March 31, 2010

Major Second Life changes - ARRRGGGGGHHHH!

Just when I thought Linden Lab couldn't get any more arrogant, non-strategic or silly, it just introduced a slew of changes to the Second Life service today. I haven't had time to review everything in detail but content creators, power users and landlords should be afraid -- very afraid. It starts with a blog post titled (with the usual Lab spin and disingenuousness), Unveiling an improved new resident experience.

Items covered include new TOS, new viewer, new region ratings, new viewer policy, new welcome stuff and new starter avatars. I'll hit points on stuff I really care about:

Terms of Service & Privacy Policy changes

We'll start with the new TOS and Privacy Policy blog post which is linked above. If you simply view it as "Linden Lab can do anything, you have no rights, you're screwed" you won't be too far off the mark. In these days of corporate non-responsibility, Linden Lab is simply taking it to the nth degree. Understandable maybe but not good. (Complete TOS here. Complete Privacy Policy here.) Some of the highlights:
  •  New machinima & snapshot policy allows anyone to take photos or machinima of anything, anytime and reuse it anywhere without regard to copyright (with confusing exceptions where Land policy prohibits it). This would apparently include flat shots of textures which could then be reused. While it seems to make it easier to take piccys and things, it  muddies the waters over texture rights. Creators beware.
  • Third-party viewer policy has formally been incorporated into the TOS. As I read it, and many others too, it would seem that viewers that don't self-certify compliance with LL's viewer policy will not be allowed to log onto the grid. Notable viewers not certified as of now include Emerald, Hippo and Cool Viewer. Logging in with them could result in your being banned.
  • No inventory backups unless ALL prims AND textures in object are verified to be yours as the original creator. Effectively, this means that if you are the creator of an outfit but it uses a full-perm sculpt somewhere that was created by someone else (and which you have the license for), you can't back it up. This would also apply to builds that use huge prims (where obviously, you won't be the creator since no new huge prims can be created. Again, if you back something using Emerald (even though it verifies the root object), it may be a banning offense since the child prims aren't checked.
  • Everything is a license. This includes $ Lindens (currency), land, software, server access, software provided, machinima & photos, user content and Linden content. While people are still trying to work out what's really at stake, I think it's a bottom-line CYA.
  • Copyrights be damned, Linden Lab can now do whatever it wants, whenever it wants with your original content including using it to promote Second Life externally (TOS 7.2). 
  • With respect to user content, it sounds to me like Linden Lab is formally distancing itself from having to police DMCA or copybot violations since they are formally disclaiming responsibiliity for ensuring copies don't exsit. Yes, you technically still "own" the copyright on items you create in world, but Linden Lab now formally says they ain't responsible for any part of it. This is probably a result of Stroker Serpentine's lawsuit.
  • Land is a license. Teh Lab now says you really don't "OWN" land any more. You just rent it from Linden Lab. Yeah anyone with a half a brain knows this is the reality. However, in the past, the Lab has used terms like "own virtual land" in its promotions. This could get ugly because some huge landowners could make the case this is a unilateral contract change. I have a lousy 512 so I don't care.
  • $Lindens are a license. Mmmm hmmm. It means that when you transfer $L from one avatar to another or to the Lab, you're really transfering the license to use those $L. It kind of boggles the mind a bit but probably clarifies things from a tax standpoint -- that $L don't really have intrinsic value until they're converted to $US.
Viewer 2 formally released

I have real hard time with this one. Viewer 2 is buggy, poor for advanced users and doesn't, in my opinion, make things any easier for new users. But, it's now the official viewer and 1.23 is the optional but still available one. Technically V2 is still beta but the next version isn't due out until "sometime this summer" so I'm really not sure what they're doing here.

New region ratings

Ahh more semantics. PG = General, Mature = Moderate, Adult = Adult. Login with 1.23 or earlier and you see the old ratings. Login with Viewer 2 and you get the new ones. I get the PG to General change but Mature to Moderate? What next, Liberal and Conservative?

