Friday, March 14, 2014

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Limbo Status of Emily Short's Long-in-Development Interactive Fiction Project at Linden Lab Goes Viral

Leigh Alexander is one of the most influential and brilliant writers covering the game industry (mainly for Gamasutra, the industry's top news site), and when she read Janine Hawkins' great NWN post about renowned interactive fiction writer Emily Short's 15 years-in-development Blood & Laurels Versu project ending up in limbo at Linden Lab, she was not happy about it, not happy at all, and Tweeted this to her 35,000 followers:

So the post is now going viral, and has been picked up by other game industry leaders (as below). Given the attention and fan following Emily Short clearly has (she wrote the now-classic Galatea), hopefully Linden Lab can come to some kind of compromise with her. (Maybe a revenue sharing deal for publishing Blood & Laurels, say?) I'm asking Linden Lab if they have a comment on this topic, and will update if they reply.

Well-known SL blogger Ciaran Laval thinks this news means Linden Lab should address the controversy over its Terms of Service, but I'm not sure the two topics are related, at least not directly:

While some SL content creators think the company's ToS is too draconian and could allow Linden Lab to take and reuse their content, Ms. Short was an employee of Linden Lab, not a user, so is signatory to another kind of contract, which apparently claims ownership of all content created when she was in Linden's employ. (A very typical clause for tech companies.) That said, it seems to me it's in everyone's interest that Linden and Short work out some kind of agreement around Blood & Laurels, and I sorely hope they do, because I want to play it too.

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Laurence Simon

How much did Emily get for Vesu?

How much was she paid when she was staff?

Add that up, and that's probably more than a lot of authors, even published ones.

Did she have an agent or lawyer look over the contract to sell Versu?

Can she come up with other titles? Or is she a one-hit-wonder?



Just to clarify, I don't think the Versu and TOS issues are identical, to quote my first paragraph:

"First of all there are some key differences between The Second Life TOS change and what has happened to Versu. The most glaringly obvious apparently being that Linden Lab are not asking Second Life content creators to give up their intellectual property rights and they are not asking for an exclusive license."

Where the issues are similar is in the terms being binding. I do believe that Linden Lab have no intention of doing anything they please with people's content, but that should be reflected in the TOS because if LL have a change of heart those terms can be applied.

On a wider issue, I'm glad to see this being discussed further, Versu has a lot of potential and interactive fiction is a growing market, if LL don't want to take the project further that's their choice but it seems a great shame to let the product sit on a dusty shelf.

A royalties type deal may be in everyone's best interest, Linden Lab have invested money and Emily was a paid employee.

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