Ekphrasis: The Conservation of Virtual Art

Detail of The Rabbicorn Story by Bryn Oh. Photo by PJ Trenton.

EDIT (1-17): The cat is FINALLY out of the bag! Bryn has launched a crowd-sourcing fund, and Peter Greenaway was the first donor – covering 6 months of tier! Won’t you join him in being her patron? Click here!


I’ve been stewing on this one a while, and had planned to make a lengthy, hopefully thought-provoking post, but lack of time and recent developments have prompted to make this short and sweet (which might be to the readers’ benefit).

Linden Lab needs to do more to support and preserve virtual art.

Detail of The Rabbicorn Story by Bryn Oh. Photo by PJ Trenton.

Now, before I explain, let me make the disclaimer that these are my views and not necessarily those of Prim Perfect’s. My views not as a writer about a virtual world some see as a game, but as a ‘real life’ (whatever that is) art historian, curator, and arts administrator.

I think the Lab has made an excellent start on this through the foundation of the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA), whereby they have turned over 20 sims to a community board for the purpose of art. This is great.

Detail of The Rabbicorn Story by Bryn Oh. Photo by PJ Trenton.

But I don’t think this is enough. We are losing some amazing work. We all know this. Bettina Tizzy wrote about this well before my time at her NPIRL blog. And I have for a very long time felt strongly that it would be in the best interest of everyone if Linden Lab created some kind of programme – a Foundation or something – to try and archive some of this work.

Don’t ask me exactly how this would work, though I have some ideas. Obviously it would be limited; should be decided by committee (like the LEA); and there should be some grant application process for getting in. It should NOT be for commercial sims, as lovely as some builds are. I wouldn’t exclude artists who sell work to try to support themselves; but rather businesses whose primary function is commercial. So, for example, NEMO would have been the kind of place eligible.

Detail of The Rabbicorn Story by Bryn Oh. Photo by PJ Trenton.

So I’ve been thinking about this, chatting about it with friends and colleagues, and thought I’d ultimately put together some more concrete ideas. But just this week, Bryn Oh made a post related to the recent closing of Immersiva, in which she announced that she and sim partner Kiana Writer (of Madpea) wrote a sponsorship request to Linden Lab after their patron, Dusan Writer vanished from the grid (my choice of words). I haven’t asked Bryn directly about this, but word on the virtual street is they logged in to find the sim gone, and their things returned. And this while Bryn was in the midst of crafting her machinima project on the Rabbicorn Cycle (I’ve posted pictures of one of the installations throughout this piece). What a panicked night that must have been! (And Bryn, please correct me if the rumourmill has this wrong).

The request for sponsorship was declined by Linden Lab… and this may surprise some, but I think that was the right decision. As Bryn herself said, it would have set a problematic precedent, and as well, I think it would have been unfair to the many other talented artists who pay for their studios and galleries.

Detail of The Rabbicorn Story by Bryn Oh. Photo by PJ Trenton.

Yet if Linden Lab had a programme like I suggest, artist could apply when unfortunate circumstances like these arise; or even be nominated by the community. I said as much in a comment on Bryn’s blog, to which she replied:

You are right Rowan and I think LL should give a lifetime achievement region each year to a deserving person with the first one being given to AM Radio. Considering that their own collect the crystals game thing uses a dozen sims that alone would be 12 years of awards. What I would be happy with is a public statement by Linden Labs saying that should Second Life ever need to close, they will allow residents to leave with our inventories so that we may go settle on another grid. I think just the peace of mind that would create for residents would spur both the economy and creativity.

Extremely crucial points, and part of why I am so concerned about the conservation of this work. Yes, I realise that a good and viable solution is to simply go to another grid. But there are two problems with that: there is still a very active arts community in Second Life (and I mean more than artists, but collectors and good ol’ fashioned art-lovers too); and moving to another grid doesn’t help the work that has already been crafted in SL.

Detail of The Rabbicorn Story by Bryn Oh. Photo by PJ Trenton.

Now, I would very much be in favour, as a temporary solution, of Bryn making use of one of those 20 LEA sims. However, those have already been promised to artists who made project proposals for them. And lest anyone think Bryn feels she is somehow outside of that, let me quote another comment: ‘Unfortunately I am part of the LEA committee so it would look pretty shady for me to get any LEA land.’

