Content Creation and OpenSim

We have been working in and developing content on OpenSim since September 2007, when we first logged into what would become the OSGrid.  Fashion Research Institute is the oldest professional content creator on OpenSim.  Our current research collaboration with Intel Lab® is focused on content management and movement using the OpenSim-based ScienceSim as our test platform. With Linden Lab’s recent announcements about price changes and the closure of Teen Second Life grid, we are seeing increased interest from educators and other consumers of content, many of whom are confused about what they can and cannot do with content they ‘purchased’  in Second Life®, and where to go for content which they have a legal right to use in their pending OpenSim-based educational grids.

In the hope of helping to alleviate some of the confusion, we offer here some of the insight we have acquired over the years of working in OpenSim and the best practices we ourselves use in developing our content in OpenSim.

We started moving our content out of Second Life® a year or so ago, and closed our final avatar apparel line last Spring, after Linden Lab® made some ToS announcements.  Our area of expertise, as one may expect from the Fashion Research Institute, is avatar customization content. We needed a substantial catalog of content to outfit our avatar models on our Virtual Runway™  product.  We have also developed content libraries of PG-rated avatars and a well-tested orientation region for OpenSim for various organizations to use on their OpenSim-based grids such as ScienceSim. We now have a huge body of content available for licensing by those who need an orientation program or avatar customization content.

Although we finished backing up our content from Second Life®  six months ago, what follows is our ‘best practices’ from that process.

We had an extensive collection of avatar content we had developed over the years.  We found that the best tool to move this content was Stored Inventory. (aka Second Inventory)  It will move the contents of prim containers, including scripts, textures and other objects. Although the process itself is slow, it is also relatively mindless and can be performed in the background while other tasks are being accomplished, or given to an intern for completion.  All content brought in using Second Inventory should be checked for completeness, as it is prone to not completely backing up containers of content.

Please note that Stored Inventory will only allow the actual content creator to move his or her own content.  If a user licensed content within Second Life®, but they are not the content creator, they will not be allowed to move that content.

Something a content user should be concerned about is knowing the provenance of the content they are acquiring: who made it and is it original content.  Professional content developers will do business either under a business name, which should be registered and have a employer identification number of some sort, or as a real life individual who will also have some sort of  taxpayer identification number.  If a content creator refuses to provide such information you may wish to reconsider conducting business with them. There is no way for you to track them down if there proves to be a legal or other issue with content you may have licensed from them.

Of course, licensing or purchasing content that uses trademarks owned by real world organizations is also rife with issues. Most of the owners of these marks didn’t license them for use by Second life® or OpenSim developers, so you run the risk of legal liability.  Can your nonprofit, for profit, or school afford the legal fees to defend itself?  If not, be very careful about allowing licensed trade or service marks into your content.

A final bit of advice, when a content consumer decides to move their content from Second Life® into OpenSim, or decides to license new content from a creator, make sure you document all of your content, including any licensing information, and back up that up in a commonly accessible document management system so that everyone in your organization that handles content has access to it. Create a special OS region where all you do is bring your content in and curate that region. Have your admin make OAR files early and often: nothing is worse than losing hours of backup because the region failed to save to the server properly. When you are all done with the region, make sure you have some sort of record of what is contained within the region, and then link that record to your OAR file for back ups.

NOTE:  Due to the announcement today from Linden Lab regarding yet another change in the ToS, the Professional Virtua Designer Society will be holding a special session to discuss how these new terms can affect content creators.  For more information about the PVDS, visit http://bit.ly/bQydjR.