you yourself have created or have permission to export.

To respect maturity ratings by rezzing only appropriate content and engaging in appropriate behaviors.

To respect  the privacy of fellow users.

You agree:

That when you upload your content to our grid, or create new content on our platform, that we have your permission to distribute that content to other users per your specifications. This allows you to have other users see your content, and enables you to sell or transfer your content in-world.

That we also have the right to showcase your content in directories and destination guides.

That we can transfer these rights to new owners if we sell the entire grid, so that the new owners can continue to offer the same services without interruption.

That we are only asking for the rights to use your content as part of the virtual world -- you retain all the copyrights to the original content.

That we can shut down your account at any time.

That any in-world currency is fictional, to be used for entertainment purposes only.

That there might be outages, or content losses, or other disruptions, and that we're not liable for any damages that may result.

That the only exportable content is content that you yourself have created or content that is marked with the "export" permission. If the "export" permission is not yet enabled, exportable content is full-perm content.

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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 know some might hate me for this. But if I was to make a grid, it would be based on the idea of openness… not the idea that people copying content around are so big and evil. If anything, I’d encourage content creators to use free licenses instead, so there wouldn’t be a problem with copying stuff to being with. Each with their own of course… but yeah, this is totally not my thing at least.

    • You can still encourage the use of free content, while respecting the rights of content creators. It’s not an either-or situation.

      For example, many grids promote the use of Linda Kellie content, and content from OpenSim Creations. I myself use the CCo license for a lot of the stuff that I upload, and encourage other people to do the same.

      Even some creators who distribute under Creative Commons licenses, however, impose some restrictions on their work. Some want to see attribution, others want their content used only in non-commercial settings.

      It’s up to use as grid owners to make all kinds of content creators feel safe and respected — whatever choices they make about their license terms.

      It only takes a few seconds to put up a page promising to respect the rights of creators, and you’re done.

      Then you can use your entire grid and all the rest of your website and 100 percent of your efforts to promote free content.

      • Mircea Kitsune

        This is true, yeah. I guess I’m mostly focusing on one side only, and surprised that people are still so worked up over content being copied around grids, rather than asking themselves “why is it a problem that someone copybots an object and puts it on another grid”. Of course attribution and commercial issues are an obvious problem there, so it does make sense.

  • hack13

    I highly suggest you watch your wording on this, because under Federal Law, you give no disclaimer here and CC0 doesn’t protect you from giving “legal advice” I suggest to protect yourself from getting someone say “but Maria said to use this, so she is also responsible” that you either A. get a lawyer to back what you have said here, or B. State exactly as your supposed to, that you are not a lawyer, and using the following doesn’t hold your responsible in any way.

    I say this because I have had friends give advice like this under open content licences and was fined, after being brought to court as the person who offered the license. It is very important.

  • hack13

    WHOA! I just noticed something that is not legal in your terms of service. If you accept the trade of REAL currency to In-Game and then Back to REAL currency. In the United States, without a money transmitters license you are breaking the law, no matter what you put in your terms of service. I spent tons of time talking with lawyers on this, because I have so many clients who operate currencies. This is a big heads up, you can’t just say that if your in the United States, you need to purchase a Money Transmitters license in every state you do business out of.

    • This is intended ONLY for grids with a 100 percent fictional currency.

      I say at the top: “In particular, if you have a redeemable currency on your grid, you’ll want to have a real lawyer draw up your policy.”

      I’ll emphasize that more, however.

      And I can’t agree with you more — redeemable currencies are a LEGAL NIGHTMARE. I currently recommend that grids do one of the following:

      1. Have a purely fictional currency, with no promise of refunds or redeemability.
      2. Use a third-party currency like OMC from Virwox, or the one that Zetamex is working on with Podex (how is that coming along, by the way?) and let them handle the legal issues
      3. Have your own currency that’s fictional, but allow third-party exchanges (like Podex) to trade it.
      4. Have a dual-currency system, like Kitely does — fictional currency that’s not redeemable, and real money payments (via PayPal) for merchants who want to actually make money

      • hack13

        It is going well we have a majority of our grid clients using it, because Podex takes full responsibility for the currency. Meaning they do the buying and trading for you under their licenses. Which they are registered in the UK, which means they get to skip the US money transmitter because their license is accepted because of international acceptance of laws because the business is operating outside of the USA.

        • Excellent! Very cool! I should do a story on that….