by Jessica Holyoke on 01/04/10 at 3:48 am
Linden Lab has unveiled today its new Terms of Service, the backbone of the interaction between the user and the Lab when it comes to using Second Life. While some of the new ToS is very much welcome, there are hidden aspects that put a damper on things that have happened in the past.
First the good news. By agreeing to the Terms of Service, users are giving a license to other users to take pictures and videos of publicly accessible places. In the past, it could be argued that the snapshots of hair, buildings and tree were all copyright protected in such a way that a picture infringed on all of those items and you needed the permission of each creator to have a properly licensed snapshot or video. So now a resident can freely take a picture of a street or building, sort of.
Of course, that does mean that the Tiny issue of a few months back, where instead of using illustrations for a book, the author used photographs of someone else’s avatar designs as the illustrations would be licensed by the creator simply by uploading the content to a public space. According to the Snapshot and Machima policy, in order to take either, you need to check the land status in order to see if its permitted. If its not, you need special permission from the landowner. Additionally, in order to take machima, you need the permission of the avatars involved unless its a crowd or fleeting scene. This apparently does not affect the Copyright fair use doctrine.
Now some bad news, and the biggest one to be swept under the rug. Starting with section 3.1 of the new ToS, You may not transfer or assign your Account and its contractual rights, licenses and obligations, to any third party without the prior written consent of Linden Lab. Before you could transfer your account as part of your will. And looking at the new, "the Linden dollar is a virtual token" section, Except as expressly permitted by this Agreement or otherwise expressly permitted by Linden Lab, the Linden Dollar License may not be sublicensed, encumbered, conveyed or made subject to any right of survivorship or other disposition by operation of law or otherwise, and you agree that any attempted disposition in violation of these Terms of Service is null and void.
The same sort of language is under the "virtual space is a license" section. It sounds as if Linden Lab is trying to change some of the previous interpretations of the ToS by saying you can’t convey an account and its associated licenses with a will, unless you get prior written from Linden Lab. Considering that copyright extends for 70 years beyond the death of the creator, the ToS seems to require estate planning for the virtual world to go through their legal department.
All of the adjunct policies, with Age Play, Gambling, Banking, and the Community standards named twice, are now expressly part of the ToS. Infringement actions are now able to be sanctioned so that infringers may lose all of their content from the service, not just the infringing ones.
And most importantly, if you are delinquent in paying Linden Lab, none of the above license rights, snapshots and machima, virtual land transfers or accepting Linden dollars is allowed.