Your life in their hands?

jpiseTomorrow’s the big day! To be honest, i’m not particularly bothered about the gruesomeness of being sliced open, having a surgeon poke around inside me and play about with retractors, bone saws and scalpels – to such people, it’s no big deal and all in a day’s work, in much the same way as space walks are all in a day’s work for astronauts, and stacking the components of a Big Mac are pretty much second nature to a McD’s burger flipper. The one thing that does slightly worry me though is how the hell do you wear one of those ridiculous paper hospital gowns – the ones slit right down the back – without revealing your all and sundries to all and sundry?

Hopefully, this time tomorrow it’ll all be over and done with and i’ll be floating around in that strange world, midway between anaethesia and pain – unless, of course, i happen to die under the anaesthetic, in which case, if you don’t hear from me soon, expect the worst!

hospital2_001It’s hardly surprising that thinking along these lines has brought a long-running Brit TV show to mind, a programme rather endearingly titled ‘Your Life In Their Hands‘, in which the world of surgery, surgeons and patients is explored in glorious detail. The one episode that stands out for me, was the brain surgery guy – fascinating stuff, but i wouldn’t click the link if you’re squeamish!

Brains are funny things… squelchy, rubbery things, if that video clip is anything to go by, and it’s surprising what bizzare connections they can conjure up when your thoughts are somewhere else entirely. Mine is particularly susceptible to such peculiarisms. On this occasion, it was the phrase ‘your life in their hands’ that got me thinking, and i’m very much afraid, that the end result will be both distasteful and unpopular to some of you. Worse still, i’m going to be expressing an opinion about something that i had every intention to steer well clear of… the ongoing debate about the new(ish) Linden Lab TOS.

anarchy3_001If you’ve no idea what’s been raging all over the metaverse in the past few weeks, i can only raise a surprised eyebrow and direct you to almost any blog, forum or message board even remotely connected to sl, where you’ll find a wealth of useful, useless, dubious and downright weird information on the subject. Off you go now…

Back? Great! Let’s proceed.

The main thrust of this whole lumbering behemoth of an argument is the simple, but vexed, question over ownership of rights to intellectual and/or virtual property, which despite all the to-ing and fro-ing, supposition and interpretation, huffing and puffing, pistols at dawn, and ‘my dad is bigger than your dad, (and he’s got a law degree and knows what he’s on about, so there!)’ one-upmanship, we seem to me to have missed one enormous great, completely incontrovertible point!

That simple, but ultimately unavoidable truth, can be briefly stated as this: it doesn’t matter how creative, imaginative or clever we are; neither does it matter how much time, effort and energy we expend on creating something; it doesn’t matter how fervently we might argue we ‘own’ something in sl… We don’t. We never did. At best, we can claim ownership of a concept, but that’s about it.

Let me allude to an old tale told about the scientists and God:

‘One day a bunch of scientits with ideas above their station decided to take on God at his own game.

“Hey Big G!” They said, “You think you’re all cool and stuff just because you can create life from the dust of the earth, well we’re not impressed – that’s easy peasy, lemon squeezy… give us a bit of funding and we’ll have no problem doing the self-same thing!”

“Oh, really”, says God, gathering up a handful of the dust of the earth and fashioning it into a curvy young blonde. “Go on then, let’s see what you’ve got.”

“Yeah, no problem!”, replied the scientits, gathering up a big pile of dust themselves.

“Oh no you don’t”, thundered God: “That’s my dust… you can just go and make your own dust, and then you can show me what you’ve got!”

'The Vitruvian Avatar' - The Gallery, Nowhere Land

‘The Vitruvian Avatar’ – The Gallery, Nowhere Land

Let me put it another way: If i invite you round to my pad for supper and give you free reign to use my kitchen, and you decide to make the sandwich to put all other sandwiches to shame, using my bread, my butter, my cuts of meat, my salad, my cutlery, my electricity and my plates, then who exactly owns that sandwich? Me, of course; and there’s absolutely nothing to stop me doing whatever the hell i want with it, no matter how much time and creative effort you’ve put into making it. If i want to eat it, you can’t stop me, neither can you stop me throwing it in the bin, sharing it with my friends or wrapping it in cling film and selling it to the highest bidder. Now, if you’d brought your own bread, fillings and culinary equipment, it would be an altogether different matter, but you used my stuff – it belongs to me.

You can argue that you own the intellectual rights to that sandwich – fine, please feel free to go and make copies in your own kitchen, with your own ingredients any time… you can even try copywriting your creation if you want – it still doesn’t change the fact that i own that sandwich, sat upon my kitchen worktop… it’s mine, all mine!

This, folks, is where we stand with Linden Lab we ‘make’ things using their servers, their paltform, their technical expertise and – ultimately – their money, so in the virtual kitchen, who exactly owns this particular sandwich? Similarly, the Lab owns – and, for the sake of argument, created – the virtual dust of the earth out of which we create our own items; it’s not ours, it never was.

“Aha!”, i hear you say, “but what about all that Photoshop and Blender stuff I uploaded into sl – they don’t own that!” – true, but they do own the copy which they never asked you to give them, that you insisted they have: the one that’s sitting on their servers at their expense, taking advantage of their Marketplace and their userbase. It’s no different to starting a production line in sandwiches and getting your local deli to sell them for you – you give them a license to sell them and it’s pretty much up to them what they do with them. The same is true if they go bust – you’re not having your sandwiches back – nor are you going to benefit if they get taken over by MacSandwich King. The only way to hang on to your property is to create, market and vend it yourself, but even then, if it’s that good, someone somewhere is going to steal your idea, slap their own logo on it and made a pile of money from the proceeds.

Hey, maybe i’m wrong – i’m no lawyer – but i still reckon i’m right about the sandwich!

s. x

Roses in the hospital
This century achieved so much
Roses in the hospital
To make a voice no voice at all
Manic Street Preachers – Roses In The Hospital

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This entry was posted in Linden Love, Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Your life in their hands?

  1. /me cries CHICKEN! First you make us feel sorry for you, then you open a (virtual) world class can of worms!!!
    Let me be the first to give it a try: The product of my brain is my property unless someone is paying for my brainpower. That is the central premise of “intellectual property”. I can, of course choose to give it away. What LL has done is said that by uploading anything into, or creating anything in SL, we have given it to them to do with as they please. Hewie! Flies in the face of “Your World, Your Imagination”.

    • p.s. Get better soon, we WILL worry until we know you are back home with most of your parts in order.

      • You are, of course, absolutely right… but, on the other hand, the Lab would argue that this is not their intention and that the the whole debate is a matter of semantics. What meaning the Lab may attribute to the TOS, they say, is at variance with how content creators and providers have interepreted it to be. And who knows, how the lawyers may interpret it, if ever the need arose? i’m pretty sure LL – if they ever do clarify the position – would say the new terms are there to protect IP our rights, even though this appears counter-intuitive… i can just see them arguing ‘well, you wouldn’t want us passing on your work to Desura, without your permission, would you?’ – the fact that providing ‘permission’ is pretty much mandatory in this case, since there’s no way of bypassing our agreement to the TOS without completely absenting ourselves from sl leave us in a Catch 22 position – we can’t win. As always, any agreement, terms of service or code of conduct is ultimately put in place to protect the provider… what do our concerns matter, as long as the Lab is safe?
        Thank you for your good wishes – i’m home and well, a few extra pains and pills, but apart from that, i’m fine.
        s. x

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