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Virtual World License: Open Source, Non-commercial

Background, Supporting Information, and Examples


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 Why this License Came About

This proposal came out of the need to create a non-commercial, open source license for use in virtual worlds such as Second Life and OpenSim.

Specifically, the license had its origins in the Ruth 2 Project.  Ruth 2 is an open source project to develop a mesh avatar, as well as developing some components such as HUD’s for alphas and clothing layers.  The Ruth Project primarily uses an Affero General Public License (AGPL).

 Keeping Your Work Free

There is, however, a problem with AGPL and similar licenses.  They do not keep your work free of cost.  It is an open source license, of course, but it allows the selling and commercialization of your work.

As an example, let’s say that you spend many hours creating a mesh avatar.  You decide to share your creation with the virtual world and make it open source.  Essentially, you’re a volunteer for the virtual world community, creating something that others can enjoy at no cost.  Under the AGPL license, however, people or businesses can take your mesh avatar and sell it.  The AGPL makes it very clear on their website that the selling part, the commercialization of your work, is part of the purpose of the license.

After putting a considerable amount of time into a project, you may not be particularly enamored with the idea that others, particularly affluent commercial interests, can profit from your hard work.

If you make things for the virtual world and would like to keep your creations free, you may wish to consider using a Virtual World License.  The License is specifically designed for small or large virtual world projects with the primary purpose of preventing the commercialization of your work.

Virtual World Licenses

There are currently plans for two Virtual World licenses:

  • Virtual World License: Non-commercial (This is under construction)
  • Virtual World License: Open Source, Non-commercial.

Virtual World License: Non-commercial (under construction) keeps your work free.  If your work is distributed by others, it has to remain free, and they must credit you as the author.  This license is not open source, but rather it is proprietary.  In other words, if your work transferred to others within the virtual world, it is done so with “No Modify” permissions.  (This license will be covered in detail in a separate document.)

Virtual World License: Open Source, Non-commercial also keeps your work free.  If your work is distributed by others, it has to remain free and they must credit you as the author.  Additionally, your work has to remain open source.  That means that anyone who distributes your work must keep it open source by providing a link to where the source files are found.  If modifications are made by someone else, those modifications need to remain open source.

More information about the Non-commercial, Open Source License is found below.

Why Not Use Existing License?

There are non-commercial licenses available.  The most popular among them are the Creative Commons Licenses.  They have an understandable coding system whereby one can tell what the license covers and what it doesn’t.

Why not use one of those?  In many cases, Creative Common licenses are an excellent choice.  In fact, the Virtual World License is largely based on the Creative Commons non-commercial license.

Nonetheless, the virtual world is a little different than the real world, and it is advantageous to use a license which takes that difference in account.  Virtual world projects may involve a mix of non-commercial and commercial components.  One part benefits the other and both are necessary for the project to be fully successful.  Licenses which are not specific to the virtual world are sometimes used with inventive interpretations or are simply inadequate to deal with virtual world licensing situations.  More about this later, but Virtual World Licenses are designed to avoid this problem.

Another difference from the real world is that virtual worlds have owners.  Those owners, naturally, want to be assured that licenses used by participants don’t jeopardize their operations.  The Virtual World Licenses do that.

Moreover, work done in virtual world may include projects that combine computer code along with artistic and intellectual work.  It’s very common in the virtual world environment to combine scripts along with mesh and textures, etc.  While Creative Commons licenses work particularly well for artistic and intellectual work, their website points out that their licenses are not designed for computer code, and suggests using other types of licenses when software is involved.  What the Virtual World Licenses do is to use a Creative Common License core and combine it with elements of computer code licenses.  Thus, it allows for the full range of creative endeavors, particularly those that might involve a combination of artistic work and computer code.

Adapting the License for Your Purposes

The Virtual World License: Open Source, Non-commercial License is adaptable to your needs.  You’ll find suggestions, below, on how you might want to alter it.  The bracketed italics in the “Plain Language Summary” (found in the License document) allow you to tailor the license specifically to your project.  A number of examples are provided in the text below but these are only a small representative of what the license may cover.

