Monday, September 16, 2013

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When It Comes to Policy (Both In SL and RL), Poor Communication Leads to More Conspiracy Theory


I usually devote a Monday post to highlighting a great reader comment from the previous week, but after the controversy over Linden Lab's new Terms of Service policy (read here and also here), someone named "Jay" came by and posted a dubious comment that requires some attention, but probably not for reasons Jay intended. Why did Linden Lab change its Terms of Service policy to assert ownership of anything uploaded to Second Life? Simple, claims Jay:

The reason behind this broad rights grab is Linden Lab's plan of monetizing the content created by SL users once they shut down SL, either by using it in new Linden Lab products or by selling it to other virtual world providers and games developers. The Lab doesn't plan on spending money on marketing and it doesn't care about CGTextures new policy. They are in the process of getting every last dollar out of Second Life, which includes monetizing the vast amount of valuable user created content. It's as simple as that. I love Second Life, but for the Lab it's nothing more than a business, and burying one's head in the sand isn't going to change anything.

I asked Jay for any evidence to these assertions, but received no reply. However, to be fair to Jay, variations of this conspiracy theory are pretty widespread throughout the SL user community, all of them circling around the basic theme that Linden Lab is a nefarious organization with dark, dangerous plans against its own users. (In fact, the belief is so common, former Linden CEO Mark Kingdon once addressed it directly.)

Why so many conspiracy theories -- is this just part of the whackadoodle phenomenon? Maybe, but not entirely:

An online service with an anonymous user base is going to be prone to wild claims, so a certain level of conspiracy theory is bound to be inevitable. At the same time, anonymity is how the system was architected by a corporation that's making quite a lot of profit from that anonymous userbase, so the onus is on the company to be more communicative, and more proactive, open, and transparent about its communication. The draconian new Terms of Service agreement was introduced quietly, with little or no word from the company about why these change were necessary. (As I said, the wording is almost certainly to protect itself from lawsuits filed by its own users, and won't really threaten user rights in any real way.) It doesn't help that few people at Linden Lab are presented as the face of the company. (An occasional announcement or appearance by the CEO will not quiet cut it here.) I just looked through the company blog, and none of the posts are attributed to an actual person. Wild assertions thrive when people are able to make them anonymously; they grow even worse when the organization they're directed at also seems anonymous. And silent.

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Cube Republic

Can you imagine TOS or no TOS if Linden Lab all of a sudden sold everyone's content. We're talking millions bits of content. I think there would be hell to pay.

Metacam Oh

Conspiracy theorists are just a natural part of the world. There are already people calling today's horrific DC Navy Yard shooting a false flag, so it really doesn't get more despicable than that.

While Jason's theory is wild, it is layered over a version of the truth which has been apparent for a long time now. The Lab is a corporation, it has no morals, it has no loyalties and has only operated in its best interests for some time now. Nothing they have done is for the user or the everyday person, so it's no wonder they would push the TOS and ownership rights as far as they can.

Timo Gufler

The facts are, that Second Life business is declining currently, LL new ToS opens them unpredictable new possibilities and its management wants to be quiet as usual. By changing their ToS, they took a risk of losing many talented content creators. In the current setting, when their competitors are getting stronger and stronger, such move looks foolish, in my opinion.


it's only rampant here and on SLuniverse, where crustys and sandboxers go to retire and gossip like people in a retirement home.

Arcadia Codesmith

The first rule of Law Club is nobody talks about Law Club. We're in a period where corporations clamp down on ALL employee communications via any medium out of an overblown fear of legal liability.

I doubt they are hiding so much!

Ajax Manatiso

Linden Lab has been sued several times by residents (remember Stroker Serpentine? ) for violating the copyright on their in-world creations, so now LL wants to make itself bulletproof -- by claiming you don't own anything you make, they do. They have been buried neck deep in DMCA complaints by residents who have been copybotted by other residents and demand action. This is an area of great liability for LL so, since they now own everything anyway, forget your silly copybotting complaint. It never was yours to begin with.

Emperor Norton

So opining LL is a business is the thinking of a conspiracy nut. How very gilibertarian of you Hamlet.

The fact is the Lidens are supposed to be the professionals in this and that means being able to anticipate customer's reactions like this. There is no reason why anyone should accept "Shut up, that is why" as an answer from someone they are paying money to.

Hitomi Tiponi

Just suppose that LL is considering an approach from a large company that wants to use the technology and content as a setting for it's own use. Just suppose that this is a company that many SL content providers would not consider doing business with. Just suppose that this company wants to make sure it has access to all the existing content and does not wish users to withdraw it. Just suppose - 'Faceworld'.

Aren't conspiracy theories fun :).


Terrible thought Hitomi but for Facebook or any is so easy , just forget about LL, grab Open sim and create a commercial grid!


A great topic to discuss, not the future of Sl, but of freedom in the metaverse!


Second Life is not a business to Linden Lab. Second Life IS Linden Lab.

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