She is a fair and humble person, and I don’t think her asking the Lindens for support makes her any less so. It is what artists have to do in this day and age–ask, sometimes beg, for patronage. Especially the great ones. And I think Bryn’s work is tops, and I know I’m not alone in saying that. And I’m glad she made the request, even if I think having it granted would have been unfair, because it opens up this conversation in a way that is vital to so many.

Detail of The Rabbicorn Story by Bryn Oh. Photo by PJ Trenton.

What do you think? Should Linden Lab do more to not just support, but preserve art in Second Life? Should they work to create a foundation for it, make ‘gifts-in-kind’ grants to artists (a tax write off for them!) Should they create a ‘National Gallery’ of Second Life.

I mean, it’s just disc space, isn’t it?

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  1. What I do not understand is the lack of understanding at Linden Lab that doesn’t recognize that things like Bryn’s “Rabbicorn” and other similar works, along with the Edus, are worth their prim-space in positive publicity and word-of-mouth interest.

    Yes, they have sims now through LEA to showcase, but how about things like the Lost Gardens of Apollo or Rabbicorn that take some time to be recognized for the depth and breadth of them? Too soon the stage is swept clear for the next round of offerings and becomes a transient flavor-of-the-month carousel.

    1. I don’t understand that either, Miso. Especially when they have a rep for pron, I’d think they’d want to focus a little PR energy on the amazing creative aspects.

      I guess the point I wanted to drive is that I think Linden Lab made a fair decision based on the situation as it stands. I think there should have already been something in place that Bryn (and others) could have applied for to help conserve their work. That there is no thought towards this, after eight years, is I think pretty shameful.

  2. yes there is some support of the arts with in second life through Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) I think there are around 25 sims there. So one can hardly say LL is not supporting of the arts, these sims are provided for free. Of course the unfortunate part is you need to be “FIC” to get an installation there, it is only for the privledged & is somewhat controversual provoking mixed coment amongst the art community

    1. Cania: as I said in the article, it is 20 sims for art, and yes, it is decided by a committee of the community (which Bryn is part of, and you can see the whole list here: http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Linden_Lab_Official:Linden_Endowment_for_the_Arts_Committee). I failed to mention, however, the LEA full sim art series, which changes every month and has some amazing displays (such as the one I recently wrote about by Havit Neox).

      That is a pretty good (and diverse) group of people who know the arts in SL very well, in my opinion. And it is also understandable that, with only 20 sims, getting one was competitive. I’m not sure where people are getting the idea that it is ‘only for the privileged’ since there was a bid process that was extremely fair. But for those who aren’t clear, they had an application process (and as any practising artist knows, you’ve got to be able to write about your projects well to compete!), and judging by the list of successful applicants (http://lindenarts.blogspot.com/2011/11/announcing-winners-of-lea-land-grants.html) the selection committee did a great job. There are well-known artists there, as well as others not-so-well known, and individuals who are working on more educational projects as well. I can see where people might be disappointed if their bid wasn’t successful, but to me, there is a reason why artists like Misprint Thursday and Glyph Graves are on there: their work is cutting edge; and the popularity of it is due to its merit, not because they are ‘cool kids’.

  3. I think this sort of sad situation should be motivation for truly creative and talented people to seek out free viritual space outside the confines and problems of Second Life. If Second Life doesn’t want to push artists in that direction … then they need to rethink how they are preserving builds that inspire and attract in world.

    My partner and I have been happily building with no payments to anyone… no limit on prims… and albeit less traffic… in a creatively satisfying environment in opensim grid. We have been touring other lands and finding inspiration to attract us and more and more people present.

    I am not sure where Second LIfe sees itself going… but it seems to be on a path of alienating the very people it should be keeping happy.

    We still keep a small plot in SL… hoping there will be some positive shift… but we don’t invest too energy or creativity for now.

    1. Thanks for your comment Eileen. I know this is a possible solution, but as I said, it doesn’t help the work that has already been created, not the active community that already exists.

      I think it is great that you have been working in opensim grid, but I’m curious (and genuinely asking): who sees your work? How accessible is it? Is this important to you?