You can use the license for a single item – or you can use it for a project that may have several disparate components including mesh parts, computer code and textures – which, in reality, is often the case with virtual world projects.

The Idea of Subsidiary Creations

For some types of projects, you may find that you are dealing with two broad categories of work associated with the project: “core components” and “subsidiary creations.”  In the case of a mesh avatar, core components would include the mesh body and the products typically associated with a mesh avatar such as an alpha HUD or a HUD that selects skins or colors fingernails.

“Subsidiary Creations,” on the other hand, are items made by others, outside of the parameters of the project, but may utilize or interact with one or more of the core components.  In the case of a mesh avatar project, “subsidiary creations” would include skins, clothing, shoes, jewelry, etc.

Subsidiary Creations may or may not be involved in your project.  If your project is to make a pair of shoes, for example, you won’t have to worry about addressing Subsidiary Creations in your project.

Why be concerned about Subsidiary Creations?  Subsidiary Creations help make your project more successful.  If you make a mesh avatar, you would want to give creators the ability to make skins and clothing for it.  If no one is making clothing for it, your mesh avatar isn’t very useful to people.

In order to encourage individuals to create things, you’ll need to give them the freedom to sell those items, as well as to keep them proprietary.  Because the Virtual World License is non-commercial in nature, it becomes important to delineate the difference between those items covered by the license and those items which are not.

If you closely examine the way the Virtual World License is structured, you may find that that addressing Subsidiary Creations in the License isn’t an absolute necessity.  If they were removed, however, the License would be left unnecessarily vague and open to interpretation.  The fact that Subsidiary Creations are part of the License clarifies their need and purpose.  It removes any doubt that creators can make things for your work.  In a nutshell, it is a message to creators:  your creations are welcomed!

Another reason why it is helpful to address the concept of Subsidiary Creations is to remove misconceptions that might have been created by other types of licenses.  In particular, the AGPL license can be confusing when it is applied to a virtual world situation.  Its language can leave doubts about whether Subsidiary Creations are permitted.  The AGPL requires all parts of a “larger work” to use compatible licenses.  Subsidiary Creations interact with the core components of a project.  A skin is not useful by itself.  It needs some sort of system to apply it to an avatar – and after being applied, it resides on the avatar.  Under an AGPL license, that could be interpreted as the skin being part of a larger work.

If a mesh avatar was AGPL licensed, all skin makers might be required to release their creations as open source.  This, of course, would be terribly limiting in the case of a mesh avatar.  Ideally, you would want people to have the ability make things for the mesh avatar, but few skin makers would do that if they have to give their skins away.

I don’t want to single out the AGPL.  It’s a very useful license that has done much good in the computer world.  The Ruth 2.0 project is an example that uses AGPL and the project has made a major contribution to the virtual world.  Nevertheless, the AGPL is a commercial license.  It allows freely created work to be sold by others.  Those of us who want to keep our work free need something else.

How This License Was Constructed

As noted above, this license is primarily based on the Creative Commons “NC” (NonCommercial) license.  Fortunately, the Creative Commons organization allows one to use portions of their license word-for-word and adapt it without violating their copyright.  In fact, the bulk of the Virtual World License uses their language verbatim.  AGPL’s copyright, unfortunately, doesn’t allow this – which is disappointing since they promote the idea of open source.  Nevertheless, some of their ideas which are compatible with a non-commercial orientation, along with those of other licenses, have been incorporated.  (Just a note if you are wondering: “ideas” can’t be copyrighted as delineated in Section 102(b) of the Copyright Act).

That’s the background.  Below you’ll find a more detailed explanation of the parts of the license along with examples.

The Virtual World License is a work in progress and your comments and suggestions are invited.  Version 1 of the License is now available, but in the near future, work will begin on a version 2.  Hopefully, with time, and working collaboratively, we can improve the License.  A Google Plus site has be set up to solicit input on the License.

