Well, the silly season is well and truly upon us – time for us all to get flustered and hot under the collar about things that, a) we probably don’t really understand and, b) will probably only affect us if we act stupid.
Slugging it out to cause the biggest public outcry, we have in the blue corner: Linden Labs’ new TOS, and in the red corner, Firestorm’s latest policy decision. Our referee – whose opinion is, of course, irrelevant – is the voice of reason and commonsense, whilst the madding crowd are those poor, beleaguered sl citizens who have nothing better to do than shout the odds and insist that ‘they’ have no right to do ‘this’ to ‘us’. Mostly, it’s a derogatory stream of old nonsense and claptrap, with the precise definitions of ‘they’, ‘this’ and ‘us’, entirely dependant upon where you happen to think you stand and to what degree you believe you’ve been personally targeted by the changes wrought by these two venerable institutions.
Then there are those who are utterly oblivious to the brutal debacle going on around them, who are reading this thinking, “There’s a new TOS?”, and, “What policy?” – if you happen to fall into this category, i’d suggest that you endeavour to remain that way, and perhaps you’d just like to look at the pretty pictures or skip to the end, where you’ll find some calming music.
Rather than attempt to make sense of both silly season topics in one post, i’ll stick with LL’s new TOS today, and if i make through to tomorrow, i’ll see if i can conjure up the wherewithall to tackle the Firestorm!
So, what’s up with the TOS? According to some, it’s the end of the virtual world as we know it, but the bottom line is that only Linden Lab know exactly what they intended when the new terms sprang onto our screens a couple of days ago, and they’re not saying anything. This, of course, has spawned conspiracy theories by the bucketload, based on everything from a literal reading of new clauses that have sneakily crept in, to the contradictory nature of some of the terms, depending in which section of the TOS they happen to appear.
Broadly speaking, the debate has produced the following possible scenarios, of which some, all, or none at all may be accurate:
- LL has banned sex, (inworld, that is – i doubt they’ve banned it rl);
- The new TOS embraces all LL’s new acquisitions and products, (unlike their users);
- Residents are NOT LL employees, (that’ll be why they haven’t paid me lately);
- LL can change anything without any notice, (what’s new?);
- SL is going to be shut down imminently, (yawn);
- 13 year-olds are going to take over the Grid, (eek!);
- Serendipidy Haven is new CEO of LL, (i made that one up, but who knows?)
The unsurprising upshot of all this – particularly in the light of LL’s silence on the matter – is wholesale panic on the part of the sort of people who go out and clear the supermarket shelves of bread the moment snow is forecast, (Not me… if i’m going to be snowed in, i’ll be filling my trolley with wine and cake!). There are even those too terrified to click on the ‘I agree’ button, on the offchance that by doing so they’re agreeing to sell their soul and give all their worldly goods to Rodvik and his cronies, in perpetuity.
Now. just. calm. down!
Let’s consider for a moment a worst case scenario – imagine that all of the above, along with the selling of your soul and worldly goods was – in actual fact – exactly what is going to happen. There’s not a damn thing we can do about it!
Like a thousand-mile meteorite heading slap-bang on a collision course with planet earth, no amount of running around, waving our arms about and getting terribly self-righteous about our rights, our property and who owns what is going to make a blind bit of difference to the eventual outcome – a great big, wet, splat… or maybe a cataclysmic explosion – depends what the meteorite is made from – and it’s a great big ‘goodnight’ from all of us. Similarly, if the Lab really are out to do the dirty on us, is doesn’t matter whether we tick the box or not, they are going to have their own way, so we may as well sign up to the last days and have some fun, or turn our computers off, hide under the kitchen table and get started on all that stale bread we’ve accumulated in preparation for the SLapocalypse!
…On the other hand:
We probably don’t have a thing to worry about – in fact, i’ll go out on a limb here and say nothing worth mentioning has changed at all. Certainly, if you own a huge chain of stores or a big chunk of the virtual SLandmass and most of your worldly income is tied up in virtual assets, you might want your lawyer to cast their eyes over the new terms, but for the majority of us, SLife will go on very much as usual, only without the SLex. (Only joking – not that i’d notice anyway!). It won’t be the end of the virtual world as we know it, and we’ll have forgotten all about it in plenty of time for when the next scandal arrives on the scene for us to get all uptight about.
If we take the luxury of a virtual step back and indulge in just a little objectivity, then the most likely explanation for the new TOS is simply that LL is doing a spot of housekeeping: moving things about a bit to make room for the new aspects of their business and tightening up on anything that could possibly ever result in them getting sued into oblivion.
The TOS is no different to any other Terms of Business, T&Cs or EULA – it’s not there for our protection and benefit, (seriously, you didn’t think it was, did you?), but entirely for the benefit of the company. Like all such things, it tries to encompass every possible scenario, from every possible angle – and i do mean every possible scenario – remember the nuclear weapons clause in the i-Tunes T&C?Ultimately, we’re left with a document that is largely useless to the end user: unwieldy, subject to interpretation, verbose, obtuse, woolly and which can be as fluid as the company it belongs to wishes it to be. These documents have only three purposes in life…
1 – to keep lawyers in business;
2 – to keep businesses in business;
3 – to encourage us to mind our own business.
If you want to read anything into them, or think it’s possible to make sense of them, then good luck to you – because, unless you have a law degree, a fully-fledged legal team behind you, all the time in the world and pots of money, you’re not going to have a banana’s chance in a monkey forest of succeeding.
TOS, or no TOS, Linden own the software; they own the hardware; they own the concept and, QED they own us. In exactly the same way that a landowner in sl has the sacrosanct right to boot or ban anyone they choose, without reason, LL can take their toys home any time they want and tell us they aren’t playing with us anymore – they have that right, even without the TOS, because sl belongs, ultimately to them.
The new TOS is – sort of, if you’re into that sort of thing – intriguing, but it’s also very boring, and so – please forgive me – is the fever pitch of consternation that’s raging around it.
Personally, i couldn’t give a hoot – so, if you’re looking for me, you’ll find me inworld: doing something much more important…
All I want is the best for our lives my dear,
and you know my wishes are sincere.
What’s to say for the days I cannot bear
Beirut – A Sunday Smile