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A Second Life roadmap: Content-management/Intellectual-property

Tateru Nino

Linden Lab yesterday published a "Content Management Roadmap" for Second Life, which outlines directions that they'll be taking towards Intellectual Property in future. Why then, you might wonder, is it not called an "Intellectual Property Roadmap"? We think that's because – to the Lab – Intellectual property issues all resolve down to content-management, at the platform level.

The roadmap covers five main sections, three of which basically comprise methods of helping honest folks stay honest, one which recognizes and rewards top-sellers, and one which allows more expeditious property violation notices. We're not really sure how much of a roadmap this really is, as it purports to cover less than six months, and describes projects already near completion. Nevertheless, it's interesting reading.

Firstly, the infringement notification process. The existing DMCA notification process has been considered, at its best, to be awkward and considerably laggy. Based on the feedback we've received here at Massively, the Lab's DMCA notification process has been perceived as more of a barrier to intellectual property protections than a boost. The process so far has been a manual one from end-to-end, requiring each identified infringing piece of content to be located and removed by hand.

The somewhat archaic communications requirements for submission of the notice have just compounded those delays. The Lab promises new tools to enable them to act swiftly, where action is determined to be required, and an electronic notification system to allow infringements to be reported more readily by intellectual property holders.

The Content Seller Program, on the other hand, is a fairly vague, and appears to merely consist of badge, marker or some other form of indicator for sellers in good standing, who are already successful, marking them as trustworthy. Linden Lab proposes that participants in this program have identify and payment information on file, have warranted the necessary rights and licenses to the intellectual property of all their content, meet a certain minimum threshold in sales, and be in good-standing with a clean enforcement record.

Meet all of that and you're eligible for the Content Seller Program gold star. Maybe there will be cake.

How the CSP rating would be effectively communicated to potential customers is perhaps one of the most important points, and presently unknown.

The remaining three items basically cover helping honest users stay honest.

Honest users do not mean to infringe on the property rights of others, but it can happen accidentally or out of ignorance.

One item covers education. In our own experience, few average people have much of a grasp on what copyright is, or how it functions. Linden Lab intends to more clearly document the practicalities of fundamental intellectual property.

The next item allows license information to be somehow attached to content, though confusingly there's no indication that anyone other than users of the Lab's Project Nebraska standalone solution will actually be able to see or access that license information.

Our confusion here is compounded by the fact that so far the Lab has not indicated that there will be any interoperability or transfer of content permitted between the Second Life grid and Project Nebraska installations – so either the Lab is confused, or they've tipped off an otherwise unannounced feature.

Either way, being in receipt of license terms is not the same as compliance with those terms. If it were, 70% of the world's legal system would shut down overnight.

Since replication of content in a system like Project Nebraska would be technically unrestricted and unlimited, the best that the license metadata could do would be to prevent accidentally infringing duplication of content by those who might otherwise be unaware of licensing restrictions.

Lastly, we have "Standard Industry Practices for Copying Tools."

Linden Lab makes a suggestion as to what some of those practices might be like, but ultimately is asking those people who make import/export/backup tools to get together and make their own code of standards, and then stick to them – and nothing more than that.

The Lab doesn't state any plans to modify its current stance towards copying tools (that is: Any and all such tools are permitted for allowable copies and backups, but infringement will still not be tolerated). The Lab has stated that it intends to never provide any duplication or backup tools in any Lab-sponsored or -developed viewer or tool, for any purpose.

While the Lab seems to have no interest in mandating rules for copy/backup tools, it hints that – in the event of a widespread failure of tool-providers to manage limits effectively, that it will take broad and unspecified actions against tools or toolmakers.

All in all, it's quite an interesting read. We're at least as keen as Linden Lab to hear your own thoughts on it all.

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