One last thing.  This License is open source.  Unlike AGPL, you are most welcome to make changes.  Please feel free to adapt and use it for your own projects.  It’s not required, of course, but if you do use it, leave a note on the Google Plus site.  It’s nice to know when it has been helpful to others.

Summary: Virtual World License: Open Source, Non-commercial

The term “Licensed Work” or ‘Work” means the component or script that you have licensed.  So, if you created a color picker and you placed it under this License, the color picker would be the “Licensed Work.”  Or if a script used this license, the script would be the “Licensed Work,” etc. 

In the text below, “Virtual World License:  Open Source, Non-Commercial” has been shorted for readability to “Virtual World License.”  Although shortened, it refers to the Open Source version of the License.

The pronoun “you” in the material below is written from the perspective of “you” as the original creator, original owner of the Work.  When you look at the License, itself, however, “you” is from the perspective of the user of your Work.  There is more about this and why it is important in the License’s introductory material, but be aware that in this document, and particularly the information which follows, “you” means the original owner of the Work.


The following uses of the Licensed Work are allowed: 

  • Personal Projects

Commentary: An individual can use the Licensed Work, make changes to it and use it in any manner for their own personal use.  However, if they give it to someone else – or they share or distribute it in some way – then they need to abide by the terms of the License.

  • Sharing (Distributing) Free (No Cost) Packages which Include the Licensed Work

Commentary: Anyone can share or distribute the Licensed Work, as long as they give it away at no cost and they abide by the terms of the License.

How one abides by the terms of the License is made easy.  The Virtual World License begins with a “Plain Language” version.  At the start of the License, where it is obvious, it uses three bullet points to explain how one can meet the terms of the license.

  • Selling “Subsidiary Creations”

Commentary: Individuals or businesses who sell “Subsidiary Creations” are exempted from the terms of the license.  Subsidiary Creations are items such as clothing, skins, tattoos, etc. that use or interact with the Licensed Work.  (You, as owner, can defined exactly what those are.)  This segment of the license was included to clear up a potential problem with other types of licenses that might require Subsidiary Creations to come under the terms that license.

(If you have a project which doesn’t include Subsidiary Creations, you don’t have to worry about this part of License.)

Example:  Let’s say you are creating a mesh avatar that you are calling Bella.  Bella is the Licensed Work.  In Bella’s Virtual World License, you have indicated that Subsidiary Creations for Bella include skins, clothing, tattoos, jewelry, hats, shoes, hair, etc.  Thus, if an individual creates a tattoo for Bella, there would be no restrictions if they plan to sell it.

Additional Notes: 

Subsidiary Creations are items that individuals or merchants create for your Work.  By including a list of Subsidiary Creations you are encouraging creators to make things for your project.  The more creations that people make for your project, the more successful it is.  Having a Subsidiary Creation list on the License is like putting out a big welcome sign. 

What does a list of Subsidiary Creations look like?  Here’s an example.  If your project is a mesh avatar and you want people to feel free to create skins and clothing for it, the list might be: “skins, tattoos, clothing, jewelry, hats & shoes and other wearables.” 

Here’s another example.  If your Work is an engine for a car and you want people to be able to create different types of car bodies and tires, your list might be:  “auto bodies, truck bodies, and tires.” 

And another example.  If your Work is a house and you want people to be able to add just about anything they want to it, your list might be very open ended:  “Any additions to house.” 

Where do you place the Subsidiary Creations’ list?  Right up front.  You place the list (whether it is just one item or more) in same area where your Work is copyrighted in the License.  This helps make things easy and convenient for you.  Any information you need to enter is all in one spot right along with your copyright.

When you make a Subsidiary Creation list, you may want to leave room for an item or two that you have missed.  For example, if you are putting together a list of Subsidiary Creations for a mesh avatar, you may want to add the phase “and other wearables.”

