Saturday, October 5, 2013

Farewell LEA

A 20 region build using only the cube
     A few CEO's of Linden Lab ago I was asked to be part of a committee whose goal was to
encourage the arts in Second Life.  I was, and am, a bit of a hermit so had no real desire to be involved.  But one thing I do try to do is promote virtual art when I can, so I accepted.  The original group, for those of you who might be interested,  was AM Radio, Bryn Oh, Bettina Tizzy, Chantal Harvey, Dancoyote Antonelli, Dekka Raymaker, Jayjay Zinfanwe, L1Aura Loire, Sasun Steinbeck and Werner Kurosawa.  Bettina Tizzy resigned almost immediately when Linden Lab said they would not allow megaprims on LEA land... you remember megaprims?  AM Radio, Chantal Harvey, Dekka Raymaker, L1Aura Loire, Sasun Steinbeck and Dancoyote Antonelli all left over time for varying reasons with only JayJay, Werner and myself remaining from the original group.

   The original members were given nine regions to work with and pretty much Linden Lab just left us alone to set it up.  We began planning out what to do and learned how to create an arts council.  None of us were experts and so had to learn how to create an efficient and fair committee.  People like Rowan Derryth, DanCoyote Antonelli and PatriciaAnne Daviau were key organizational people in those areas.  Others like Sasun Steinbeck and later Solo Mornington were instrumental in creating all the web infrastructure etc.  Later we approached Linden Lab and its shareholders and they agreed to give us 20 more regions which we then gave to artists to create content.

     Over time we brought in different advisors who came and left.  Dizzy Banjo, Zachh Cale, Chantal Harvey and Rowan Derryth.   The current LEA is comprised of JayJay Zinfanwe, Werner Kurosawa, Oberon Onmurra, Chic Aeon, Honour McMillan, PatriciaAnne Daviau, Lapiscean Liberty, Quan Lavender and Solo Mornington.  A nice mix of artists, academics, bloggers/media, planners and tech people.

    After the new TOS came out I had to decide if I still felt comfortable being associated with the LEA, not the members but rather the concept.  One thing I do in both first life and Second Life is try to convince artists that they and their art are worth something.  You see, artists are quite often taken advantage of.  People will pay a plumber to fix a sink or a roofer to fix a roof because it is a skill they do not possess themselves, and they accept and recognize that.  However, most people also can not paint pictures as an example, yet they will suggest that it would be great "exposure" to put things in their Law Office or Hotel.  When I was just out of art school I was convinced to do 25 pen and ink drawings for an expensive coffee table book.. for "exposure".  They thanked me in the back of the book.  And somehow I felt like they did me a favour.  They probably paid everyone else but me.

     Along the way the confidence of some artists can be beaten down to the level where they don't really believe what they do has value.   Many people believe that artists shouldn't take money or they will lose their "purity".  It's silly.  I mean really, a painter may create a family portrait that goes on a persons wall giving them and their family joy.  That painting can be passed down through generation after generation for around 400 years if taken care of properly and the original was done with quality paints and support structure.  So they really can't provide an artist with a bit of money similar to other skilled trades so they can continue doing this?  Grand Theft Auto just came out and made $800 million in a single day.  The vast majority of the employees for that game company are artists, and they didn't do it for exposure.  Hollywood's biggest movie this year has been Iron Man 3 at around $400 million for its entire showing.  That also has quite a few artists involved.  They also didn't do it for exposure.  Without the creatives neither of these would exist.  Linden Lab doesn't build the world the residents enjoy.  The give us the ground we stand upon and then try to make it work properly with varying degrees of success.  Their virtual world is built by its users and without content creators there is no second life.  They have an easily measurable value to the product.  Content creators in general appreciate what Linden Lab have created for us, and they don't demand much.  The population appreciates them.

     I have seen many times over my years in SL a media outlet writing a derogatory and poorly researched article on Second Life.  I have seen residents, who a moment before were complaining bitterly about Linden Lab, suddenly stand up loyally en mass to chastise the media outlet with thousands of comments in defense of their virtual world.   Much of the community, though rarely admitted, feel or felt that SL is a unique little niche in technology that they are a part of, and they feel a kinship of sorts with Linden Lab for creating it.  It is quite remarkable that SL has lasted ten years when most virtual worlds die out quite rapidly.   The reason is not the graphics nor exciting game play but rather the community itself.  Linden Lab have, over time, been determined to distance themselves from the community by removing support for community events and such.   They decided at some point that is it better for us to have a self sufficient community and to just be the provider of a platform.  The new TOS is strictly a business decision made by a company whose employees generally have far less experience with the virtual world than the average citizen of that world.  The proof is in the Firestorm viewer made by residents vs the Official viewer made by Linden Lab.

 The Path
 The Path is an Exquisite Corpse narrative created by virtual world artists. They were by order of scene.. Bryn Oh, Colin Fizgig, Marcus Inkpen, Desdemona Enfield, Douglas Story, Maya Paris, Claudia222 Jewell, Scottius Polke and Rose Borchovski.

The artists were given a random order and upon composing a short narrative would then pass it on to the following artist in the sequence who would then add to it and continue passing it on until reaching the final artist.

