UPDATED! Editorial: Linden Lab’s Updated Content Guidelines for Sansar Go a Little Too Far

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Linden Lab has updated their Content Guidelines for Sanar. This was obviously a document that was lovingly laboured over by their legal team, and it’s quite long:  1,642 words in total!

Content guidelines are a necessary evil. There are always going to be people who try to bend the rules, so spelling everything out in detail is the way to go. Linden Lab has 15 years of Second Life experience (and many misadventures!) to guide them in drafting rules for Sansar.

I think most of the rules make sense. But I do think that Linden Lab has gone a little too far in a few of these new stipulations, and I do take issue with a couple of clauses in this long list.

First, and most important, under Impersonation:

Any Content or Sansar store listings that contain any references to Linden Lab, Sansar, Second Life, or any other Linden Lab-related terminology that may imply a relationship with, sponsorship, endorsement, or employment by Linden Lab is prohibited.

So this means that you are no longer allowed to put the word “Sansar” on a T-shirt. It means, for example, that Alfy now has to pull all of the clothing he created for the Voices of Sansar contest, because they use the forbidden word “Sansar”:

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Banned in Sansar: Voices of Sansar hoodies

This is a perfect example of a rule that has been applied too far. What harm is it if somebody puts the phrase “I love Sansar” on a T-shirt for sale in the Sansar Store, as long as it is not using the logo itself? (I can certainly understand why Linden Lab would want to crack down on other people using their logo.)

But it’s not just enough to avoid using the word “Sansar”! You can’t even hint at the verboten word, by using “S*ans*r” or “Zanzar” or “That Platform Which Shall Not Be Named”:

Do not upload Content that promotes or could be construed as primarily intended to evade limitations on Prohibited Content.

Now, there’s a weaselly-worded sentence if I ever saw one! The lawyers must have worked overtime on that little clause. How perfectly ridiculous.

Also, I take note, under Nudity, Pornography, and Other Sexual Content:

While we understand that some nudity might be intended for educational, scientific or artistic purposes, we restrict this content as members of our global community come from different cultural backgrounds. However, in limited educational or scientific contexts, we may make exceptions to these policies in our sole discretion.

So, a strict ban on nudity. If an artist creates a tasteful statue of a nude woman, she can’t sell it on the Sansar Store. If someone wants to include nudes in an art gallery he’s building, it’s verboten. Linden Lab has just banned whole swaths of art from throughout art history. Congratulations, you’ve spared those of us with delicate sensitivities!

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Banned in Sansar: Amedeo Modigliani, Reclining Nude, 1917-18

And using “different cultural backgrounds” as a justification for banning nudity completely is a complete cop-out, plain and simple. What’s next? Are we now going to insist that female avatars wear a niqab, because of a need to not offend “different cultural backgrounds” where women must wear a face veil?

Linden Lab making exceptions to the nudity policy on a case-by-case basis is opening another can of worms (notice that “artistic” is not mentioned as a possible case for an exception here, only “educational” or “scientific”). Who’s going to make these decisions? A panel? One person? Will there be any sort of appeal process? Does Linden Lab really want to go down this road?

Frankly, I’m a little disappointed in Linden Lab and this document. They could have chosen to give people a little leeway in the cases I raised above, and instead, they chose to clamp down tight.

What do you think of the new Content Guidelines? Sound off in the comment section!

UPDATE July 26th: Some commenters have said that Linden Lab will still allow you to use the word “Sansar” on clothing. I have it on authority directly from Sansar’s Community Manager, Eliot, that the word “Sansar” is NOT permitted on clothing such as a T-shirt or hoodie.

Also, I just realized today that the Smithsonian Institution’s new art gallery prominently displays a statue of a nude woman in its advertising:

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So, it’s okay if the Smithsonian does it, but it’s not okay otherwise? Hmmm…I think Linden Lab needs to go back and re-clarify its “clarified” Content Guidelines…

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12 thoughts on “UPDATED! Editorial: Linden Lab’s Updated Content Guidelines for Sansar Go a Little Too Far”

  1. I think you are overstating some of this. The part about LL & Sansar branding is actually pretty clear. You can’t employ an endorsement by or official relationship with LL of your content. “Voices of Sansar” should be acceptable in that light. But let’s say you made a T-shirt that had only the Sansar logo on it. That might be misconstrued as official merch.