  • Using the Work to Transfer Subsidiary Creations to Other Non-commercial Works

Commentary: Some works covered this License may be used to transfer Subsidiary Creations.  A prime example is an Applier which might be used to transfer skins from a merchant to the customer.  The customer, then, uses the Applier to apply the skins to a mesh avatar.  In the language of the License, the mesh avatar is considered the “final destination” of the Applier.  This is permitted under the License, as long as the “final destination” is a non-commercial mesh avatar.

(If your project is not used for transferring Subsidiary Creations, you don’t have to worry this part of the license.)

Example:  An OpenSim merchant uses a Skin Applier which has been created as a part of the Bella project.  The merchant will be providing the Applier to customers who will be using it to apply skins to Bella.  A copy of the Virtual World License would need to be included with the Applier, and Applier, by itself (without the skins) could not be sold, but the merchant is under no other restrictions.  In other words, the merchant is free to sell skins to the customer.  The merchant can use the Applier to transfer the skins to the customer.  And, finally, the merchant can decide what permissions (“No Modify,” etc.) are to be used.

Additional Notes: 

There are no restrictions on the merchant selling skins as long as the skins are directed to a non-commercial avatar.  (If desired, however, you can change the License to include both commercial and non-commercial avatars as the “final destination.”  The language you would need to change is found in Section 2(b)(2).

The License also allows a merchant to sell and distribute the combined package of Applier and skins together as “No Modify.”  That is necessary to protect the merchant’s skins.  If the Applier-skin package was modifiable, it would be simple and easy for unscrupulous individuals to steal the skin textures.  The merchant’s skins remain proprietary, and at the same time, the merchant has fulfilled his or her responsibility for the Applier by including the Virtual World License (which among other things includes the location of the Applier’s source files).

One final note.  This a special case which is allowed under the Virtual World License.  Normally, all the items in a package that includes a Work licensed under the Virtual World License need to be distributed cost free.  An exception, however, is provided for licensed works which are used to transfer Subsidiary Creations.  In this case, the applier-skin package includes the skin (which is sold) and the Applier (which is not sold).  As long as the item is a Subsidiary Creation and the purpose of the Work is to transfer a Subsidiary Creation, then it is acceptable under the License.

  • Changing to a Different License upon Modification (Original Owner Only)

Commentary: If the original owner makes a modification in the work, he or she can change to a different license.

Example:  Let’s say you have created a mesh avatar called Bella.  You also have created a Fingernail HUD which colors Bella’s fingernails.  You make the first version of the HUD non-commercial, open source.  Later in the project, you make a modification.  For this second version of the HUD, you decide to license it as non-commercial (but not open source).  This would be permitted.

Additional Notes:

In this case, you are original owner and you have changed the license.  Can you do that?  The answer is an unequivocal yes. 

You as the original owner can re-license a modified work as you see fit.  Other people, however, who make modifications cannot.  All others are under the terms of the License and they must keep it open source. 

Be aware, however, once you have released a work to the public as open source, that licensed version of your work remains open source.  You can’t change that, but nothing in the license restricts you – as the original copyright holder – to change the license when you make a modification. 

(This discussion is centered on changing the license when the Work is modified, but it should be noted that a modification is not required.  The copyright holder has the right to change the license of the original, unmodified work.  Any change, however, does not apply to copies of the Work distributed with the old license.  It applies only to those copies distributed with the new version of the license.)

The Virtual World License (as well as many other licenses) only places restrictions on the use of your work by others.  If you make a modification (or not), you are free to change the license.  You can even copyright it as “all rights reserved” and sell it.  That is your right.

  • Packaging the Licensed Work with Other Non-commercial, Open Source Licenses

Commentary:  Some software licenses are very restrictive when a series of components are combined together to form a “larger work.”  This can create a number of difficulties in terms of interpreting what those components are and how they must be licensed.  The Virtual World License avoids this by taking a simple approach.  It only looks at how the components are packaged (Section 7).  If they are packaged together, then the package itself must be distributed free and without cost.