      The issue of accessibility of virtual art is a whole other problem (which yes, I am stewing on), but there is something about the relative popularity of SL (and I stress the word relative) which makes this a slightly easier option. There is an in-built audience–and one who wants to see the work stay.

      1. Personally for me, I about creative process more than product… but I know that is not where everyone is. I don’t create to be seen…however… it is nice to be seen and have people enjoy your builds… I create them with the concept that someone may enjoy them … but also just for the joy and pleasure of creating.

        We would like to share with more people…. and the bottom line is …the more people that access opensimgrid… the more we can all share. If it grows… it becomes more viable as center for virtual art.

        Accessibility is one thing… how accessible is it for all artists with the cost associated with creating in SL? To me another aspect of accessibility is having low cost opportunity to learn and create. SL is easier, no doubt…if you can pay.

        There is a learning curve and it is an adjustment and there is bound to be culture shock… but once you acclimate you can have a lot of fun and freedom with no fear of our most frequent SL mishap…where your whole build gets thrown back in your inventory because the automated tier calculator of the landowner made a mistake.

        There are some beautiful creations already in opensimgrid. I do not know the artists personally but it seems they are creating from passion and true love for the medium.

        As for the work already created…it is true, not much of a solution to go to something like opensimgrid…. the artists would have to try to recreate …and that would be a lot of work. Or they could just let the process take them and create new work… 🙂

  4. When the LEA first was formed we proposed an archiving plan to Linden Labs as a means to preserve art. To be fair I recall the Lindens we spoke to were quite interested in the idea but then they passed on the proposal to their battalion of Linden Lawyers and they felt there were risks involved should LL possess the work of residents even with their approval. One of the options we had for the LEA endowments was a heritage sim proposal. Essentially if a resident was able to bring back a classic sim then they would be considered for land. So for example Greenies, Black Swan, something from Baron Greyson, Nemo etc. Unfortunately there are a bunch of little and some big problems with getting that done. For one many artists leave SL angry and wouldn’t agree to give away work. Anything from Rezzable like Greenies or Black Swan would never come back unless purchased. I tried to get in touch with Sextan Shepherd about Nemo or even to be a part of the Path but in both cases he didn’t respond. Can’t do much if someone doesn’t reply. A talented builder named Wizard Glynoid brought up the same idea for preserving Primtings. I said that if Wizard was able to get the proper permissions from all involved then I would champion the idea to the LEA committee. Problem is that first she would have had to get Ina Centaur to agree to give her Primtings. Next she would have to get permission from all the artist involved to give their work. It is a bit of a daunting task to accomplish.
    I think that, unfortunately, serious artists are going to just have to make two copies of everything. One for Second Life and one for another grid that lets you keep and transfer your own work around. The problem is that if I were to, for example, bring my Anna’s Many Murders build to OSgrid or another I would have to retexture the entire 15k prims If I understand correctly. And I have several builds of that size. It would be months of work just to transfer and repair them. Personally I would be happiest if Linden Labs were to simply allow us to take our inventories with us should they ever close down. If they did close then they shouldn’t care if we populate other competing grids with content. We would also have the peace of mind knowing that all our work would not suddenly cease to exist, but then that idea would have to get past the Linden lawyers.

    1. Thanks Bryn – I really appreciate all of that insight. And I agree with the idea of letting you take your work with you. It is an interesting dilemma in terms of intellectual property.

      I really wonder what the exact issue the lawyers saw was. I’m going to have to think on this one a bit.

  5. There should certainly be a legitimate mechanism for exporting your own works. Ignoring any lack of technical solution for a moment, the legal status of that work is itself interesting. Can the lab actually deny you the right to export? You have not only established creative ownership but also paid them for their services in storing them. A naive thought I am sure.

    We hear so much of cloud computing be it the amazon grid or Googles app servers. The ability to “spin up” on demand services on virtual machines, a cheap and efficient solution to products with sporadic usage. It is not beyond the ability of those in control of the LEA servers to allow some of them to be used as temporary displays. Visitors could potentially pick an artwork from the catalogue and it could be created within a few hours from the archives. A few hours later it could be replaced by another’s request.

