Digital Property Rights in Second Life: Times have Changed by Kylie Sabra

The UCCSL intends to take a practical approach to resolving the issue of the current TOS.  Consider, though, how the stance of Linden Lab has changed since its inception.

Kylie and Ele at display1

“DATELINE:  NEW YORK CITY (November 14, 2003) “Linden Lab, creator of online world Second Life®, announced a significant breakthrough in digital property rights for its customers and for users of online worlds. Changes to Second Life’s Terms of Service now recognize the ownership of in-world content by the subscribers who make it. The revised TOS allows subscribers to retain full intellectual property protection for the digital content they create, including characters, clothing, scripts, textures, objects and designs.

“Speaking to an audience of digital rights specialists and virtual world enthusiasts at the NYLS “State of Play” conference, Founder and CEO Philip Rosedale described the new policy as a major breakthrough for users of online worlds.”

“We believe our new policy recognizes the fact that persistent world users are making significant contributions to building these worlds and should be able to both own the content they create and share in the value that is created. The preservation of users’ property rights is a necessary step toward the emergence of genuinely real online worlds.”

Rosedale’s vision paved the way for the vast, imaginative world that Second Life is today—a world created by the talents and passion of its community. Creators of all ilk worked side by side to bring the world to life, confident in the knowledge that the work they put their heart and soul, not to mention dollars, into remained exclusively theirs.

A decade later, the creators of this hauntingly beautiful landscape that stands as a monument to the imaginative capacity of humankind when awakened in a new frontier, lies ravaged at the hands of the new Linden Lab regime under the eyes of Rod Humble. Humble comes from a long gaming background, having served as Executive Vice President of Electronic Arts’ EA Play label. While at EA Play, he worked on The Sims 2 and The Sims 3. In Humble’s 20-plus years in the gaming industry, he has worked on more than 200 games, which may explain his failure to see Second Life as the immersive, intellectual community of talented individuals that it is.

Gone is Rosedale’s concept that content creators own their work and should even share in the value that is created. Rather, the originating ideology of Philip Rosedale is laid waste with the scythe that is the August, 2013 Second Life Terms of service. This sweepingly destructive tool fells both pride of ownership and pride of creation with sharpened tines of shredding words such as: “and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same.”

On an early Saturday morning, October 19th, 2013, ninety attendees gathered in the Rose Theatre Opera House in the Second Life grid to listen to a legal panel discussion of the current Second Life Terms of Service (SL TOS). Seventy more gathered in an adjoining sim and listened, along with hundreds of others via a simulcast internet stream. The panel was conducted, by necessity, in voice chat, which could have easily been pandemonium with such a large gathering. Regardless of the strong emotional tidal wave that brought many of Second Life’s top creators together under this one opulent roof, not one word was uttered out of order during the entire three-hour event. The majority of content creators in Second Life are highly intelligent and skilled individuals, deserving respect; and they certainly earned mine at this event.

Previously, on September 29, 2013, I moderated what turned out to be the first public meeting of the, later-to-be-named United Content Creators of SL, or the UCCSL. The fury and outrage of the attendees at that first meeting was palpable. Less than one month later, the group numbers 400+ and is growing. Trinity Yazimoto and I serve as Council Facilitators. We have determined to honor the membership with a professional organizational structure and demeanor of which they can be proud. We owe them nothing less, as we are aware that many SL creators earn their RL (real life) incomes in this world.

Because Second Life is a fertile field of fantasy and roleplay, the UCCSL adopted the Medieval concept of the Guild as the inspiration for its structure. Within a few days of formation, we built a Guild Hall at the Rose Theatre to provide a physical home for the UCCSL. Here, members can find links to information on the UCCSL, the latest news, sign up for roles on tactical teams and align with their Guild(s), or just sit and chat.

The UCCSL intends to take a practical approach to resolving the issue of the current TOS. Our first step was to send a letter to Rod Humble and Peter Gray at Linden Lab. On the 21st it was emailed to the only two known email addresses for Linden Lab and then posted to forums, Facebook, Twitter and numerous blogs. It went rather viral in a matter of hours. On October 22nd, I mailed an official version of the letter to Messrs. Humble and Gray via certified mail, return receipt requested. The letter states as follows:

Dear Sirs:

The United Content Creators of Second Life is a group of residents and content creators, in both the commercial and artistic communities, who share concerns regarding the August, 2013 Terms of Service, specifically Section 2.3. To resolve these issues and concerns, we ask that you sit down and meet with the UCCSL Council.

Please contact Kylie Sabra in world to set a time. 

It is our sincerest hope that Linden Lab will sit down with UCCSL Council leaders and discuss equitable changes to the TOS.

In the October 20th Legal Discussion, Agenda Faromet, attorney on the panel, stated that a peaceable resolution is most desirable, and we agree wholeheartedly. If negotiations with Linden Lab prove unsuccessful, however, the UCCSL intends to bring the situation to the attention of appropriate state and federal government authorities. The group will also conduct a stepped-up public relations campaign in both in-world publications and gaming magazines, as well as internet radio and television. We will engage the worldwide audience in the plight of content creators and the demise of intellectual property rights in the digital age. This issue is larger than Second Life and Linden Lab.

The UCCSL gives all creators and interested residents alike an opportunity to unite under one umbrella, while still respecting the unique needs of the different types of content creators. The Guilds give voice to these unique needs, while tactical teams provide the administrative backbone for the organization to function. Tactical Team Leads and Guild Leads sit on council and represent the voice of their constituents.

The UCCSL will outlive its current objective, to effect change to the SL TOS. Imagine if the United Content Creators of SL had existed prior to this debacle? Imagine it was 10,000—no, 20,000 members strong. I find it unlikely we would be in this untenable situation now. Let’s ensure it never happens again.

Respectfully submitted,

Kylie Addison Sabra, Council Facilitator of the United Content Creators of SL &

Curator, The Rose Theatre Galleries

You can join the United Content Creators of SL in world by pasting the following link into local chat and clicking on the resultant link.  secondlife:///app/group/d40ad6cf-a8cf-dae3-b762-9d816e519919/about 

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Peter Gray of Linden Labs has issued a statement to UCCSL. https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-tt7l89N_zBOGtQLTlwNjBmUWs/edit?usp=sharing&pli=1 The key portion that everyone will want to know:

“We are “currently reviewing what changes could be made that would resolve the concerns of Second Life content creators, specifically protecting content creators’ intellectual property ownership while permitting Linden Lab to act as an agent of content creators, licensed top sell and re-sell such content.”

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This article is part of a special online report covering Creators’ Rights.
To understand an overview of the issues, please also see:

Second Audience: Defining Issues” by Eleanor Medier

Ten Ways to Defend Creator’s Rights” by Eleanor Medier

The Second Life Newser does a great job of encapsulating notes from the panel.
The United Content Creators of Second Life leads the creative community to address LL with issues.

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