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Second Life TOS - Snapshot and Machinima policy

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It's always bothered me that Linden Labs lumps Snapshots and Machinima together when they refer to their TOS when in fact the policies for snapshots are substantially different from the policies for machinima.

I have seen blog posts and press releases however that imply that the more permissive snapshot rules apply to machinima as well. Wording to the effect of 'our snapshot and machinima policy allows people to do X' when in fact it only allows certain things for snapshots while forbidding them for machinima.

Specifically, Linden Labs has granted permission for anyone to take snapshots on your land, or of your avatar by default. Before they put anything into the TOS, permission to take snapshots on your land or of your avatar was between you and me. By accepting the TOS, we've both had to agree that they have a skin in the game when they really don't. They have given you a way to prevent snapshots of your land from being taken, but you have no way to prevent people from taking snapshots of your avatar - not if you've agreed to the TOS.

The same is not true for machinima. Linden Labs has forbidden anyone from making machinima of your land, or of your avatar without getting your permission. This is really just the situation that existed before they had any TOS. Between you and me. Since it's not the real flesh and blood you I would be making a machinima of, I might have even been willing to go to court to argue that you have no right to stop me from making machinima from the pixels on my own computer, but I have agreed to the TOS now, so it's much more cut and dried. I agreed that I would get your permission, and that's that.

Since the policies for snapshots and machinima are completely different, I think it's misleading to refer to them both as a 'Snapshot and Machinima Policy'. It is definitely misleading to do so when describing only what is allowed for snapshots.

I think what bothers me the most about it is the opening paragraph in the policy ( Policy ):

We are thrilled to support the amazing creativity of our community’s artists who are taking snapshots and making machinima in Second Life. This policy is important for artists because it gives them copyright permissions from Linden Lab and the Second Life community to make the incredible works that we all enjoy.

In the case of machinima, the policy does not give any permissions. Permission is needed from any land owner whose land you film, and from any avatar who appears in it, so what the policy really does for machinima is deny permission. Permission is given for snapshots, but definitely not for machinima.

When this policy was announced, I stopped doing machinima of live events in SL. It is not possible for me to film a live event, and at the same time IM each avatar (in the audience) who may appear on film to get their permission. I don't even know who that griefer was that walked right across the stage, or perhaps it was just someone suffering a bad sim crossing. I can't turn the user interface back on and track it down without wrecking my film of the event.

So I just don't film live events in SL anymore.

Phaylen Fairchild can tell you what kind of horrors can happen if permission is not obtained in writing so please don't post advice like 'just put up a sign that says if you enter here you give permission to film'. Negative options like that don't constitute permission as the recent Redzone debates have adequately shown. People can teleport in and not see the sign, or maybe they don't speak English.

And I don't need anyone to point out that the TOS state I only need permission from "avatars whose appearance is sufficiently distinctive that they are recognizable by members of the Second Life community". Who am I to make that judgement? How am I to make it? As far as I'm concerned, this means every avatar.

And how do I prove I got permission? Again.. the only REAL way to do that is in writing, and that means it's just not worth the hassle.

So that's it. The SL TOS for machinima suck, but for those of you who do snapshots - I'm glad you have the TOS backing up your right to take and post those photos. Just be careful not to take too many snapshots per second or you may go over the line and violate the TOS.


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I agree that the Snapshot and Machinima Policies need rethinking, but there is a way to get explicit permission from everybody attenting an event:


Restict access to the sim/parcel where that event will be filmed to a single group.


Then, if they want to attend that event, they have to join the group. On the group charter/description, you state:


"This group is for the event EVENT NAME and you need to be a member of it to attend that event. By joining this group, you are granting us permission to film your avatar. You are also agreeing to minimize your avatar's ARC and script-load to reduce lag as directed by the event's hosts and security. By not joining this group, you will not be granted access to the EVENT NAME event, but are welcome to watch it streamed at PUT URL HERE or via the video archive at PUT ARCHIVE URL HERE. These terms are non-negotiable, and requests for access by any other means will result in that avatar being muted."


Would that work, or is it too much of a PITA to set up and explain to the masses?

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I think that would work for me. As long as there is no way to get there without acknowledging you've read and agree to something.. like most click throughs.

Maybe LL should have an optional 'parcel TOS' click through that can be used for that kind of thing. It is their TOS that require us to obtain these permissions, so having a prescribed means of doing so would be helpful. They can keep track of what the parcel TOS said on a particular day, and whether a given avatar agreed to them or not.

That kind of mechanism would have wide applicability beyond just permissions for filming.

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I can halfway understand the difference.  Suppose I put in 1/2 a year developing a sim.  It's cost me a fortune.  Then someone comes along and makes a short film in the sim while I'm logged out.  Suddenly THAT person is famous and people are congratulating HIM for the wonderful set he created.  Then people visiting MY sim start calling me names and telling me that I'm just copying that guy who did the woooonderful mechanima film...

It's a matter of a) permission and b) proper credit where credit is due.  You see a guy on the street and take a picture.  It's no different than if I photograph people out in public in the city -- don't have to have anyone's permission.  But going into a private building and shooting a movie in it?  That I would have to have permission for.  And I think the TOS is simply trying to follow that model.