    The archival of digital works is “only disc space” may be over simplifying matters but ultimately it is not far form the truth. We are nowt but data.

    In a real life museum, as a visitor you are often seeing a fraction of the exhibits the museum holds. They lack the resources to display them all simultaneously, SL is no different in this regard. It is, of course, unrealistic to hope that all that is beautiful in SL be preserved, running live and explorable forever more. But preserving those works in digital stasis, in the virtual basement so to speak, is not beyond us. What an incredible museum we wold have; a curator’s dream, no doubt. On demand exhibits from an endless catalogue of works.

    Wherenow is the museum of secondlife, the virtual worlds equivalent of the waybackmachine (http://web.archive.org)?

    @Bryn. A number of the grids out there have less than legitimate content, are the pirates retexturing? I doubt it, they are after all talentless crooks. If the tools exist to do the wrong thing, can they be turned to support the legitimate creative community in some way?

    1. Beq, these are great comments. I’ve often thought of the intellectual property legalities, but figured there was some tricky statement in the TOS saying Linden Lab actually owns everything. I haven’t really dug too deeply in to that.

      Love the idea of the ‘virtual museum store’. Lots to think about here.

  6. I think, Beq, you raise a key problem with exporting to other grids – it seems that it should be possible for creators to export their own works … but what if they aren’t entirely their own works? What if they have bought in elements, whether in the form of items, sculpt maps or textures, which only have a licence for use on the Second Life grid, either because of the licence (or permissions) with which they are sold, or because the creator has left the grid and is unable to grant permission for the export of their work?

    Transplanting works to other grids will strip the creators’ name and replace it with the name of the uploader. All very well if the artist is transplanting something that was entirely their own creation, but if that tree that forms an interesting (and perfectly legitimate) element of your Second Life installation is by Lilith Heart, then suddenly, when you move it another grid, it appears to have been created by you.

    This is perhaps less of a problem for artists who create their entire installations – textures, scult maps and all – and many do. It would be a problem (and a penalty) for artists who utlise any assemblage in their work.

    1. In terms of artists who are truly using SL as a creative tool – those who regularly exhibit at the UWA, for example – I can’t think of a single one who plonks a Lilith Heart tree in their installation (or any similar comparison). These artists are by and large making their own textures, scripts, etc., and where they do use others work they have done so with full permission, and are often very conscientious about extending credit. For the artists that I would consider candidates for any kind of archive project, this wouldn’t even be a consideration (and in fact might even be a criteria for acceptance).

      On top of that, any smart content creator is either using their OWN media (textures, sculpts, scripts, etc.), or using those which have full perms licenses, in which case they have full rights to use. And many of these texture/sculpt creators are now moving to outworld purchasing so that one may use their work across platforms (for a slightly higher fee, which is reasonable). I’ve definitely bought textures this way, and then of course my name is on them when I upload – but I’ve paid for the right to do that. So either this problem already exists, or it isn’t really a problem.

      I tend to think the latter.

  7. There are very few artists in SL who make everything themselves .. perhaps as low as 1%. I know many who use pre-made sculpties of bodies or such that show them as the maker but are purchased at full mod sculpty stores. It is assemblage or a type of “ready made” art. I myself don’t always make all my own sounds. Not sure who remembers Rezzable but they were a company that built landmark sims like Greenies or Black Swan. Just before they left SL for their own grid, they created a full sim copybot. It caused a bit of a stir at the time because there was a rumour that they would distribute it freely before they left as a screw you to linden labs. That would have been a terrible blow to SL simply because people could have copied whole regions (a high end fashion shop for example) plopped it down and off they go with a 50% off sale. I did a commission for Rezzable on their private grid and while there I saw works by Light Waves / Starax and Madcow Cosmos but when I clicked on them they said they were all made by RightasRain Rimbauld who used the copy tool to transfer them over. So it changed them all to his name and anything with SL permissions such as no transfer were transferred. Anything no copy was copied and so on. They created the “builder buddy” as an aide for them when moving and I don’t think there was any malicious intent but in the wrong hands it would have been devastating. It would have been extremely handy for me to use if I had one. I have heard that another grid is testing a “snapshot” technique which flawlessly copies and entire sim and the owner is given the file. They can then bring back a full sim build in just a few moments whenever they choose.

