Freebies need licenses

First of all, I’d like to thank all the creative folks who are creating original products and distributing them in freebie stores on OSGrid, JokaydiaGrid, GermanGrid, FrancoGrid, and many other locations.

OpenSim has come a long way since I started writing about it two years ago and it’s now possible to find both free and commercial content for many different kinds of uses.

Thank you!

As an individual, I love checking out the new clothes, shoes, plants, and buildings that are now available.

However, as an enterprise user, I worry about license terms.

The standard built-in protections in OpenSim — copy, no copy, transfer, no transfer, modify, no modify — are carry-overs from Second Life. And they still work well on closed grids like InWorldz and 3rd Rock Grid.

But since my company has its own grid, it can do things with its content that residents of closed grids cannot. For example, I have our hosting provider make regular backups of the entire grid, just in case something goes wrong — and I can keep local copies of that backup, just in case something goes wrong with that hosting provider.

This is just one of the situations — among many! — that come up for enterprise users that aren’t covered by standard digital rights management system.

But there is a solution that works well, and that is licensing.

Licenses supercede digital rights management. They can be as complete and detailed as the creator desires. And they can make it extremely clear what the buyers is allowed and is not allowed to do.

OSGrid's Festa 24H region is full of freebies.

How to add a license to your content

If you want to include a license with your freebies or commercial products, please make it clear in at least two places — clearly posted in your store or on your website, and embedded into the product itself.

In the store or website, the license should be clearly posted for all visitors to see, so they don’t have to download the items first to see the license.

In the product, the license can be mentioned in the description line, in an attached notecard, or embedded into the items’s texture. Or some combination of these.

For example, if you don’t want your products to leave OSGrid, and you make it clear right up front, then schools and companies with private grids that were planning to bring in content via hypergrid teleports can simply walk out of your store and go someplace else.

After all, enterprises are attractive targets for infringement lawsuits, since they have money and reputations to maintain — and physical addresses to send subpoenas to. Companies and schools know this, and are willing to pay extra not to have to worry about this possibility.

Types of licenses

If you are offering freebies, you might want to consider one of the various Creative Commons licenses.

With a Creative Commons license, you keep the original copyright, and you get to specify the conditions under which your customers can use your products. For example, you might insist on attribution, or that your product is not offered for resale.  You can generate a Creative Commons license using this tool.

More information about Creative Commons licenses here.

Since you remain the original copyright holder, you can still sell your own products or distribute them elsewhere under different license terms. For example, you might offer individual pairs of jeans for free in a freebie store, but sell a single package of all your jeans on your website — or in that same freebie store, for customers who are too lazy to get them individually.

For example, the Torley Textures are distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Here are some sample Creative Commons licenses:

  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs – CC BY-NC-ND: People can use and distribute your work but they can’t change it, charge for it, and they must credit you as the original creator.
  • Attribution-ShareAlike – CC BY-SA: People can change and sell your work, as long as they credit you, and don’t change the license.
  • Attribution – CC BY: People can change and sell your work, as long as they credit you. And they can change the license terms. This means that if they create a new product based on your original materials, they can sell it with a license that prohibits their new buyers from distributing it or modifying it.

If you are feeling particularly generous, you can also donate your items to the public domain, with a CC0 license. With this license, you give up all your rights to the product and do not set any limits on how the content is used. People can get your content and use it to create new things for sale, modify it in any way they like, and distribute derivative products under their own names.

The Creative Commons licenses are easy and convenient, but you can also write your own license — or add extra conditions to a Creative Commons license.

Here are some situations you might want to consider:

  • Single grid vs. multi grid: Do you mind if buyers take your products to other grids? Or would you prefer that you products stay on just the one grid where you have your freebie store, so you can keep an eye on how your products are used? Make your wishes clear by adding “OSGrid” or “GermanGrid” or “any grid” to your license.
  • Backups vs. no backups: Do you mind if your buyers make backups of the content via XML, IAR, or OAR exports? If so, let them know, since this will probably be a deal-breaker for enterprise customers.
  • Site license: Many enterprises would like to get products that they can use throughout the company, to distribute it to all their employees or their students. But they don’t need to distribute it outside the company. You can offer them a license that allows them to use the content on any of their grids, by any of their people. This license ensures that your content stays with that one school or company.
  • Non-profit license: You can also allow your products to be distributed to other non-profits, while retaining the rights to sell them to for-profit businesses. For example, you might allow educators to share your content with one another. But if a for-profit company wants to use it for their employees — or sell it in their stores — they will need to come to you and pay for a commercial license.

Licenses as marketing opportunities

If you are a content creator, don’t forget that licenses aren’t just an opportunity for you to limit how your customers use their content — they’re also an opportunity for you to make additional sales.

Say, for example, you distribute your content for single individual use, no modifications, no distribution allowed.

Your license terms can spell this out — and direct the reader to your website, where they can pay extra for a license to modify and distribute the products, or for an upgrade from an individual to a site license.

In this way, your popular line of freebies can become a viral marketing campaign!

You can also use this opportunity to let people know whether you are available for custom development work.

Why you need a website

I recommend that every content creator have a website. Even a free one-page Blogger or site. Grids come and go. In-world stores move around. But your Website — or better yet, your domain name — can last a long, long time.

You can use your website simply to let customers know how to contact you if they have questions about your products, or to request license upgrades. You can also use it to let people know where to find your stores, and in what marketplaces you distribute your products.

You can also sell products directly from your website in XML, IAR or OAR format. OARs — complete region archives — are becoming particularly popular as Kitely and other hosting providers are starting to make it easy to upload OAR files.

Having a website is a great way to create a merchant identity separate from any particular grid or marketplace, and a way to create a revenue stream separate from any particular virtual worlds vendor, as well. Corporate and education customers, in particular, may be willing to pay extra to download an OAR file from a website, and have a clear enterprise use license for the content, instead of assembling a region piece-by-piece from items available for sale or for free on various grids.
Maria Korolov