In addition, Second Life has committed to exploring technologies to make it easy for creators to license their content under Creative Commons licenses.
Speaking to an audience of digital rights specialists and virtual world enthusiasts at the NYLS “State of Play” conference, Founder and CEO Philip Rosedale described the new policy as a major breakthrough for users of online worlds.
“Until now, any content created by users for persistent state worlds, such as EverQuest (R) or Star Wars Galaxies (TM), has essentially become the property of the company developing and hosting the world,” said Rosedale. “We believe our new policy recognizes the fact that persistent world users are making significant contributions to building these worlds and should be able to both own the content they create and share in the value that is created. The preservation of users’ property rights is a necessary step toward the emergence of genuinely real online worlds.”
Unlike traditional online game environments where anything created in-world is owned by the service provider, Second Life has responded to its residents’ desire to own their work just as they would any other original creations. Under these terms they can create, and sell derivative works based on content they’ve made, or license the work to others.
Second Life residents began creating their world in October, 2002 as beta testers, and continued through commercial launch of the service in June 2003. In just over a year, more than 10,000 users have created a richly diverse world, filled with more than 200,000 objects, complex characters, a range of living situations from whimsical hobbit-style homes to urban apartments, to sprawling mansions, and special recreational areas including a 40-ride amusement park and an island retreat. Everything in the world, from the antique carousel to the hot race cars to the resident-abducting alien spaceship was designed and built by the residents.
The economy supporting this activity includes over 12,000 objects for sale. Each month, nearly 100,000 user-to-user transactions for goods and services take place, with more than Linden$19million in in-world currency changing hands.
“Linden Lab has taken an important step toward recognizing the rights of content generators in Second Life,” said Lawrence Lessig, Stanford University Professor of Law, and Founder of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. “As history has continually proven, when people share in the value they create, greater value is derived for all. Linden Lab is poised for significant growth as a result of this decision.”