Nalates Urriah has a plausible interpretation of Linden Lab's new Terms of Service, which claims rights over "all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats", and has subsequently caused much agita. The new wording, he argues, is to enable the selling of SL content on Desura, the digital distribution service Linden Lab just bought:
Desura is a software sales point and Linden Lab property. If Linden Lab were to expand The Marketplace to sell Second Life content to Desura game makers, in an effort to expand our markets then they need to go beyond the Second Life service. Such sales would not be an integral part of the Second Life services they provide.
Hence the ToS change. That sounds right, and that interpretation is in line with what Linden Lab said in its clarification statement (which to judge by the ongoing controversy, has clearly not clarified), noting:
"Linden Lab often acts as an intermediary between Second Life residents (for instance, in its capacity as the operator of the Second Life Marketplace) which necessitates that Linden Lab have certain rights (such as the right to re-sell) in order to effectuate such exchanges or transactions... We have no intention of abandoning our deep-rooted dedication to facilitating residents’ ability to create and commercialize such content in Second Life. In fact, we strive to provide Second Life’s residents with evermore opportunities to do so."
And Desura sounds like a new opportunity to me. However, even if this is the reason for the ToS change -- I also still think protection against lawsuits is another factor -- the company could do a much better job explaining their reasons for the ToS change. A few years ago, Linden Lab's CFO would patiently answer user question after user question about a new policy online. By contrast, an anonymously written statement sent to some third party blogs will probably not cut it here.
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