Shooting Down a ToS Theory
Filed under: Linden Lab and Second Life, The Project to Save Second Life
There is a theory floating around that provides one reason behind Linden Lab’s recent rights grab as embodied in the new Terms of Service released on August 15th, 2013. That theory states that:
Linden Lab is aware of all the stolen content floating around in Second Life, and as a result has been embroiled in some messy and expensive legal actions as an innocent third-party and as an active litigant. Because of this past experience, they have chosen to take the reins by means of the ToS Rights section so that they can properly manage and control lawsuits and help protect their platforms from the harm caused by stolen content.
Blowing Up The Theory
While this is a really neat theory, and it would be something wonderful if it was true, sadly it is not true. Let’s examine some of the evidence surrounding the recent ToS release and after-actions to try and demonstrate why.
“Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick”
Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote also happens to be a very effective anti-crime strategy. It is used in numerous ways to good effect. For example, many alarm companies provide a yard sign that lets would-be burglars know they are walking into a situation that is protected. Most burglars, when seeing this warning, will instead move on to a house that isn’t so protected. You will also often see window stickers that carry the same message.
Another common sign that can be seen is the one announcing that a particular neighborhood or community participates in the “Neighborhood Watch” program. These signs are often posted on poles and signs at the entrances to the community. This lets those thieves that are driving around, casing potential targets, know that their actions will alert the police and may wind up with them being “contacted” by local law enforcement. The last thing a cruising thief wants is to be “contacted” by the cops as they usually have their burglary tools with them. That can lead to some embarrassing questions and possibly a trip downtown.
The Big Stick
So if the theory stated above were to be true, Linden Lab would save themselves a tremendous amount of legal expense by simply stating, in a bold and public manner, that they are very determined in their anti-theft methods. They could point out that from now on, all lawsuits involving IP Theft will be orchestrated and financed by Linden Lab. They would put a giant “Neighborhood Anti-Copybotting” sign on the doorways, entrances and logins all around each of their properties. But they haven’t.
Who Carries the Stick?
This of course raises the question: “Who really has the Big Stick?” This is a very important question as it can significantly affect your ability to protect yourself and your creations. According to a recent post on the Second Life Forums by Chelsea Malibu, the conditions put forth in the new Terms of Service assign the right to defend your Intellectual Property Rights to Linden Lab .. totally.
Section 2.3, Paragraph 6: Linden Lab has no obligation to monitor or enforce your intellectual property rights to your User Content, but you grant us the right to protect and enforce our rights to your User Content, including by bringing and controlling actions in your name and on your behalf (at Linden Lab’s cost and expense, to which you hereby consent and irrevocably appoint Linden Lab as your attorney-in-fact, with the power of substitution and delegation, which appointment is coupled with an interest).
Put Down the Stick or the Avatar Gets It!
So here’s the real problem. Linden Lab has demanded by virtue of their new Terms of Service that you give them essentially full control over the content you upload to any of their services. That’s not just Second Life, but ANY of their growing catalog. They have insisted that you not be allowed to take any legal action on your own behalf should you find out that someone has stolen your content through their service. They have required that you let them do it all, at their own expense of course, but nevertheless you have surrendered your right to protect your own IP by the mere act of uploading it to their service.
Then Linden Lab put down their stick and pushed it aside.
They have refused to make public comment that their actions are designed to do anything. They have not said one way or the other what is their intended outcome. Now maybe I’m just a dirty-fingernails country boy suspicious of the slick city folks, but anytime some suit waves some legal document around under my nose but won’t say what it’s intended to do, I load up a round of rock salt and start taking aim at that suit’s backside.
They could have said “This is all to help us protect you” and I’d be okay with that. They could have said “This is all to protect our own hindquarters” and I’d be miffed but willing to grant some leeway. But instead they have said “Trust us. We don’t really intend to harm you” .. and that’s when I pull the hammers back on both barrels.
There is no stated reason why Linden Lab needs the entire set of rights they demand through their Terms of Service. There is only their request through various trusted sources to give them time and trust them. They have demonstrated time and again over the past many years that the only trust they deserve is the trust to bend us all over the barrel.
Sorry Mr. Humble, but trust is NOT what I’m ready to give you.
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