A better solution is to say that if you are standing in a public area, own the area, or have permission of the owner, you can photograph and videograph under all conditions.  But if you are on someone elses property (there's that word again -- maybe LL should review what it means) then you need the permission of the owner for any still or moving pictures that are going to be publically shown.  This way a guy running fraps on his computer and capturing an awesome vista for his own enjoyment isn't a problem, just as a guy snapping photos isn't a problem.  But if the filmmaker is going to show it to anyone else, then permission is required to film on that land.  And that what is visible from public roads is filmable under all conditions.

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I would assume this can only apply to LL's property like inworld or on a LL website. The same as would apply to IMs and chat. I don't see where there is really much they can do if you make a movie or take pictures and upload them to another website like yahoo or your own server. It would be no different than you making a video of any other online game like wow or any of the shooter games or racing games.

And if it was an issue I would think it would be up to the specific avatar to take action.

I think in real life you only need permission if you are going to publish the footage or pictures. But then again not sure how that applies to the internet. Take Tosh.0 for example. That would mean they have to get permission from every person in every video they put on the show. I don't see them doing that, if they are that would be a ton of work.

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The problem with your example is that it is equally possible for someone to come along and merely take snapshots of your sim, publish them on the web or elsewhere, and still claim the credit.

LL could have also chosen to state that if you take a snapshot of something or film it, you must credit the builder. They didn't do that, so what they have done is given anyone permission to take snapshots of anyones build and publish it on the web without giving credit - unless you take some action. Exactly the kind of negative option permission that Redzone isn't going to be able to get away with.

So I don't even buy that the existing policy protects the rights that you think it's protecting. I am reading that you 'like' the defaults they have in place for machinima, and I can't help thinking that you have to 'dislike' the defaults they have in place for snapshots for exactly the same reasons.

The root problem with the policy for me is that it doesn't treat snapshots and machinima the same, and I doubt that anyone can come up with any logical reasons that would convince me that they shouldn't be.

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I invite you to view the policy here at http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Linden_Lab_Official:Snapshot_and_machinima_policy and decide for yourself how far reaching the policy is.

It sounds from your comment like you feel that the policy is overreaching, and personally I agree. There is the legal issue of what a court would do based on real law, and there is a different issue here involving a private contract between you and Linden Labs (their TOS).

Personally, I don't think it's at all clear that the courts consider your avatar to be the same as your physical person. I highly doubt that laws that apply to your real person apply to a representation of you composed of pixels that appear on someone elses computer.

But by agreeing to the TOS, you open yourself to the possibility that your account could be suspended for posting a machinima that was made in violation of them, even if you post it somewhere other than LL servers.

It's their grid, and their rules. If you break their rules, they can deny you access to their grid.

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You really should go and read the policy yourself. Yes.. there is some degree of 'blanket' permission for Linden owned land, but you will still need permissions from any land owners whose builds can be seen.

I have to applaud Linden Labs for stating clearly that we own the rights to anything we film using the tool (Viewer and Servers). They have also given us permission to use any of their copyrighted materials (the library avatars, objects, etc.) and permission to film anything on Gov. Linden owned land.

I just happen to think they should have stopped there, and left us to work things out with other residents on our own.

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1) The machinima policy says this applies on private islands, not on the mainland. You forgot to mention that.

2) If you really are taking machinima on public thoroughfares, on the equivalent of public roads, parks, gathering spaces, then...that is the Mainland. And you can film there.

3) In real life, you don't have the right to come into my home and start filming me. You can't even come into my back yard and start filming me. So it's about private property equivalency, not your geeky sense of eminent domain merely because the technology enables you to do something.

4) I'd be happy to put "film as you please, just give the sim builder credit" as a policy, but I have to consider my customers in turn. They are renting land from me on private islands for privacy. Why is your machinima needed to intrude on their privacy?

5) You're not understanding (or not admitting) the real context here. It's not just "art". It's not just "journalism". There are many people who are using machinima as a commercial enterprise. They use it to advance their business. Their business might only be making machinima for other people! They may only want to demand these rights so they have ease of use of tools in business! But it's still for commercial gain. And I fail to see why I would have to pay tier, pay for builds, attract tenants who want privacy, and then have you get to make coin off that. It does seem unfair. And that's what Paparazzi Artful was going around camming everywhere and being able to then help market that business of consulting and making panoramic machinimas.

There are thousands of mainland sims and thousands of Linden owned sims on the Mainland -- plus numerous island builds open for exploration that have a policy friendly to machinima -- that that you should not be able to claim that your "creativity" is somehow harmed. It's not.

Furthermore, the policy is worded precisely to give some leeway for things like filming a live music conference or a big meeting. And crowd scenes are understood not to be very specific close-ups of avatars.

So you're just being finicky when you claim that "you can't tell what that is" when the policy is very clearly written, and very clearly given you as leeway in precisely covering that sort of event.

The TOS policy on machinima is not perfect. I've critiqued is extensively as having giveaways and clawbacks and contradictions. But it's good enough. And it leaves discretion to owners, and that has to be respected. There has to be a balance.

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