April 2, 2010 | By Eva Galperin

Fair Use Gets a Fair Shake in Second Life

Kudos to Linden Lab, which has just released an update to the Terms of Service for their virtual world, Second Life, that includes language that will protect fair use of screenshots and machinima. The new Snapshot and Machinima Content License grants Linden Lab and other users of Second Life a license to use “in snapshots and machinima your Content that is displayed in-World in publicly accessible areas of the Service.”

Machinima, which refers works that use real-time 3-D graphics engines to generate computer animation, could have presented a special problem for Second Life, where every individual object in view is potentially a different person’s intellectual property. Getting permission from so many owners of IP in order to create a machinima is potentially nightmarish. Instead of running from the new kinds of fair use enabled by new technologies, Linden Lab has embraced them. The new license allows Second Life users to reserve the rights to their creations by placing them in areas that are not publicly accessible or land where the covenant explicitly prohibits snapshots or machinima. Second Life makes tools available to users that allow them to restrict access to their Virtual Land and its contents, as well as tools which allow the owners of Virtual Land to exempt their land from the new license. The rules are simple and intuitive: if you don’t want people taking pictures of your floating city/dancing bear/epic space opera, don’t leave your floating city/dancing bear/epic space opera in a space that allows it.

Linden Lab’s behavior should be an object lesson to movie studios and major record labels, who have alienated their own fans by trying to thwart new fair uses as they come along, whether through DRM or DMCA takedowns. Linden Lab has shown that there are innovative new ways to give the green-light to fair uses while still giving users the freedom to protect their creations. We hope that movie studios and major record labels are taking notes, because Linden Lab is showing them how it’s done.

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