Rights grabbing and the official Second Life Flickr group

Or why I won’t submit to the Official Second Life group on Flickr.
2015 update: The conditions on joining the group have been changed since writing this post and are reasonable and fair now.

You may remember that Instagram fell flat on its face about a year ago for changing its terms of service. Uploading would have given Instagram (some) royalty free rights to any uploaded image. In a storm of protest, they backtracked.

So compare this to what you are asked to sign away when you click the link to join the Official Second Life group on Flickr*. This was not introduced alongside this year’s revised Terms of Service for Second Life, but I spotted this back in March of last year. “By submitting my photos or other materials to the Flickr feed of Linden Research, Inc. (the “Company”) I agree to participate in the Photo of The Day program (the “Program”). As a participant of the Program I hereby grant a perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free license to the Company to the images, snapshots, screenshots, photos and other materials I submit to the Program. Further, I understand that I have no right to any royalties or other compensation in connection with the rights granted above and waive any and all claims based on any such rights.”

To join the group, you have to agree to those terms, and this is the only group on Flickr where I have seen a blatent rights grabbing for copyright ownership. Photography is part of what I do to earn a living in real life, and this is why I always check what I might be signing away. The advice circulating on the internet to photographers is clear, and this is just one example from the National Union of Journalists London Freelance Branch which they offer for the purposes of ‘equitable negotiation’:

“There are no uses to which a client might wish to put a photograph which cannot be covered by the appropriate licence for an appropriate fee… Even where the client actually needs exclusivity, either for commercial reasons or to protect individuals depicted, the photographer should retain the copyright itself, which can only be sold outright through an “assignment”, which requires the photographer’s agreement in writing.”

My photographs, whether they are commercial or personal, are my creative property, and I hold on to that. I share a lot of my work, accepting that its social worth is greater than its economic worth. But it is still my creative property, and I share it on a non-commercial basis. However, I would be happy to give Linden Lab a limited right of use for their own purposes within that organisation, for a range of purposes including marketing and publicity. But “worldwide, perpetual rights”? To assume it is theirs, with any obligation to credit me, to amend my work, or to sell it or give it away to whomsoever they wish, even to causes with which I disagree morally? That is wholly unreasonable.

They have since amended the Terms of Service for Second Life, and the new terms contain wording very similar to those of the Flickr group. I no longer want to upload images to the grid, and as I result, I have closed my inworld gallery.

Angry? A little – it’s immoral to make such a grab for people’s intellectual property, knowing that most people won’t know what they are signing away. Indignant? Yes – because they claim to respect people’s creativity and intellectual property, but these actions say otherwise. Sad? Certainly – because they are bleeding creativity from the world that they gave birth to, and I am writing this because I care, not because I’m awkward and think that every change made to Second Life is bad. But if they want a sustainable business, they need to be nurturing the creative talent that gives shape, beauty and life to what is otherwise a bare, barren world.

And just to make the point – this is what Linden Lab sell….

All Linden Lab have without creators.
… and it is all Linden Lab have without creators.

* I would like to emphasise that this post refers to the terms in the Second Life Official Flickr group only. Flickr itself has one of the best records out of all the photo upload sites for recognising, asserting and protecting the intellectual property rights of its users.

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