Third-party viewer policy

This has now been formally incorporated into the TOS and, as usual with the stuff from the Lab, it's confusing and conflicting. The big issue for most people is that unless Emerald (or your other favorite viewer) self-certifies compliance, after 4/30/2010, you will technically be in violation of the TOS if you log in using it. And the big one that effectively kills inventory backup or content backup schemes:
You must not use or provide any functionality that Linden Lab’s viewers do not have for exporting content from Second Life unless the functionality verifies that the content to be exported was created by the Second Life user who is using the Third-Party Viewer. Specifically, before allowing the user to export the content, the Third-Party Viewer must verify that the Second Life creator name for each and every content component to be exported, including each and every primitive or other content type, is the same as the Second Life name of the Third-Party Viewer user. This must be done for all content in Second Life, including content that may be set to “full permissions.” 
I'm sure there are some content creators shouting hooray over this but I won't be. It kills being able to back up something that's used a full-perm texture unless you also created the texture!! Want to backup that castle of yours? Unless you also made the stone & wood textures, forget it. Even those items where the original creator name is gone can't be backed up. I'm sure this will push many creators onto alternate grids even sooner than they planned.

Well that's about all the energy I have for this crap. Does Second Life seem increasingly like Constrained Life to you? It does to me. :(


  1. I see in the past, when it comes to these issues, there's no shaking the Lindens when they change stuff, just like Facebook. Some of my friends are still joining, "Bring back the old Facebook" layout groups, and it's not going to do any good.

    The best thing builders can do at this point is to make sure they release more textures for everyone so they will not have the "creators" problem. I can visit too many SIMS and get thousands of free full-perm textures, that's been full-perm for a long freaking time esp landscapes, bricks, etc. Lindens have timestamps for everything, so its not like that would be hard for them to do. I say about 100,000+ full-perms textures should be released at this point. It's probably way more than that, but you get the idea.

    Because now builders will do the "mad dash" to export full-perms, and then import them just so they can have the "creator" status on them. They should give us a break and reduce the need for builders to do that, just to save time.

    smdh on that one.

    Well, as far as the snapshot & machinima issue. I kinda saw that coming. Because when I first started making clothes for my avatar, I did what alot of SLer's did. Path cut outfits from OldNavy's website. LOL Or snapshot outfits in SL clothing stores and duplicate. But that's only because I came in the SL's door as a intermediate web designer and Gimpster, so I'm not too surprised on that one.

  2. You know I have paid thousands for full perm items so that I could use them in my creations. The creators of those items made them usable. If they took content to make their creations before selling the item full perm the path could lead back to the damn caveman. How in the hell are they gonna take care of the litagation of all the millions this is gonna effect?

  3. OH and another thing.....Lindens invented the full perm rule. So I go out and buy the full perm item to use in my creation and now they say that my creation will be banned because I didn't create the full perm item used in my creation GAWWWWWWWWWWWWD I am livid. Plus broke from buying full perm stuff to create what I thought to be legal creations.

  4. There are three terms for what Linden Lab is doing:

    1) Corporate strategy

    2) Covering your butt

    3) Shooting yourself in the foot

  5. I'm starting to look at other grids. A friend (Lalo Telling) has a sim on OSGrid that looks pretty nice. But all my inventory groooan! At least I made a lot of my own things including a few skins.

    @Wayfinder - LL really seems to be bouncing all over the place right now.

    @zephyr01 - LL makes the rules then breaks them. Nothing surprises me any more. :(

  6. You know, I just read through the new policy regarding machinima and snapshots. While the general definition of "public area" is essentially "wherever your avatar has access", the policy does explicitly reference the SL Wiki's Machinima and Snapshot policy, which is far more restrictive and requires people to check sim covenants for permission - though at the same time, asserts that mainland has an open covenant. Even still, it also references Fair Use doctrine, meaning people would still only be able to take machinima and snapshots in that context. The section 7.8 that firmly asserts creator IP rights I think clears up any texture issues.

    As for the claim "No inventory backups unless ALL prims AND textures in object are verified to be yours as the original creator." Backup was never allowed by Linden Lab - they're firming up what they've had as a policy. That doesn't diminish the need for back-up, it means instead that content creators need to be super-diligent about what they use and how things are built.

    In any event, I don't think the new ToS deserves an "ARRRGGGGGHHHH".

  7. That last comment was me - I was just logged into one of my other Google accounts.

  8. What does this mean re: youtube videos that show how to accomplish skills in second live. will they now be illegal?

  9. How will they enforce this? Hire someone to check every snapshots and videos of Second Life that are uploaded or were uploaded in various websites? O_o


All thoughts are welcome.