    1. This is really insightful, and I remember the situation with the Rimbauld guy.

      I might debate that 1% statistic, however it is a good point to consider that they using full perm resources. I think we have to think about these as your technical media… like paint. Would you credit Windor Newton for a painting? Ok, better comparison… someone makes an original textile, and it then gets purchased and appropriated into another work. It becomes something else. Who is the author? Sculpties and textures are sold like paint – to become something different. Their creators make them for that very purpose. I wouldn’t necessarily call a work an assemblage just because it uses a sculptie. It depends on the end result whether I would classify a work that way.

      I love these problematic question. Good thread 🙂

      1. I’m not sure I would equate the makers of oil paints with texture makers. I’d put the creators of Photoshop and other graphics packages as the “paint-makers”, but when people use those packages to position pixels together, you have an act of creation, even if the creation consists of manipulating a pre-existing image. And many texture makers (and the makers of sculptie maps) do far more than that.

        To some texture makers, it’s a flaw in the way Second Life was devised that their contribution is largely unacknowledged. The basic system allows us to identify the creators of prims, sculpties and scripts, but the names of texture creators are completely obliterated in the creation process. You might say that so too are the names of the journeymen who prepared the intonaco for the masters to paint. But in fact I would argue that a good texture is an important creation, possibly an artistic creation in and of itself.

        Another point about full perms (and one that is very commonly mis-understood, unfortunately) is that full perms relates only to Second Life. As Philip Linden said (in April 2009): “full perms doesn’t mean off-grid, because the creators may well not have understood the implications.” Creators (including artists) may choose to grant permission (although I would rather call it a licence) for creations to be taken to other grids – but there are inherent problems here, which were raised at the time of the Builder Bot row (and people wanting to learn more about that can see the discussions we had on Designing Worlds (http://treet.tv/shows/designingworlds/episodes/ep053 and http://treet.tv/shows/designingworlds/episodes/ep055, as well as this statement from the Not Possible in Real Life group: http://npirl.blogspot.com/2009/07/statement-from-not-possible-irl-group.html).

        The essence is that, as Bryn has suggested, a very high proportion of created content is not the work of one individual. Created content might use textures, sculpts, script, sounds that have been designed by different individuals, and securing permission from all of them to move content to another grid could prove almost impossible. They might have created their content before the concept of other grids was even proposed and subsequently left Second Life. Even if they created content after the existence of other grids was a possibility, the permissions they give apply only to Second Life, unless they explicitly license their products for other grids OR make them available through extra-grid outlets.

        The same, of course, also applies to bringing created content into Second Life, whether it’s textures created by artists that people want to hang on their virtual walls, or content created and licensed through sites such as Renderosity (http://www.renderosity.com/). Many of us remember the Skin Wars – and can also see why Second Life is requiring what is, in effect, a licence to upload mesh. Despite that, we are already seeing stories such as this: http://shoppingcartdisco.com/gossip/tera-content-ripped-and-sold-in-second-life/

        Readers might argue that I am straying from the issue of art here, but the rules governing content creation, permissions and IP rights apply equally to artists.

      2. These are all great points, and highlight what a twisted problem this is. However, I still think you can certainly equate sculpties and textures to being the ‘media’ of making… if you don’t like paint, think of them like screws, bolts, ribbons, coloured or prints papers… a host of other materials which someone, somewhere, had to craft and make functional so that others may use. And I think much of this has to do with intention. The major creators of the items are not selling them with the idea that they are original works that should get credit, but tools for building. They know they will end up as something else. So rather than calling these new works as assemblage, you might call them derivative. And then, if you want to be truly proper about this (and I’m wearing my curatorial hat now) in the ‘media’ or ‘materials’ section of your ‘label’ or in our case ‘notecard’, you might say something like: ‘Sculpture X; mixed virtual media: sculpties by Resident123, and original textures and scripts; (2011)’.

        I am aware of the issue of perms being granted for SL only. However that also gets in to the larger intellectual property issue that Beq mentioned, and as I mentioned, many people are now selling these outworld with their own permissions for use everywhere.