Example:  Let’s say you have created a car engine.  The car engine is licensed under the Virtual World license.  Another member of the project team, Michelle, creates a mesh body for the car.  The car engine and body will be packaged together.  Michelle considers her work to be artistically oriented and decides to use the Creative Common Non-commercial license:  Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA).  This would be permitted.

Additional Notes:

The Virtual World License can be packaged with other non-commercial licenses.  It has been derived from and works particularly works well with the non-commercial (NC) Creative Commons Licenses.

  • Packaging the Licensed Work with “Permissive” Licenses

Example.  Let’s say you have created a roller coaster.  You have licensed the roller coaster cars and elevated tracks under the Virtual World License.  The scripts, written by another member of the project team, are licensed under the MIT license.  The cars, tracks and scripts are combined into one package and provided to the public.  This would be permitted.

Additional Notes:

There is always a compatibility problem that arises when it comes to licensing components in a combined work.  Are the licenses compatible?  Do they have conflicting terms?  Software licenses, in particular, must consider questions of compatibility.  In fact, the Free Software Foundation even has a chart showing compatible and incompatible licenses.

The Virtual World License makes things easy.  First of all, it is not concerned about intricacies of what might be components of a “combined” work.  Its only concern is with the components of a package.  No interpretation is required.  You know exactly what those components are and how they are licensed.  Secondly, it has no particular compatibility requirements of components in a package other than each separately licensed work must be identified and the terms of Virtual World License remain in effect for those components using the License (Section 7).  

In other words, it is completely acceptable that the scripts in the roller coaster package (above) are licensed differently just as long as the terms of the Virtual World License can be followed.  Abiding by those terms means anyone who shares the roller coaster package with others must do so in a non-commercial manner.

The types of licenses which integrate well with the Virtual World License are in a category known as “permissive licenses.”  These are licenses which allow individuals and entities to use and distribute the software with very few requirements.  Prime examples of permissive licenses include MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution, and Apache licenses.  (Since permissive licenses are from the software world, this discussion focuses primarily on virtual world scripts.) 

Permissive licenses leave it up to the individual how they want to share or distribute scripts.  Scripts can be given away free or they can also be sold.  Initially, it seems like this could create a conflict when packaging the components in a virtual world situation.  The scripts with permissive licenses (which can be sold) are packaged with Virtual World licensed components (which can’t be sold).  But the terms of the Virtual World License require that the entire package must remain non-commercial and cost free.  Permissive licenses clearly allow for this and any scripts included in the package remain free.

Other, more restrictive licenses would require a thorough evaluation to make sure the terms of the Virtual World License can be met.  But when it comes permissive licenses, you can always be assured that you won’t have to deal with compatibility problems. 

  • Packaging the Licensed Work with Proprietary Licenses

Example.  Let’s say you have created a mesh avatar called Bella.  Somebody else creates a HUD which applies skins to Bella.  They license it as Virtual World: Non-commercial (not the open source version).  Bella and the HUD are packaged together and provided free to the public.  This would be permitted.

Additional Notes:

As discussed above, Virtual World License allows for different licenses in a package as long as the other components in the package can be distributed in a non-commercial manner. 

For some open source projects, you may find it beneficial to package some proprietary components along with the open source components.  These would not, of course, be included in an open source repository, but rather added to the distribution package when it is assembled outside the repository.

Why might this be beneficial to a project?  In the case of a mesh avatar, for example, if all scripts are open source, it is very easy for unscrupulous individuals to steal skins, clothing, etc. By keeping some parts of the project proprietary (yet free and non-commercial) you are able to plug an obvious and easily exploited security hole. There is no perfect way of preventing the stealing of textures in the virtual world, but at least you are able to provide an acceptable standard of care.

This also protects those who might be making free (no cost) Subsidiary Creations for your project. Their desire to keep their work protected will be as important to them as those individuals selling items. By allowing some proprietary segments of your project, you are able to protect these generous individuals.  The end result is that you are still providing a free service to the virtual community, but you are able to do in a manner which protects creators as well.

