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Linden Lab changes course for Second Life's mature content

Tateru Nino

Linden Lab is making an announcement today about a key change in the way content will be handled on the Second Life virtual environment in future. (There isn't a link to their announcement quite yet, but we'll fill it in when there is). [update: Linden Lab's announcement is now available]

What we seem to be seeing at the moment is a segregation of Linden Lab's adult virtual environment that goes beyond the simplistic systems of the past where regions were divided into 'PG' (the equivalent of a film-and-television G rating) and 'Mature' (F&TV PG ratings or higher). We're talking about the formation of an actual adult-content continent and the wholesale relocation of content.

As yet, we don't know what content is actually going to be moved. The current dichotomy is G-rated/all-ages content versus well... everything else. Approximately 74% of the Second Life mainland is presently in that latter category, though not every parcel that is rated as mature actually contains content that is inappropriate for an all-ages audience.

Content is being broken out into three broad classifications, which for want of better terms we'll call All-Ages, Mature, and Adults Only.

As the plan presently stands, only content that falls into the latter category and that is on the mainland will have to move. We expect the definitions that describe the new classifications of content to arrive before very long. Non-mainland Estate owners with Adults Only content on their land will be required to flag it, but will not be required to relocate it.

This is all still quite preliminary, and the Adults Only continent (which is a bit of a mouthful and needs a catchy name) all still needs to be worked out along with exactly what content is going to have to relocate. All of this is promised in the coming weeks, and it is suggested that months will be required for the whole change to take place.

Access to the new Adults Only continent (or to search results pertaining to Adults Only content) will be restricted to those who have verified their age. The full process hasn't been pinned down, as yet, but appears to be either using the still-beta age-verification system (ineffective for the majority of users), a credit-card (available in a variety of forms to all-ages, frowned upon by card-companies, and no longer considered an effective measure, but still an industry-best-practice at least), or provision of some other acceptable forms of identifying documentation.

This is certainly one of the most -- perhaps the most -- far-reaching and profound set of changes to Second Life since 2003, and it generates a lot of questions. Linden Lab is seeking input on the details, especially as many of the broad strokes have obviously been worked out. It will be interesting to see how smoothly such a major change can be carried out. We expect to see a lot of little bumps and issues at every level.

One of those would be that, unfortunately, the use of PG as a ratings-descriptor by Linden Lab appears to violate the trademark licensing terms of the registered trademark holder (the Motion Picture Association of America).

Then there's relocation costs for those who have content that needs to be moved, the status of skins (a skin is essentially a nude image -- will the highest-quality and most-detailed skins be available to the unverified?), will some users need more than one property in order to socialize with non-verified friends and associates?

Right now, the announcement raises more questions than it answers, but that is to be expected. We hope to learn considerably more in the coming weeks.

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