Outrage grows over new Second Life terms

Regions on Second Life are going black, creators pulling out, Renderosity and CG Textures forbidding the upload of their content to Second Life, and a new survey of content creators indicates they expect things to get worse, while OpenSim grids stand ready to welcome another crop of fleeing content creators.

It all started in mid-August, Linden Lab changed its terms of service, and forced users to agree to it in order to continue accessing Second Life.

Under the new terms, Linden Lab gets the rights to do anything it wants with uploaded content. Not just within the Second Life platform, to allow residents to use the content. Not just on its website, to promote Second Life. But “… for any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula or medium now known or hereafter developed.”

And that includes the right to “sell, re-sell, sublicense, modify, display…” and “…make derivative works of.”

Second Life spokesman Peter Gray sent a statement to New World Notes and Living in a Modern World saying  that people who read the new terms as a content grab were mistaken.

“Linden Lab respects the proprietary rights of Second Life’s content creators,” he said. “We regret that our intention in revising our Terms of Service to streamline our business may have been misconstrued by some as an attempt to appropriate Second Life residents’ original content.”

However, the actual Terms of Service have not yet been changed to reflect that clarification.

Second Life now off-limits for some content sites

As a result, some content distributors have already changed their license terms to prohibit the use of their content in Second Life.

Renderosity, a popular 3D content marketplace, issued a statement saying that Renderosity products can not be used in Second Life for any reason.

“Second Life’s new TOS conflicts with our Renderosity license,” the company said, because it requires content uploaders to transfer the rights to their content to Linden Lab. Renderosity license terms are not transferable.

“This is a very disturbing TOS for the rights of anyone uploading items to use on Second Life,” the company said.

Similarly, CG Textures, a popular free textures site, also issued a statement in response to the new terms.

“As soon as you upload any content to Second Life you give Linden Lab unlimited and irrevocable rights to do whatever they want with your work,” the company said. “The previous Second Life TOS  was appropriate and reasonable: when you uploaded your work, you gave Linden Lab rights to use it in Second Life and not much more.  With their latest TOS update they go way beyond what is reasonable.”

As of September 6, users were no longer allowed to upload textures or meshes or other content created with CG Textures images to Second Life, but could continue using images previously uploaded.

The company said it contacted Linden Lab about the problem, but did not get a satisfactory explanation. “We received only nameless, canned replies on how we could get a texture removed if we did not agree with it’s use,” CG Textures said. “Apparently they don’t care about this problem, so we don’t see how we can come to a solution.”

“I am sure that Linden Lab does not want to sell our stuff or other people’s textures, so I hope that they can get their legal team to take a new look at the TOS, talk to the owners of these texture websites and together find a solution,” said blogger Jo Yardley in a much-discussed post.

In particular, the new terms give Linden Lab to all user content, including content uploaded previously, pointed out Tali Rosca in a Google Plus post.

“This creates the interesting situation that all existing content which uses third-party material is now in violation,” Rosca wrote.”By agreeing to the ToS, you give Linden Lab a license, also warranting that you have the right to grant such a license. You don’t.”

Textures and 3D models aren’t the only types of content affected.

“Some musicians may choose to not perform, or be ordered not to perform in Second Life due to this policy,” said Kate Miranda, founder of Music Island Concerts, in a post to the Second Life Educators discussion list.

Creators survey shows fears Second Life might close

A survey of 100 Second Life content creators released today shows that more than half — 54 percent — are concerned enough that they have stopped uploading content to Second Life. Of those, 39 percent expect to resume uploading content when Linden Lab corrects the terms of service, 14 percent say they might not return, and 11 percent said they’ve had enough and are shutting down their Second Life operations.

And 79 percent said that there will be negative long-term impact on Second Life as a result of this change. Of those, 32 percent said that Second Life might die as a result because it might “cut new content creation to dangerous levels.”

Creators think TOS change will have negative impact on Second Life. (Second Life Content Creators Survey)
Creators think TOS change will have negative impact on Second Life. (Second Life Content Creators Survey)

There was also a meeting of content creators yesterday, where the survey was discussed. The transcript is posted here.

There is also a lively discussion of the new terms on the Second Life Merchants Commerce Forum, SL Universe forums, on a Google Plus post by Shava Nerad,

Creators that have pulled their content out of Second Life include  Tuna Oddfellow and Shava Nerad, creators of the Odd Ball performance event.

“Oddfellow Studios has gone pitch dark, with nothing but a notecard giver with this essay on it,” Nerad wrote. “I encourage other creators to turn their sims dark too, nothing but black and a notecard giver explaining the new TOS and why we have left nothing behind but a protest.”

OpenSim might benefit, as it has from other Linden Lab missteps in the past.

“We are emigrating into an OpenSim grid, joining Quadrapop and many others in an expat artist community,” she wrote.

Kylie Sabra, curator of the Rose Art Galleries, winner of the 2012 Avi Choice Award for Second Life’s Favorite Art Gallery, is no longer uploading her original art to Second Life — and warning other artists about the issue.

“I will remain as curator, but feel it is my duty to inform fellow creators of the risk they take in uploading their precious work,” she said in a blog post. “If more quality artists choose not to risk loss or misuse of their work and, consequently, refuse to upload new pieces, I’m sure I can’t say what the future holds for art in Second Life.”

OpenSim grids all set their own terms of service, and most if not all are much friendlier towards creators and their content rights.

“In light of the recent backlash against Second Life’s terms of service changes it’s important to point out that Kitely respects content creators’ copyrights and we claim no ownership or control over any content submitted, posted or displayed by merchants on or through Kitely,” said one such grid owner, Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner. “Merchants and third party licensors, as appropriate, retain all patent, trademark and copyright to any content sold via Kitely Market.” The grid’s terms are posted here.

In addition, creators can set up their own grids where — just as on a website — they have full control and ownership over everything they create.

Gamification — or possible sale?

Why Linden Lab changed its terms is up for debate.

One possibility is that it’s part of gamification trend, which accelerated under new CEO Rod Humble, who came to Linden Lab from “The Sims” maker Electronic Arts.

“Over the years after this takeover, many people have felt a difference in the company,” wrote Zetamex CEO Timothy Rogers in a post last night.

Another possibility, he said, is that Linden Lab may be polishing Second Life for sale to a third party.

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is a science fiction writer who covers cybersecurity, AI and extended reality as a tech journalist at her day job.
Check out her author page on Amazon or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Her first virtual world novella, Krim Times, made the Amazon best-seller list in its category. Her second novella, The Lost King of Krim, is out now.