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  Cory Linden Speaks on Second Life  
Posted 2005-03-09 by Tony Walsh
Linden Lab's VP of Product Development Cory Ondrejka spoke at the Game Developers Conference yesterday on "Building Serious Games MMPS using Second Life," and Alice of Wonderland took notes. Ondrejka brings up some of the standard SL selling points, some of which I'd like to address or add to. His paraphrased statements are in bold, and are coupled with my comments...

Everything you see ingame is user-created content.

I'm sure Ondrejka knows best, but last time I looked, there were still Linden-constructed objects inworld. Additionally, at least one user has been paid to create content for (at least) the planned Teen-only Grid. I think Linden Lab's ideal is to have users create all the content for free, but that isn't happening just yet. I'd be happy if the Lindens had to buy content like every other user in Second Life. After all, they print the money.

We’re not a subscription model. Players pay $10 up front, then it's free to take part from there on in.

I don't know how Linden Lab defines a subscription, but anything I have to pay monthly for seems like a subscription to me. It's true there is a one-time entrance fee. But if you want to own land, you'll have to pay for it (generally on a monthly basis).

SL is different. In SL residents own their creations. Residents own the IP to everything they make. They can sell them for real $. People can make money in SL, that’s OK with us. Our EULA states this.

It must be noted that while residents do own their creations, (last time I checked the fine print) they grant Linden Labs a perpetual license to the content. Outbound messages from Linden Lab would have you believe that user content is solely owned by the creator. While it's necessary for some licensing agreement to exist in order for LL to display user-created content, I was disappointed that the license seemed to be unecessarily grabby. A time-limited license would be more reasonable. This is actually relevant to the recent real-world licensing of Tringo--the creator retained the Second Life rights to the game... except that he shares those rights with Linden Lab by virtue of having created Tringo in Second Life. Just because LL isn't at all likely to exercise its license in a negative way doesn't mean it's not possible.

Like the web, anyone can take part. This is the same, just in 3D.

The web is free. Second Life is not. The web runs on a series of internationally-adopted standards widely used by schoolchildren, coders, designers, and grannies. Second Life is proprietary software with its own scripting language. The web has a low barrier of entry. Second Life requires a high-end computer with a broadband connection. There are some parallels between Second Life and the web, but not enough substantial ones. A system like Second Life could become a next-generation web, but it's nowhere near that today.

On legal troubles due to IP-infringing user-created content: Since we opened up our IP offering, we‘ve had TWO notices to take down, whereas everyone said we’d have thousands.

I am not surprised by Ondrejka's statement here. It's an example of the blissful ignorance I think will end up biting Linden Lab in the ass some day. The reason you've only had two takedown notices, Linden Lab, is that Second Life is not the web. It's a gated community, and what goes on behind that gate is basically invisible to the rest of the world. That is security through obscurity, which is a terrible way to run things. MP3 file sharing was underground until the MPAA finally clued in to P2P file sharing. All it will take is one disgruntled user to send well-crafted letters including screenshots of infringements to the many, many corporations whose works have been "stolen," and you'll end up getting more than takedown notices. If the fate of your Metaverse rests on not being sued...

[EDIT: Cory has since responded to my comments in his SL weblog Prompt Criticality]
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Comment posted by Tony Walsh
March 10, 2005 @ 11:07 am
Cory has responded to my comments in his weblog. In doing so, he's helped put a finer point on the Wonderland notes I commented on, and made me think about the way I straddle both journalism and blogging. After I read the Wonderland notes, I immediately pounded out a response. That's a blogger's way. As a journalist, what I probably should have done is emailed Cory directly to comment on the issues at hand, however I had assumed he wouldn't have given me the time of day. Turns out I was (probably) wrong.

Note to self: Next time, at least try to get an official response.
Comment posted by CoryLinden
March 10, 2005 @ 12:54 pm
Actually, I think that the blogger way worked rather well. You posted, I read it and responded -- although I did spend some time pondering whether I should post a comment here or put up a fresh post on my blog.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
March 10, 2005 @ 4:31 pm
Hrm, yeah. I enjoy the immediacy of blogging but not the lack of thoroughness in my quick posts.
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