Sunday, February 28, 2010

Second Life about to wall up content

Ann Otoole calls out Linden Lab in her latest blog post, spelling out how Second Life is about to become a completely walled-up garden starting on April 30, 2010. She frames the discussion in the context of textures, but her argument also applies to objects, clothing/body part items and scripts(to a much lesser extent).

From April 30th onward, the Lab will be vigorously enforcing Section 2(b) of the third-party viewer policy, which also happens to be a part of the Second Life® Terms of Service.

In the opensource-dev mailing list, Lindens are suggesting content creators who wish to allow inter-grid use of their content should host it outside of the Lab's grids and services. The implication of that is that Second Life is unsuitable as a host or distribution channel for such content. For LSL scripts, that's not much of a problem because if a script's code can be viewed in-world, it's simply a matter of copy/pasting text, the Lab can't really stop that. But for other types of content(especially prim and sculpty-based objects) made for inter-grid use, the policy and the ToS combine to form a content license trap.

For example, let's say I'm creating a prefab house that I wish to be used in both Second Life and other grids. I create and host the content on my own server, by using a third-party viewer to export it to a zipped archive. I create a specific license allowing inter-grid use(or use an open license). Someone who wants to use my content logs into Second Life and imports the content in-world. Now, here's the big question:

When my licensed content is imported into Second Life®, what happens to the license for that specific copy? According to the ToS and TPV policy as it is today, my license(parts of it at least) no longer applies to that copy and can only be used within SL and it's rules. In effect SL becomes a content trap and a walled garden, both for permissively-licensed content(Creative Commons, open source, public domain etc) and proprietary content with inter-grid use allowances. So to preserve the license and the rights to my content, I must have a clause in my license that prohibits import to grids whose policies or ToS conflict with my license, otherwise the importer loses the right to use my content.

That kinda sucks, right? Well, not all hope is lost and in my next post I'll detail the painful choices third-party viewer developers and their users may have to make in the wake of the third-party viewer policies, and how this ties to content creators.


Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure that a ToS statement v. copyright law would be ruled in favor of the ToS -- copyright is the overarching agreement between you and the content creator. As such, Linden Labs cannot legally revoke or modify licenses the content creator made themselves.

Definitely an interesting corner, though.

Pip Volta said...

I think you make a mountain out of a molehill. Yous presumably distribute your material outside SL. any customer is free to continue to distribute outside of SL and any of those chain of customers can still use the material within SL - just if they want to distribute it further they must do so outside SL in the same way that they acquired the material in the first place. There is no compulsion to distribute the material further within SL so your license is not affected.

AntoniusMisfit said...

Pip, you're actually just repeating my point that SL is unsuitable as a host or distribution channel for cross-grid content.

You agree on my other point also that you can import to SL, but exporting out(unless you are the rightful creator) is forbidden. This conflicts with licenses that specifically grant the right of export to users. So it is still a trap, or to be more precise a walled garden.

@June: As far as content created in or imported into SL is concerned, they can slice up the license any way they want, as it's on their servers, and must play on their terms or else they can zap it out of existence in SL. Anywhere else, they can't touch it.