I wanted to bring up an issue that myself and several fellow SL Photo Artists have noticed as a growing trend that will effect many of us SL Photo Artists. As I am a budding SL Photo Artist that has actually transitioned my SL photo art hobby into a small but hopefully growing commercial activity, this issue is already and will sure increase as a growing issue for me.
The issue is that a growing list of SL's amazing Sim Builders & Owners of some of the most beautiful and photogenic sims are actively changing their sim / Parcel covenants to ban or heavily restrict SL photography. Some of these sims that have recently taken on this photo restriction include some of the most beautiful an most commonly photographed sims in SL. sims that many of us love to explore, take photos of and convert to the photo art we display in groups like the Deviant Art group that I run, Flickr, and in the countless in-world galleries.
Just to provide many of you a little background knowledge on photo rights in SL, the default Linden Lab TOS permissions allows the photography of any publicly accessible parcel of Land for what ever use the photographer sees fit AS LONG AS THE SIM OWNER DOES NOT OTHERWISE RESTRICT IT - AS STATED IN THE LAND'S COVENANT. Therefore, if you go to a beautiful public accessible Sim and see a beautiful scene and take photos of it, you can do whatever you want with the photos you take - including using the photo outside of SL for personal or commercial use.
Following is Linden Lab's official policy on Snapshots and Machimina so you can read it verbatim. Take particular note of section #1.
LINDEN LAB Official: Snapshot and machimina policy
Sadly for SL Photo Artists there has been a growing trend recently among SIM Builders / Owners to restrict SL photography by placing explicit restrictions in their covenant of their Land. Each is uniquely defined.
The level of restriction varies but often the restriction is to ban the use of any photography of the sim for commercial use. In other words, photographers are allowed to take snaps of a sim and the builds upon it but only for personal use. For a lot of SL photographers this is not much of a restriction since they NEVER had any intension to convert the photos into gorgoues Photo Art that might be possibly sold. But for many of us Photo Artists, we have intentions to possible sell the SL Photo Art we have created. In fact, if you have an SL photo art here in Deviant Art and you press the "SELL THIS AS A PRINT" like I do on almost all my DA art then you are in violation of the sim Owners restriction if the art used a photo that was taken while there was a covenant restriction on it.
I give one of my artworks as an example of a very popular set of simes that most of us have been to and photographed and set up for sale - my MORNING MEADOW HUNT at the gorgeous Gulf Of Lune. This sim as well as other sims like Misty Mountains that are from the same group ownership ( Forest of Lothlorian ) recently added restrictions on photography. Luckily for me, I took the photos before they changed their Covenant and recorded the text of the covenant and the date when I took my photos there. Since the sim owners cannot retroactively enforce a change in photography policies, my current photos are safe and can still be used commercially. BUT sadly this group of some of SL's most beautiful sims will no longer be on my list of sims to photograph and convert to PHOTO ART - thanks to the new photo restrictions the group has added to their sims.
Now, I want to make a clear statement right now that I do not hold any anger against the SIM Builders and Owners in SL if they wish to start placing photo restrictions on their lands since I do see their 3D building, texturing, and design/assembly as being a true work of art. It is fully in their rights as allowed by LL TOS to specifically restrict photography however they wish. In fact, I am a builder of scultpy landscaping terrains & water and many of my customers are some of these amazing sim builders that we all love to photo.
Also, some of these sim owners are good friends of mine. In fact, several months ago I approached one of my friends that has one of SL's most beautiful sims to inform him that even though I did not require asking permission to use my photos of his sim, did he have any issues. He was very surprised and not aware that by default LL's TOS policy allowed my rights to photo his sim and use it the way I want. He allowed me and then changed his sim's photo restriction covenant. This is the gorgeous "Looking Glass" sim. Although I have been given permission to photo there for potential commercial use, I know of other photo artists that have already stated they would not spend time doing photo art at Looking Glass or other restricted sims and instead direct their efforts elsewhere in SL. This is not a surprising response.
I want to also point out that for some of these sim builder / owners, the restriction is not absolute. A commercial photo artist could approach the sim builder / owner and ask formal permission and clearance to take photography for commercial use. Unfortunately, many of the sim owner's covenant details do not make this clear and as such many of my fellow photo artists will simply not bother with the hassle of locating the actual owner and going through all the formalities of getting formal written permission to get approval. Path of least resistance, we will just take photos at sims with no restrictions.
But as an SL Photo Artist with commercial aspirations regarding what I create using SL photos, I find this growing trend to be sad and disappointing. This growing trend will also will have a natural and growing reactionary response from SL Photo Artist community (not those that are just taking SL photos for personal use) of avoiding these restrictive sims as a source / subject for their photo art. This in turn will mean that some of SL's most beautiful sims be avoided by some of SL's most amazing SL Photo Artists as a subject.
Not only does this harm many of the SL SIM Builders who have intention of building a beautiful sim as a powerful marketing tool to attract traffic (often by us Photo Artists), but, it also harms Linden Lab and SL growth in general since one of SL's more powerful marketing tool to attract new residents is by non-SL residents admiring our art at sites like Flickr and Deviant Art and being intrigued enough to decide to become SL residents themselves. And of course it hurts us SL Photo Artists that spend a lot of effort converting the raw SL photos we take in SL for the purpose of selling our art.
If you think this doesnt affect you as an SL Artist - remember that even if today you were to go to the GULF OF LUNE and take a photo of it and create a photo-art from it and then sell it inworld at your gallery in SL, you are violating the sim owner's covenent and LL TOS. Selling inworld is a commercial activity.
Early in SL's history, LL created the amazing and popular ability for SL Residents to take photos of any public accessible sims and treat the licensing of these photos similar to a RL person going to a public place and taking photos. This action has created one of SL's busiest activities and industries. There are literally 1000's of Art Galleries in SL. There has countless SL residents that have risen to become popular SL Artists and even sell their amazing works in RL. But with the growing trend of SL Sim Builders / Owners restriction photographer's rights, I fear this will be a move that will have long term negative impacts to many players involved in the issue - including the sim owners themselves.
There is no Right or Wrong on this issue and I see both sides, but I am personally sad to see this growing trend.
What are your thoughts?