Archive for the ‘Virtual law’ Tag

Adfarms Revisited by Linden Lab

Catching up on the news about the Grid, I find that Linden Lab is revisiting the question of Mainland adfarms again.  (Adfarms, for the blessedly uninitiated, are (usually) small plots in world filled with towering, spinning, strobing clusters of advertisements, either to actually attract attention for the advertisers, or to blackmail nearby landowners into purchasing the small plots at inflated prices to get rid of the eyesore.)  This is of some concern to me, as most of the apartments/houses I’ve lived in are on the Mainland, and at least one loft was fronted by an adfarm.  The contents were usually, blessedly, just beyond my draw distance setting of 128 meters.  But, if I ever did move to a new place and was up against one of these eyesores, I would be pissed indeed.

The Lab attempted to bring some control on the blight by allowing Residents to report clusters of ads as harassment under the Terms of Service.  This, however, led to some abuse of the right by Residents who mistook any ad near their house as an adfarm.  LL’s Jack Linden announced in a September 4 article on the Big Blog that “network advertising” would no longer be allowed on the Mainland unless you had obtained a license from Linden Lab.

By Network advertising we are specifically referring to the practice of using many parcels over multiple regions, especially small micro parcels where the predominant purpose of the land is to hold advertising. In the vast majority of cases we believe it will be very clear whether a particular use is a violation or not but we will provide a way for people to appeal and discuss their own case with us before any action is taken. We will assess any edge cases as we encounter them.

You’ll note that I’ve mentioned Licensing. I’d hope that most of you will agree that advertising itself is not the bad guy here, the issue has been with the way in which advertising has been done and the excessive number of adverts. There are lots of positive forms of advertising already inworld that are no problem at all, from the signs you place above your own stores to the club owner that will place your ad on the wall behind the bar for a fee. Besides, much of what we call Ad Farming is not genuine advertising at all, but geared more towards selling the parcel.

So, whilst we are no longer going to allow Ad Farming, we accept that there may be genuine advertisers who wish to operate on the Mainland and are prepared to sign a license with us to do so. The idea here, is that where we do allow a small amount of network advertising to take place, it is highly controlled, low impact and managed responsibly. Licensee’s will be limited in number, capped to a specific number of advert locations and with strict rules about how their adverts look. No more spinning, floating cubes, no more unsolicited notecard givers, no more improper use of ban lines.

Jack opened up the matter to discussion in the Forums, and it read mostly in favor of the licensing move, with one or two worries about creating a “bureaucracy” enforcement layer whose only job was to ensure compliance.  It appears that the Lab listened to those concerns, as Jack announced in a fresh Big Blog article on September 12.  As I read this, LL is returning — before the new change goes into effect — to the previous model, but with some tighter restrictions:

What does this mean? if you operate any such networked advertising business on the Linden Mainland, that breaks any one of the following rules or restrictions, we will consider it to be a Terms of Service violation leading to disciplinary action that can include account suspension and loss of land.

  • We will allow no more than 50 advertising locations owned by a single individual, whether personally owned or via groups in which you are a member, unless you have written permission from Linden Lab to exceed this limit.Use of Alt accounts/groups to circumvent this restriction will be considered a violation.
  • In addition to the cap, we will allow no more than 1 advertising placement by an individual in any single region.

The advertisements themselves..

  • Adverts should be grounded to the terrain, not floating.
  • Adverts should extend no higher than 8m from the ground.
  • No rotating, no flashing content and no particles.
  • No unsolicited dispensing of IMs, notecards, landmarks or content.
  • No light sources or glow (full bright is acceptable however).
  • Advertising hoardings should be Phantom.
  • Adverts must be clearly PG in nature.
  • No sound and no temp-on-rez content.
  • Ban lines should be switched off.

I’m not sure if this is better than the license requirement, but I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.  When it comes to Second Life, the minimum amount of “law” needed to ensure enjoyment is the best amount, in the sense of Lady Sally McGee’s directive in Callahan’s Lady.

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Considering another aspect of the matter:

The question arising from all of the above is, whatever is done, will the adfarmers find a way to game the rules and win back the point?  Adfarmers’ first concern is profit, and they aren’t worried about how much frustration they cause others around them.  Indeed, it’s generally believed that many farms are stuck up in gerrymandered properties to force the surrounded landowners to pay through the nose to eliminate the eyesores.  In a completely libertarian society, such as we’ve tried to foster in Second Life, such abuses can arise easily.  This is why libertarian societies eventually metamorphose into more controlled social schemes; because the majority of society demand a change to eliminate perceived abuses.

Will the slightly manic libertarianism of Second Life manage to endure, or will we need to add on deeper layers of virtual law to control abuses of the freedom we’ve encouraged?  This, along with the banking, ageplay and other rule changes made by Linden Lab over the past year suggest that the previously deistic and benign tyrant is slowly becoming a true governing presence on the Grid?

Virtual or Real, the Law is the Law

Doing my usual tag-surfing routine, I was pointed to this article by Ben Duranske, who is the most published person on virtual-law questions out there — at least that I know of.  He’s definitely the most high-profile in the SLogosphere.  Any road, take a look at these five items, and tell me that the Metaverse isn’t coming into line with the mundane legal world.

(Thanks to Ari Blackthorne.)

Posted January 15, 2008 by Harper Ganesvoort in Issues and Trends, Law

Tagged with , ,

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