Barney Boomslang

Living a Second Life. In a Treehouse.

Freebies, Reselling, Second Hand and Licenses

A problem that crops up every now and then – is it ok to resell freebies? Is Second Hand selling ok? Is there a way to enforce licenses? Several people in discussions reduce it to the three little checkboxes we have in the SL edit tools: copy/mod/trans. Check off the trans, they say. But what if your idea of licensing doesn’t map directly to the checkboxes? Some people seem to think that freebie builders inflict their crap on the market – a funny thought to an old GNU like me. So this is my personal view on all this – and of course it’s completely subjective from someone who is in the free software area for quite a lot of years now (and there is a reason why I say “free software” and not “open source”).

So what is it – are we limited to anything we can express in the little three checkboxes? Which would essentially mean we are limited to the equivalent of the BSD license – all open. Or to proprietary freebies – where you take away rights from the users in sharing modifications (by switching off trans or switching off copy).

My own freebies – for now the giant snake avatar and the two variants on the airship – are put out under a Creative Commons License. I use the Attribution-Share-Alike variant. So yes, it’s absolutely ok to mod my stuff, build your own on it, even to resell it. But what is not ok would be to say you built it (and so not attributing me for my work) – this is usually taken care of by the creator field in an object (except when you provide the root prim, in which case it would be appropriate to write something into your documentation). And it would not be ok to limit the rights of your users on stuff that you built based on my stuff – derivative work.

There is absolutely no way to enforce this second restriction – I can’t allow unrestricted modification and transfer, but on the same account restrict closing down rights for the next user. There is no “rights of next owner excludes the right to change the rights for the over-next user”. So should I stick to it and forget about the idea of share-alike? It would be what those tech-heads think …

Well, as the original author I allways have actions on my own I can do. For example someone sells stuff done by me, with reduced rights? Well, tell his customers what he does – it will spread, it won’t be good for him. Someone built derivative work and closes it down? Make it public, write about it. Make the modification yourself and put out your own thing as a freebie again, essentially killing his business. And if it is a rather bad case, a DMCA notice will do it’s job, too – just because there is no matching checkbox doesn’t say you don’t have the rights to put your own restricitons and rules in. Freebies aren’t law-free area (it’s much like with digital products in RL – you can’t just take a photograph made by someone else and resell copies of it without risking a DMCA notice, even though technically it is impossible to prevent this reselling, it’s still against law).

But allways keep one thing in mind, if you make freebies under open licenses: the guy ripping off people isn’t ripping off you – he is ripping off his customers. So tell them – they are the ones to be pissed, they are the ones to call for consequences. Not you – if you let out your freebie, it is there to stay and take on a life of it’s own. There will allways be the smartass some day who thinks to make the quick buck (or linden) on your freebie. If you are scared by that, better don’t go into the freebie-zone. Every thing you do has risks – and it’s the risk of freebies, that someone tries to make the quick linden on them. That doesn’t make this actions against your license any more legal – but it’s something you should keep in mind, should be prepared for.

Keep in mind why you do freebies: not to prevent others to do something, but to enable others to do something. Enabling others to learn from what you give out or to start their own stuff based on your work is more worth than preventing someone to ride your train without a chip – at least it should be, because if not, what are you doing in the freebie-zone?

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Written by barney

November 9, 2006 at 14:09

Posted in Second Life

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