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Open letter to SL Artists

Dear Artists of both lives,

If you can read this (originally in SL notecard format) then you have tacitly agreed to the Linden Labs, Second Life Terms of Service. Sections 3.2 and 3.3 are of significant consequence to anyone uploading or creating original fine art content.

Here’s a question:

What if the fine art you make in SL suddenly through the simple fact of existing in SL, suddenly lost important aspects of your ownership of this original content?

In the Aho Museum on NMC Campus there are reproductions of works by important 20th century artists. Each one of these images required the uploader to purchase rights to use these simple reproductions of photographs (now 2 gens from the original). This is because they are considered original content covered by United States copyright law. It is both ethical and lawful to license the images before you can use them in public context.

If you make original fine art content in Second Life (with RL and SL for SL and RL) shouldn’t you have the same rights to manage your intellectual property as those modernist masters do? YES. A publication or museum displaying that work is required by law to purchase rights to display any reproduction of the original artwork. If licensing is required for digital reproductions of photographs that themselves are reproductions, original content in SL deserves the same respect.

Put another way, it is unethical and illegal to photograph someone’s original painting in EITHER life and publish it witout your permission and a byline.

Another importnant point is that selling copies of that same original painting dilutes your rights, and the value of your work with every impression. Why would a serious art collector purchase something that can not appreciate in value like an original artwork will in either life? Doubters will cite the practice of printing photographs in RL and the reproducibility of digital formats. This is a misdirection. It is the nature of a photograpy to be reproduced and reprinted. But not all art in either life is photography is it?

The Bottom Line:

Art in Second Life is the same as art in First Life with regard to your ownership rights. That is why they call it First Life. Laws and ethics don’t just go away when you log on. The art you make here is not somehow tainted by the medium any more than painting or bronze. It is not “play art”, or the simulation of art, or innately less original because it was created in SL and not in your FL studio. Your work has value, historical significance and you have rights to own the work and manage it wisely.

Second Life Terms of Service, section 3.2 is as bad for business as it is for the individual. It devalues art and marginalizes artist’s rights and worst of all it is an economic prejudice against fine artist commerce in a capital economy. Fine Art is good for business in Second Life and employs more and more people every day.

All of the modes of expression in Second Life bring people enjoyment. Some modes grow faster than others like Gambling, Porno and Retail. All great things that make us happy. However modes like Fine Art, Dance, Theater take longer to grow and prosper. These things will grow as the culture in SL grows, however with institutional hobbling in the areas of intellectual property rights, these modes don’t stand a chance. So please read the Terms of Service ( and see what YOU think they mean.

DanCoyote Antonelli =