Friday, September 18, 2009

Section 3.3: A Virtual Copyright blocker?

As a Second Life and OpenSim user, there's a natural desire for me to be bring over content I create in one virtual world to another(I'm not alone there, either). When I first got my local OpenSim up and running, I immediately proceeded to copy over a few pieces of my own tiny avatar. I had copied over the helmet, chest piece and my own Pet Rock in a pouch. In this instance it was totally legal since what I brought over had virtually no textures that I didn't create. When I thought about exporting some of my builds that had textures that weren't created by me, I hit upon an important legal question: Is bringing your own content(prims and/or textures) from Second Life legally allowed?
My gut was telling me "No", and it turns out I was right. Why? Because according to Section 3.3 of the Second Life Terms of Service, you don't own the account you use to access SL, and nor do you own any data on their servers that represent your content. Plus the license to the textures in question did not specifically address "inter-grid use", so the safest course of action was to assume it's not okay to export them.

What could be done about this? Is there a legal workaround? Yes and no. No, if the virtual world where the content(including textures) you made originates from is Second Life. Yes if the originating virtual world is OpenSim or any other virtual world that allows inter-grid use.

So I did an experiment to create a very simple house in my own OpenSim, export it with Meerkat, package the XML file and the textures used(from the OpenSim library) into a zip file, add a public domain notice, put the zip file up on a web site, import the build into Second Life, add metadata to the object description(such as "[Creator: Antonius Misfit] [Virtual World: OpenSim]"), then package it a box containing the public domain notice with the URL to the zip file sources. It all went pretty smoothly. I had successfully brought over a piece of content into Second Life that is not bound by Section 3.3!

This process easily applies for public domain, copyleft and Creative Commons-licensed content, but it also makes sense for commercial and even proprietary content creators who want to expand their content beyond Second Life and profit from it. You can follow the process I did, but instead of a public domain or Creative Commons license, you can use any license or EULA you want, provided inter-grid use is addressed. And of course source releasing isn't required, as long as you can prove that the content did not originate from Second Life(hence the metadata). So until Linden Lab properly addresses the "inter-grid use" in their Terms of Service, this may be the only feasible solution.