     In the LEA there are a few who feel Linden Lab are justified in owning everything.  They argue that we can complain all we want but Linden Lab wont care.  That might be true.  Others say we shouldn't fight Linden Lab because our work only exists due to their platform, if they closed it then we would be hurting ourselves...  so essentially lets not rock the boat.  Some are completely quiet on the topic.  Others like Chic Aeon are quite annoyed over the new TOS and Honour, Patricia and Solo seem critical of LL.  Though I never got along with Dancoyote Antonelli I must admit he would be fighting LL vigorously if he were still part of the LEA.  Anyway, long story short I have decided to resign from the Linden Endowment for the Arts due to the current TOS.  If they rolled it back I would return perhaps, if the door were still open, and would work to promote and encourage the arts in virtual worlds, but I don't expect they will.

     As it stands now I don't feel comfortable luring artists into creating content for Linden Labs who can pretty much do whatever they want with it.  I will take the risk with my own content but I wont encourage others to do so.  For example, if you developed a revolutionary method for treating people with Schizophrenia by using specific techniques combining art, original music and the virtual space then built or demonstrated it in SL, it would no longer be yours exclusively.  Linden Lab could scoop it up and put their money behind it, while you struggled to promote it from your basement.  The TOS is at the bottom for you to view.  It is just another indignity artists and thinkers must suffer and I don't want to be a part of it.  People say "Oh but Facebooks TOS is just as bad" as though that is a reason for us all to just roll over and expose our bellies.   I don't honestly believe Linden Lab would do these terrible, immoral things yet they have not explained anything to the community.  They have not said "Oh hey I can see how it looks alarming but really we just need that wording to help us market the product easier etc ect.. and we needed to add "sell" and "re-sell" to the wording for this reason.."  Do you want to sell our content through Desura your new digital distribution acquisition as some have speculated?  If so then explain and share and you might have a willing partner.  But right now there is a lot of speculation, distrust and no clarification.

     Banks pretend to love us individually when we all know that we are just account numbers.  Linden Lab is currently straddling that awareness with one side of the precipice a big smile not seen in the eyes and the other the chance to show they appreciate the concerns of the community.. that they are the Linden Lab some of us still remember.  If they adjust the TOS then simply put, they still appreciate us and have listened.  If they don't then its business as usual and fuck the community and their wants.  They saw that Facebook users raised a cry of outrage over that TOS yet they desired the service more than they were willing to make a stand by leaving.  Lets watch.  If in a few weeks they still have not addressed the concerns from the community then perhaps its time we preserve our avatar names in other virtual worlds as well.  Cloud Party has sent me some really nice emails lately and they are advancing rapidly with unique features.  I have a Bryn Oh there now.  Inworldz is a user focused version of SL.  I have a Bryn Oh there now too.  Perhaps spend an hour in a different virtual world each week.  Check out Kitely and Opensim in general, make an account so nobody else gets your SL name which everyone knows you by.  Hopefully it is all just a big misunderstanding and we can be reassured that our ideas and content are safely our own even if they need to claim partial ownership for legitimate yet not obvious reasons.
   Here are some of the events that I curated for the LEA over the years I was there.  I wish good luck to the remaining members and may they lead the art community to bigger and better things.

The Avatar Games 
With thanks to Crap Mariner, Honour McMillan
Galea and Sasun Steinbeck for their help

 The Cube Project (Bryn's portion)

Bryn Oh, Cajska Carlsson, Charlotte Bartlett, Dancoyote Antonelli, Giovanna Cerise,  Haveit Neox, Kicca Igaly, L1Aura Loire, London Junkers,  Maya Paris, Misprint Thursday, Nessuno Myoo, Oberon Onmura, PatriciaAnne Daviau, Pixels Sideways, Pol Jarvinen, Rag Randt, Rowan Derryth, Sea Mizin, Secret Rage, Solkide Auer, Remington Aries, Solo Mornington,  Tony Resident, Werner Kurosawa and Xineohp Guisse.

Further Along the Path (Bryn's portion)

 The Path is an Exquisite Corpse narrative created by virtual world artists. They were by order of scene..
Glyph Graves, paramparamm Papp, Alpha Auer, Bryn Oh, Oberon Onmura, 
Eupalinos Ugajin, Ux Hax, romy Nayar and Ub Yifu.

The artists were given a random order and upon composing a short narrative would then pass it on to the following artist in the sequence who would then add to it and continue passing it on until reaching the final artist.

Except as otherwise described in any Additional Terms (such as a contest’s official rules) which will govern the submission of your User Content, you hereby grant to Linden Lab, and you agree to grant to Linden Lab, the non-exclusive, unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, and cost-free right and license to use, copy, record, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, re-sell, sublicense (through multiple levels), modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same. You agree that the license includes the right to copy, analyze and use any of your Content as Linden Lab may deem necessary or desirable for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service. The license granted in this Section 2.3 is referred to as the “Service Content License.

[21:29] Bære (semaj.ivanovic): LL TOS would have been much shorter if it just said MINE! MINE! MINE! ALL MINE!

BTW a new group was recently created called United Content Creators of SL which you are welcome to join if this cause interests you.

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