Friday, August 14, 2009

Linden Lab announces the end of piracy inside SL

There comes good news, I hope, for SL. Below is a clipping of the Linden Lab recently post on the measures taken to end the piracy in SL. Touch here to read the original post

Improvements to Our Intellectual Property Complaint Process

In the past year, we've committed additional staff and resources to our intellectual property complaint process, which many Residents know as our DMCA process (meaning the Digital Millennium Copyright Act).

The complaint process facilitates cooperation between Linden Lab and intellectual property owners. If owners identify particular uses of their content that they believe to infringe, they may send us a notification requesting removal of the uses.

In cases of severe or repeat infringement, we terminate the accounts of the infringer.

In response to Resident feedback about the time and effort involved in submitting notifications to us, we've been developing an improved process. In the not-too-distant future, intellectual property owners will be able to submit complaints to us electronically through an online form. The form will make it easier for intellectual property owners to submit complaints, and it will help us expedite their processing.

With the online form, intellectual property owners will be able to request that we search for and remove all copies of an identified item created by a particular Resident. Resident content creators have asked us for this capability, and we are working hard at developing tools to provide it. This is one of the most technologically complicated tasks we've ever undertaken because the tools must identify the content at issue in the complaint, search for instances of it inworld and in inventories, notify those with copies of it of the intellectual property complaint submitted, remove or disable access to those instances, and in the event of a copyright counter-notification, restore access to the content specified in the counter-notification.

We're excited about the progress made so far, and we're dedicated to making these tools a success, but as always with cutting-edge technologies, there's no guarantee that these tools will work for all situations or complaints. However, we are committed to developing sustainable and scalable solutions that empower content creators to better protect their intellectual property.

We expect to launch our improved intellectual property complaint process and tools later this year. As we get closer to launch, we will have additional information for you. We welcome your feedback and thoughts in the forums, which we will be reviewing and responding to as we can.

New Features for Content Licensing

As we move towards a future where virtual worlds are interoperable, Second Life needs new features to help Resident content creators better indicate how they allow their content to be used.

Second Life has technological restrictions known as the “permissions system” that can be set to impose certain limits on how content can be used within Second Life. However, the permissions system was never intended for and does not grant any legal permission to use content outside of Second Life. Furthermore, content creators may want more flexibility to allow their content to be used in ways that the permissions system does not readily accommodate, for example, the ability to permit non-commercial distribution but prohibit resale. To better indicate their legal permissions, some Residents currently post license terms in their inworld stores or in notecards distributed with their content.

As we develop our stand-alone, behind-the-firewall Second Life solution, we're aware of the opportunity it presents for talented and entrepreneurial content creators to reach more customers in a broad inter-connected 3D marketplace. To help facilitate this marketplace, we are developing the ability to attach “sticky licenses” to content sold to enterprise customers running a stand-alone version of Second Life. Content with these “sticky licenses” will have additional metadata such that the license information can “stick” to the content as it is distributed to the enterprise customer's server, and users of the server solution can review the license terms through the Second Life viewer.

Expect further announcements from us on our marketplace plans later this year. In the meanwhile, please comment in the forums on the licensing terms you'd like to see as well as any other thoughts you have.

Standard Industry Practices for Copying Tools

The flip side of indicating how content can be used is respecting the terms that have been indicated in licenses and under intellectual property law. This is where copying tools come into play. Recently Residents have asked us for our thoughts on tools that facilitate the copying of content from the Second Life virtual world. We believe that standard industry practices must be developed for copying tools to protect against intellectual property infringement.

As we've said before, copying tools do have legitimate uses. For example, intellectual property owners may wish to back up their own content or copy it from our hosted Second Life virtual world to a stand-alone, behind-the-firewall Second Life solution. However, copying tools can also facilitate infringement, and the devil is in the details.

To those developing copying tools, we urge the simultaneous development of standard industry practices that protect against intellectual property infringement. For example, consider the following standard practices for tools copying content from Second Life:

1. Check that the user of the tool is the Second Life “creator” of the content;
2. Do not facilitate the export of an entire Second Life inventory; and
3. Preserve the Second Life “creator” name and information that the content was originally created in the Second Life virtual world.

As we've discussed above, the Second Life “permissions system” does not grant any legal permission to use content outside of Second Life. Even content that is “full permissions” may only be used within Second Life absent a specific license agreement from the intellectual property owner(s) authorizing the content's use outside of Second Life. Thus, a check that the user is the Second Life “creator” of the content helps protect intellectual property because the “creator” is potentially the intellectual property owner of the content, while a user who is merely the Second Life “owner” of the content is not likely to have permission to use the content outside of Second Life.

A check against exporting an entire Second Life inventory helps protect intellectual property because most of us are not the intellectual property owners of all content in our inventory, but rather simply the Second Life “owners” of that content, meaning we only have permission to use it within Second Life.