        It boils down to this: in regards to the comment, ‘The essence is that, as Bryn has suggested, a very high proportion of created content is not the work of one individual.’ …well, that can be said for MANY works of art and design in the physical world too. This is a problem I have given much attention to in my own research. How do you credit a collaborative work? What about the many artisans involved, whether in a large studio (think Rubens, Rembrandt, Warhol, Hirst, etc.); or in an architecture or interior (Frank Lloyd Wright, etc.)? You have to draw a very hazy line somewhere.

        This is an especially poignant discussion today of all days, with the SOPA blackout. It is certainly complex, but I would feel very strongly that, as long as an artist (or anyone) has permission, they should be able to export their work.

        But I don’t want to stray too far from the original topic of archiving the work that has already been created, and in danger of being lost. Bryn’s announcement of her crowd-sourcing (and patronage by Peter Greenaway) is fantastic news, but she has worked very hard to gain the following she has to enable this. Many many other talented artists haven’t been as fortunate. What do we do to support these works?

  8. There are several strands of this conversation Id like to comment on first and foremost being the archiving of SL works. This is not just an issue for the SL art community but is fundamental to its acceptance beyond in the wider art world. A couple of years ago I was fortunate to be invited to a digital art workshop where curators of the National Art museum were invited to talk. From their perspective as curators they were excited and interested and very appreciative what was happening in virtual world art but the major stumbling block for them was the lack of archiving and display not just for the short term, the life of the virtual world but in a form that could be kept well beyond the lifespan of the technology/operating systems so that future generations could appreciate what was being done.

    The lack of certainty of the lifespan of art created in SL also has obvious implications regarding the financial viability of virtual art. Not a great issue for me personally as the things I’m making these days I don’t consider to be sell able but it does concern me that if for any reason I should disappear from SL that the pieces I’ve put so much work into would vanish along with my account.

    The issue of Linden Labs attitude to marketing of SL is a separate issue again. Its always puzzled me how LL wants SL to have to popularity of Facebook yet seem to forget in their marketing strategy that Facebook started off as the thinking persons alternative to My Space. Sometimes I get the impression that LL has lost sight of the potential of their own creation and perhaps part of the explanation for this can be found here http://becunningandfulloftricks.com/2011/05/05/railing-against-the-gods-the-unfortunate-metaphor-of-virtual-world-administrators/.

    The question of the use of external “components” in Second life art works is an issue that does need to be discussed and is something I’ve often wondered about. Particularly in SL where there seems to be a habit of hiding the origins of such components. I would add that I would certainly include scripts in along with textures and sculpts/meshes. For those not familiar with the scripting process when used in art a script (like everything) can be dry as nuts and bolts or it can be as eloquent and original as a fine piece of creative writing that breaths life and emotions into otherwise ordinary bunch of prims.

    I am unable to agree that the above components should be considered as fundamental building blocks as you would a tube of paint and as such can remain unacknowledged for the very simple reason is that they are often creative works in their own right they and, in some cases, a substantial amount of that creativity is apparent in and contributes significantly to the pieces that incorporate them.

    Let me stress here I see no problem at all with using external components to create an original work. The finest SL artist create work that is comparable to any in and out of digital art whether they use external components or not. The pieces they create and the originality of their ideas transcends by far the components used.

    The simple solution is to acknowledge where possible the source of the components used. It takes nothing away from a creative piece and the transparency it provides can only enhance the reputation of the artist and helps to differentiate them from those that simply cut and paste.

    1. Excellent points all! I too have been in very deep discussion and conferences related to the preservation of New Media, which is VERY problematic. (Bill Viola’s early work comes to mind). Film, video tapes, all degrade, and there is no lossless transference for them. Virtual media is worse in some ways, although it has the potential for lossless transference.

      I do want to clarify something, though, because it seems to be misunderstood. As I said above, ALL of the content creators should be acknowledged, much like one might use a label. And I also agree that there is an art to making sculpts, and scripts (and many of these are made regularly by artists like Oberon Onmura… I know Misprint uses, AND always credits, his work). It is up to the artists the degree to which they wish to give collaborative credit.