    I’m disappointed but not surprised by the nudity ban. I think they are just keeping it simple for now. In light of many past conversations we’ve had with them, I want to believe they expect nudity to be allowed in the future, once they provide the means for us to flag our content for self-censorship by consumers.

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    1. I’m not arguing about the logo, as I stated in the blogpost. I’m arguing for the ability to be able to use the WORD “Sansar” on products like Afly’s Voices of Sansar hoodies. Asking him to take down his content just because it mentions the platform is patently absurd.

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  2. Those products are still available in the store. I don’t think LL will ask to take them down. They have been supportive of Alfy’s projects. I don’t think the policy is meant to read like “don’t use the word ‘Sansar'” at all in your product name. Have you seen any examples of this in action? Does this new policy seem different from the old one?

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    1. Sorry, Ryan, but I would suggest you’re over-reacting where the use of “Sansar” is concerned.

      I’d suggest it is the last 15 words of the statement you quote which hold the key to interpreting it, to whit:

      “… that may imply a relationship with, sponsorship, endorsement, or employment by Linden Lab is prohibited.”

      In this respect, your stated example of “Voices of Sansar” does not imply a relationship / sponsorship / endorsement on the part of LL towards the item of clothing or the creator, and is unlikely to be see as problematic. Nor would the likes of “I ♥ Sansar”, or “Avatars of Sansar” or “Sansar Creates, Others Pontificate” and similar.

      However, “Sansar Emporium” on a store masthead could be mistakenly seen as something “official” and therefore falls under this requirement. Similarly, “Official Sansar Creator” on a hoodie could be (mis)interpreted as meaning the person wearing it has some form of relationship with LL. Similarly, products with the Sansar logo and, for example “Linden Lab” or “Linden Research” under / over it, could be (mis)construed as “official” Sansar products (and by extension, all other products in the store are “official”).

      There are certainly some grey areas here, but overall, it comes down to context and common sense; and I seriously doubt it’s meant in the manner you’ve painted.

      The nudity element? In some ways understandable on the basis of age and lack of the ability to flag for self-censorship as Galen notes. But the wording presented in the guidelines? “Clumsy” is perhaps the kindest way of putting it.

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      1. Hello Galen and Inara! Thank you both for your comments.

        I have asked, and it was confirmed by Eliot, Sansar’s Community Manager, that you CANNOT put the word “Sansar” on an article of clothing like a T-shirt. So Alfy’s Voices of Sansar hoodies do contravene this interpretation of the rule from the Sansar Content Guidelines. So Linden Lab can ask (and may already have asked) ask Alfy to remove them from the Sansar Store.

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  3. Then I stand (or sit!) corrected! 🙂

    I can understand the company wanting to control their brands, etc., (what company wouldn’t?) from misuse / misrepresentation, but banning the use of the word “Sansar” in all circumstances does seem a little OTT.

    That said, it does perhaps present the easiest solution, inasmuch as it prevents the risks of edge-case playing and trying to work around any other approach. Although, that then stands at odds with the approach to nudity, where the wording could be said to allow edge-cases to be played, but the Lab allow themselves the get-out clause of having final say … So yeah, a head scratcher …

    Will be watching (when I can!) to see what happenes with the hoodies with some interest…

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  4. We discussed this in yesterday’s community meetup. I asked some pointed questions. Eliot and Harley clarified that there was not a strict ban on the use of the word “Sansar” in things like product, experience, and event names. What they said is that if you are going to do it, you are flirting with danger. Your best bet, they counseled, is to clear it with LL before doing it to give them a good opportunity to see if passes their smell test. Ideally, get it in writing. Capture a Discord IM session or save an email, for example.

    Given this clarification, I’d agree that this is not actually a change in LL’s policy from a year ago.

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