Business in Virtual Worlds, Privacy and Protection, Second Life

Linden Lab Listening: Second Life Content Protection Road Map Released

After the provocation of Rezzable’s announcement that they might release a full sim copying tool for Second Life and the vocal reaction of the community, Linden Lab has released a road map for content protection and permissions and is inviting community feedback.

The reply by the Lab is, to my mind, a stunning articulation of their position on content protection and, while it invites community feedback and has some wiggle room around new options for licenses (the devil will be in the details), I can only loudly applaud their response.

I can now officially retract my previous post where I stated:

“But I’m also a big believer that this should be facilitated within a thoughtful framework of policy, enforcement, communication, code and tools. But Linden Lab continues to place a priority on the tools themselves. The latest permission bug, to my mind, is a bug, sure, but it’s one that arose from a change to the tools without a broader policy context.

The lack of an executive-level response to the Rezzable announcement was again an example of tools trumping policy - and the obfuscation of values in code, as Malaby pointed out.”

Their road map addresses all the things that I feel are critical to facilitating a thoughtful, multi-pronged approach to protecting content, although again, the devil will be in (some of) the details:

Improved Enforcement:
“In response to Resident feedback about the time and effort involved in submitting (DMCA) notifications to us, we’ve been developing an improved process. In the not-too-distant future, intellectual property owners will be able to submit complaints to us electronically through an online form. The form will make it easier for intellectual property owners to submit complaints, and it will help us expedite their processing.”

This is a significant step ahead. While the DMCA process is open to abuse, and the accused doesn’t know who their accuser is, making DMCA filings easier will be a significant improvement.

Better Policies:
The Lab made very clear in this post that tools such as the one proposed by Rezzable are against the TOS:

“As we’ve discussed above, the Second Life “permissions system” does not grant any legal permission to use content outside of Second Life. Even content that is “full permissions” may only be used within Second Life absent a specific license agreement from the intellectual property owner(s) authorizing the content’s use outside of Second Life. Thus, a check that the user is the Second Life “creator” of the content helps protect intellectual property because the “creator” is potentially the intellectual property owner of the content, while a user who is merely the Second Life “owner” of the content is not likely to have permission to use the content outside of Second Life.”

Improved Communication:
Well, this post is a big start. The Lab is “committed to clarifying and updating our policies to promote awareness of intellectual property and protect against infringement. We believe that informative and educational policies often help people do the right thing.”

Improved Licensing
The post also leaves open a discussion on content licensing. With the arrival of Nebraska this fall, there will be content creators who want to sell or transfer content to the ‘private Grids’.

I’ll leave the discussion of what this licensing should look like to a future post, but they’ve hit a few high notes here, in particular the thought that if a content creator provides permission for such transfers, the attribution should remain in the metadata of the content:

“As we develop our stand-alone, behind-the-firewall Second Life solution, we’re aware of the opportunity it presents for talented and entrepreneurial content creators to reach more customers in a broad inter-connected 3D marketplace. To help facilitate this marketplace, we are developing the ability to attach “sticky licenses” to content sold to enterprise customers running a stand-alone version of Second Life. Content with these “sticky licenses” will have additional metadata such that the license information can “stick” to the content as it is distributed to the enterprise customer’s server, and users of the server solution can review the license terms through the Second Life viewer.”

And finally, the Lab is opening up discussion of a Content Seller Program - which makes it clear how critical XLStreet was to the Lab. I’ll leave discussion of that for another time as well.

All in all, the Lab has taken a huge step forward in both articulating how important content protection is, and in explaining how the evolution of the Grid is also opening up new opportunities for content creators.


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