      When I talk about these items as media, I am thinking about things like Skye Textures, Builder’s Brewery… people who sell things for the express purpose of them becoming something else. It has to do with intention. Do I think they should still get credit? Of course, it is the right thing to do. But I don’t think it should then become an obstacle to work being exported elsewhere, as Saffia’s original comment suggested. And if it does, due to Linden rules, then that is another problem, one I think with the tricky legalities Beq pointed to. I think as long as you have permission – and credit – there shouldn’t be an obstacle.

  9. I love Beq’s idea for a virtual museum with an endless basement. Oh, if only.

    Including works by artists who happened to create every component of their pieces themselves would be no problem. (And isn’t there a means to export them, at least in some third-party viewers?) It becomes a legal issue, though, when pieces contain elements by other creators. Unfortunately, Bryn is right that she’d have to retexture all 15K prims of Anna’s Many Murders, if she didn’t make the textures herself, and if she can’t get licensing from the texture creators to use their work on another grid. That’s the law; Saffia is correct on that point. Unless the creator whose work you incorporate into your own expressly says you may, you cannot legally move your work elsewhere in the metaverse while it contains their work.

    I agree – much more importantly, the law seems to agree – that we can’t think of another creator’s textures, or sculpts, or scripts (thank you, Glyph, well said) simply as nuts and bolts. They’re intellectual property. Someone had to sit down and think about them, design them, and create them. The law makes no distinction here between craft and art.

    Yes, the creator did make those elements for your use in your work; yes, you did purchase them with “full permissions.” But again, there’s a legal distinction between having “full permissions” to use another creator’s content within Second Life, and being licensed to use it outside of Second Life.

    The Terms of Service (which are based in current international copyright law) are clear that “full permissions” extend *only* to use within Second Life. Outside of SL, it’s a completely different ballgame. We could all wish otherwise – believe me, I have on occasion – but it’s all there in Chapter 7: https://secondlife.com/corporate/tos.php?lang=en-US#tos7. See especially 7.8.

    (And although I do think I remember them saying otherwise at some point, Linden Lab does not now say they own everything on the grid – only everything *except* user content. Creators retain full IP rights in their own creations.)

    All this is a bit of a hindrance to our dream of a virtual museum with endless basements – especially for many older works, for all the reasons mentioned earlier about difficulties with unwilling or unreachable creators. I truly hope these issues can somehow be solved, because Glyph’s point about the viability of virtual art is well taken.

    But forewarned is forearmed. It would help artists (and all of us who love their work and want to see it preserved) to be aware of this licensing issue, if it applies to them, and to be proactive on it. At this point, I haven’t run across too many creators within Second Life who offer outside-use licenses, while web-based creators seem less restrictive. But who knows what a little artistic negotiation – and an offer of collaborative credit – might accomplish?

    1. Thanks Ash, these are also brilliant ideas!

      I’m very concerned though that people seem to be interpreting my ‘nuts and bolts’ (and paint, and ribbon) to be depreciative of what those who make them do, and their value. I’m not sure how to be more clear that I think they deserve acknowledgement, and even at times joint authorship of a work, depending on their involvement. Yes, I realise that isn’t possible in a technical sense in SL, but I am speaking more in a curatorial sense.

      To me, yes, these ARE nuts and bolts. Because without an object (and purpose) these are perhaps beautiful but useless things. They are the building blocks of a larger piece. They are the materials. Saffia compared Photoshop to the paint… I say Photoshop (or Maya) is the brush, the wrench, the hammer and chisel. Textures, sculpts and scripts are the paint, the marble, the developer and fixer. And in an artists hands, they become art (and sometimes the creators are one in the same). But I also think nuts and bolts, and ribbon, and paint, are beautiful, wonderful things on their own. They have their own sense of art to them. They inspire and excite our creative endeavours, which could not exist without them. So my comparison should in no way belittle those who make these things. On the contrary.

      I thank you though for pointing to the SL ToS, if you see that is kind of what I said to Beq, that I always assumed there was something there that prevented it. I still question the validity of it in terms of intellectual property, but we all signed the dotted line I guess.

      I think you or perhaps Saffia should start a post on this topic though, about ownership rights. This is an important thread and I’ve learned a lot. But it gets a bit lost here…

      Anyway, I won’t try and explain myself more. If I haven’t done it so far, then I don’t know how to.

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