Finally, preserving the “creator” name in content copied from Second Life as well as information that Second Life was the virtual world in which the content was originally created helps ensure attribution for content creators. It also potentially helps them identify and take steps to remedy content improperly copied to other virtual worlds.

We don't profess to have all the answers, but we believe in the wisdom of the community to develop sensible standard practices. We also believe that ultimately licensing solutions must be developed to allow content creators to better indicate their intentions regarding use of their intellectual property outside of Second Life, and copying tools must work with these licensing solutions to help protect against intellectual property infringement.

We are paying close attention to the issues around copying of content from the Second Life world. The advent of copying tools that allow mass copying of content for use outside of Second Life is of great concern to Linden Lab, as it is to you. In the paragraphs above, we have recommended several actions that developers of these tools can take to protect against intellectual property infringement. It is very important that standard industry practices are developed and implemented in copying tools, and we are reaching out to copying tool developers to discuss this further.

Intellectual property infringement is a serious matter, and we trust that those developing copying tools will view it that way. The penalties for copyright infringement under U.S. law include damages in amounts up to $30,000.00 USD per work and in cases of willful infringement up to $150,000.00 USD per work.

While we hope that cooler heads will prevail, and that copying tool developers will work in conjunction with the community on sensible industry standards for intellectual property protection, we will also act as necessary to protect the Second Life virtual world that our community has worked so hard to create. We will take a range of actions depending on the specific threat to our world or community. As we have said in the past, the use of CopyBot or similar copying tools to infringe others' intellectual property is a violation of our Terms of Service and may result in suspension or banning of infringers' Second Life accounts, including any alternate accounts. In the face of greater threats, our actions will be bolder. If we face a situation in which users or developers of copying tools are engaged in or inducing wide-spread infringement, we reserve our right to pursue necessary means to stop this activity, including technological blocking measures as well as legal action to protect against unauthorized use of Second Life.

Let's take proactive steps now and develop appropriate practices to avoid any situation like those described above. We encourage you to weigh in on this subject in the forums and propose standard practices and solutions for copying tools. We are looking for thoughtful ways to balance the tools' usefulness for intellectual property owners against the potentially bad purposes that they may be put to. We will be listening, watching, and reaching out to members of the community.

A Content Seller Program for Better Content Purchasing Experiences
As our community grows, Second Life needs a content seller program to help the community trade content safely and trust one another. By “content seller program,” we mean a program that sellers may participate in if they meet certain eligibility standards intended to show a level of trustworthiness and quality of content. For example, we currently offer the Gold Solution Provider Program for Solution Providers with a demonstrated track record of successful Second Life projects and client satisfaction.

At some point we will offer a program specific to content sellers with criteria devised to indicate a level of aptitude in Second Life content transactions. Sellers' participation in the program will then be publicly indicated to potential buyers.

A seller program benefits both content buyers and sellers alike because it helps provide greater transparency in the content purchasing experience. Many Resident content sellers have built successful brands and reputations within Second Life, but this may not be readily apparent to buyers when they are shopping for or purchasing content. Giving buyers more information about sellers not only helps protect buyers against the inadvertent purchase of potentially infringing content, it helps keep Second Life a safe, well-lit place to trade in virtual content. By encouraging open, honest, and accountable content transactions, a seller program helps attract more content buyers and consequently helps create more opportunities for content sellers.
We are starting the process of planning a content seller program, and we would like your input on possible program criteria. At a minimum, participation in the program will require that the selling Resident:

1. have identity and payment information on file with Linden Lab;
2. be in good standing and not have been suspended for any violation of the Second Life Terms of Service;
3. meet a minimum threshold for content transactions; and
4. affirm that all necessary intellectual property rights and licenses have been obtained for all content that the Resident has for sale.
Join the discussion in the forums and tell us what other criteria you believe should be in a content seller program. We are in the early stages of planning such a program, and we would like your feedback on possible criteria in advance of our planning and implementation.

Improved Policies and Educational Outreach To Promote Awareness of Intellectual Property
We are committed to clarifying and updating our policies to promote awareness of intellectual property and protect against infringement. We believe that informative and educational policies often help people do the right thing.

We have provided general background information on the Second Life Wiki about intellectual property, including copyright, trademark, trade dress, and the celebrity right of publicity.

In the near future, we will be updating the Listing Guidelines for the Xstreet SL marketplace to help clarify permissible uses of brand names and branded items in listings. It has always been the firm policy of Second Life and the Xstreet SL marketplace that Residents may not infringe others' intellectual property. The goal of the updated Listing Guidelines is to provide clear guidance on listing practices that are not allowed because they can be misleading and can lead to intellectual property infringement. When we launch the updated Listing Guidelines, Residents will have thirty days to make any necessary adjustments to their listings and content to bring them into compliance. We will have more information for you on this shortly.
We will also be updating some of our existing “help” material on our policies to help clarify the significance of the permissions system and issues around copying content outside of Second Life. We expect that over time we will build a library of “help” material on intellectual property, including useful tips and resources and possibly a video tutorial from Torley Linden on the subject.

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