Top Second Life Designers Express Indifference, Confusion, Annoyance Over Revised ToS - But No Plans to Leave
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
In spite of Second Life's unpopular updated TOS, which essentially gives Linden Lab rights over every piece of content within Second Life, the world of virtual fashion and design keeps marching on. There has been no mass exodus, no strike, no stalling of content; every day there are new releases and new things to spend your L$ on. It's very hard to walk away from a portion of your income (or your entire income) because of something that may never even really affect you, so none of this should comes as a surprise. Just the same, I wanted to find out how top SL designers really feel about these changes. Has it altered their perception of SL as a creative/business platform? They're still customers, but are they happy customers?
I contacted 10 SL designers, all of them extremely successful and well-known in the SL fashion community, and received 6 replies. I promised every one of them complete anonymity, so they could be entirely honest without any potential fallout. Most of them told me that the new Terms of Service has had little or no effect on their business in Second Life, and were downright indifferent when I asked about it; some expressed annoyance at the change, while notably, many told me they didn't even feel qualified to comment on the ToS at all.
Here's what they had to say:
One person I spoke to, who specializes in accessories, was rather pragmatic:
"It doesn't really change my feelings on creating. It's their playground and they're letting us play on it, so it's their rules."
Another longtime designer of everything from clothing to hair had a slightly darker attitude:
"It doesn't affect my work because there aren't any other options for me right now than to continue creating content as I have been. It does affect my faith in LL which had been steadily declining anyway."
At the same time, a pillar of women's fashion in SL shared a perspective that I hadn't really considered:
"I am not too worried since I draw most of my textures, I don't feel like its a huge impact personally. I'm not going to use a texture I made for a [Second Life] outfit anywhere else... I guess I figure I wouldn't have made it if not for [Second Life], so it doesnt really make a difference to me."
One of the most interesting responses came from lingerie maker Roslin Petion, a member of Second Life's fashion scene for many more years than I've even been in SL myself. She decided to buck the veil of anonymity and share the following:
"I’m not someone that makes a living off of content creating and I imagine my views may be different if I made more than pocket change off of my creations. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the TOS changes.
As both a consumer and a creator, I find the TOS changes disconcerting. The language of the wording is very broad and as I understand it, pretty much gives Linden Lab to the right to do just about anything with my content.
Now, that said, just because they have the right to do anything with my work, do I think they’ll actually do anything? I highly doubt it. I’m more bothered by the principal of it all. LL simply should not have the rights it has given itself.
I also find Linden Lab’s response to residents’ concerns disappointing. LL didn’t really make an effort to explain what its intentions are with this new language. It made very little effort to reach out to the community and see how they can improve the language and still retain some of the changes they needed to make. And worst of all, LL’s response to our concerns basically was, “sorry you misunderstood us” putting blame on the community, instead of thinking about what they could do differently.
I will continue to make content, however, Linden Lab has definitely lost some goodwill with me and if/when there is any kind of reasonable actions to apply pressure on Linden Lab to change its TOS, I will certainly support that movement. "
The most surprising thing to me was that multiple designers told me they didn't really know or understand the changes enough to want to comment on them, even anonymously. Remember that your intellectual property is on the line, and whether you're bothered by the new ToS or not it certainly doesn't hurt to stay informed. If you're feeling out of the loop, be sure to watch this recent panel of RL attorneys discussing the changes and answering questions.
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.