Friday, November 7, 2008

You Don't Own Crap

Continuing from yesterday...

So what's the big deal if "owning your own virtual real estate" really means "a license of access to Linden's proprietary servers?" The problem is its contribution to the pervasive illusion that we own the virtual currency, real estate and goods we buy within Second Life. According to the Terms of Service, we don't.

Now I certainly didn't read the entire TOS when I signed up. And when I read through it closely during the trademark controversy, I thought that its more onerous provisions were just corporate lawyer boilerplate that wouldn't be enforced because they were so clearly inequitable. But guess what. IT seems that Linden is actually quite prepared to hold you to the TOS agreement you accepted:
Defendants aver that during the registration process, Bragg reached a screen containing the Terms of Service, which stated “Please read the following Terms of Service carefully. To continue logging in to Second Life, you must accept the agreement.” Defendants further aver that Bragg selected “I Agree to the Terms of Service” before being allowed to enter Second Life. Defendants lack information or belief sufficient to admit or deny allegations regarding whether Bragg read the Terms of Service, and on that basis deny such allegations. from a court document filed by Linden Research, Inc. and Philip Rosedale
The recent OpenSpace price hike was hopefully a wake-up call that tier pricing can change at any time. And negative changes will likely mean that the value of your holdings fall and the demand for it drops. So you either pay up or lose your investment. But it's worse than just that. Your land, inventory and even identity can be changed or deleted at any time for any reason. Here's the key item in the TOS agreement:
5.3 All data on Linden Lab's servers are subject to deletion, alteration or transfer. When using the Service, you may accumulate Content, Currency, objects, items, scripts, equipment, or other value or status indicators that reside as data on Linden Lab's servers. THESE DATA, AND ANY OTHER DATA, ACCOUNT HISTORY AND ACCOUNT NAMES RESIDING ON LINDEN LAB'S SERVERS, MAY BE DELETED, ALTERED, MOVED OR TRANSFERRED AT ANY TIME FOR ANY REASON IN LINDEN LAB'S SOLE DISCRETION.
You may be thinking, "No way they'd ever do that." Well, then why include it in the TOS? Why insist that we agree to such obviously unreasonable terms before we can use the service? What's up with that? Any ideas?


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A beautiful thought experiment personified through the imagined perspective of a self-aware avatar. My creator's site can is at