October 18th, 2007 by Benjamin Duranske
Movable Life is a relatively new web-based Second Life viewer run by a Japanese company called 3Di. It lets users log in to Second Life over a simple web site and perform a few basic functions, primarily chat. It is currently in alpha, but it already shows some real promise. Unfortunately, Movable Life’s Terms of Service usurp Second Life’s well-known preservation of certain user intellectual property rights, and claim all intellectual property created via Movable Life as property of 3Di.
There’s a good overview of the Movable Life product at Second Life Insider. In short, Movable Life is a web page that lets you log in to Second Life and perform a handful of limited, though important, functions.
You can move a dot representing your avatar around a two-dimensional map, chat, and look at your inventory. Your avatar will actually move around Second Life itself and will be visible to anyone using Second Life (though you will look really odd, see image, below). And for now, you can’t actually see, create, or interact with any objects. That’s on the horizon though — a functional low-bandwidth 3D web-based client that does allows interaction and creation of at least some objects is 3Di’s long-term hope, according to Ryan McDougall, a Movable Life designer I spoke with at Virtual Worlds 2007 in San Jose.
Though the viewer has promise, Movable Life’s Terms of Service deal with intellectual property rights so poorly — basically, by taking them — that content creators should simply not use the service until they change. The following passage is a bit lengthy, but worth the effort if you’re a content creator.
From the Movable Life TOS. I’ll highlight the relevant part.
6.2 Intellectual Property Rights. You acknowledge and agree that 3Di and/or its Affiliates retain the sole and exclusive right, title, and interest in and to the Intellectual Property Rights in this Site, the Movable Life Services, Site Code and Site Contents and all copies thereof, in whole and in part. All ideas, techniques, inventions, systems, formulae, discoveries, technical information, programs, prototypes, and similar developments (the “Developments”) developed, created, discovered, made, written, or obtained by you in the course of or as a direct or indirect result of accessing or using this Site and/or Movable Life Services, and all related industrial property, copyrights, patent rights, trade secrets, and other forms of protection thereof, shall be and remain the property of 3Di, and/or its Affiliates. You agree to execute or cause to be executed such assignments and applications, registrations, and other documents and to take such other action as may be requested by 3Di and/or its Affiliate to enable them to protect their rights to any such Developments.
The sum of that is that if you write, build, script, interact with, or even discuss an idea, invention, project, or creation while using Second Life via the Movable Life client, 3Di owns any IP rights you’d otherwise have in your work.
There are some other big issues in the TOS for Second Life users too. For example, you must agree not use the service “for commercial or business purposes, including … advertising, marketing or offering goods or services” (ruling out roughly half of all Second Life users) nor use it for “sexually explicit or sexually suggestive” chat (ruling out just about everybody else).
To be fair, I don’t think that 3Di actually intends to assert IP claims against Second Life users based on this, nor do I expect that they plan to police for covert advertisement of services or suggestive chat. In fact, I’d guess that the 6000-word TOS probably hasn’t even been read in its entirety by anyone at Movable Life; it feels like mashup of a half-dozen boilerplate overprotective ISP agreements with the names changed. Moreover, the Terms of Service are not a click-through agreement — it is easy to log in without even noticing them. This makes them highly susceptible to legal challenge, and quite possibly unenforceable. But you never know where the rights to Movable Life’s user database will eventually end up, or how a judge might view the provision in the future — and it would be expensive to find out, in any case.
Carefully consider the level of protection you feel your work deserves. If you care about protecting your Second Life creations, you should probably — at least for now — look for another web-based Second Life solution. I like Katharine Berry’s (now open-source) AjaxLife.
UPDATE 10/18/2007: After posting this I found more discussion of the Movable Life TOS at Virtual World News — including a note that sounds like it is from a company representative, possibly the same “Ryan” I talked to in San Jose, saying that the TOS were written by a US lawyer who was “covering all bases.” Hat tip to Anthony Bundy (SL’s ‘Anthony Reisman’) of i3dnow.com, who noticed this, and who also sent me the first heads-up on the story.
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