Since the proprietary components are packaged with open source components, the free nature of the project is assured.  Section 7 requires that the terms of the License remain in effect with the result that the package is distributed in a free, non-commercial manner.

For some projects, you may wish to keep everything open source.  If having a mix of open source and proprietary components in a package doesn’t fit in with your plans, you’ll want to alter Section 7 to require all licenses of a package to be open source.


The following uses of the Licensed Work are NOT allowed: 

  • Selling the Licensed Work

Commentary: A Work licensed under the Virtual World Non-commercial License cannot be sold.

Example:  Let’s say that in your project you have created a house in a box.  A user clicks the box and it turns into a fully furnish house.  You have licensed the house under the Virtual World License and you want it to remain non-commercial.  An Open Sim merchant who wants to sell the house cannot do so.  Selling the house is a clearly a commercial activity which is prohibited by the license.

Additional Notes:

While the house in the example above cannot be sold, a merchant could sell things to go along with the house as long as you have defined Subsidiary Creations.  By doing so, you encourage merchants to create things for your house – which makes your house more successful. 

Let say you wish to keep things open ended, and you define Subsidiary Creations as “furnishings or any other additions to the house.”  This would allow a merchant to sell, say, a scripted door with elaborate designs and a stain glass window.  Licenses like the AGPL, however, might consider the door to be part of a larger work because doors are most certainly essential parts of a house.  The door, under such licenses, might be required to be open source.  By the use of the Subsidiary Creations, the Virtual World License avoids this problem. 

If Subsidiary Creations don’t apply to your project, you don’t have to worry about defining them other than indicating that you have “none.”  If desired, you can also eliminate any mention of them completely from the license.  There is a note on how to do that in “Introduction to the License” found with the License document.   

  • Using the Work to Transfer Subsidiary Creations to Commercial Products

Commentary: As described above, some works covered this License may be used to transfer Subsidiary Creations.  A prime example is an Applier which might be used to transfer skins from a merchant to the customer and to a mesh avatar.  The mesh avatar is considered the “final destination” of the Applier.  The License requires that “final destination” (the mesh avatar, in this case) to be of a non-commercial nature.  Thus, an Applier could not be used for a commercially available avatar.

(If your project is not used for transferring Subsidiary Creations, you don’t have to worry about it.)

Example: A Second Life merchant wants to use an Applier which you have created as a part of the Bella project to distribute skins for a commercial mesh avatar that they sell.  Skins have been defined as “Subsidiary Creations” for the Bella project.  The exemption for skins, however, only applies if the “final destination” is a non-commercial mesh avatar.  Even if the merchant includes a copy of the License, and even if do not sell the Applier, they still cannot use the Applier for distributing skins.

  • Non-commercial Distribution of the Licensed Work Without Including the License

Commentary: The License allows anyone to give away the Licensed Work as long as it is done in a non-commercial manner.  The Virtual World License document is composed of two parts: a “Plain Language” version and the actual legalese.  At the very top of the Plain Language version, three informational pieces describe what an individual must include if they distribute the Licensed Work.  The Plain Language version is purposely designed this way to make it as easy as possible for individuals to understand and meet the terms of the License.  If an individual leaves out the License document (which is one of the three informational pieces), they are in violation of the License terms.

Example:  A Second Life merchant wants to give away a free bicycle that you have created as your project.  You have licensed the bicycle under the Virtual World License.  The merchant has a vendor in her store from which customers can obtain the bike.  The vendor includes a copy of the bike but nothing else.  This is not permitted.  The merchant can give your bike away but she must also include the three informational pieces described in the Plain Language version.  The License is one of those three pieces, and, thus, she is not meeting the terms of the License.

  • Including the Licensed Work in a Commercial Package

Commentary: The Licensed Work can be included in a non-commercial package where every item is being giving away free (as long as the three informational pieces described in the Plain Language version of the License are included).  The Work cannot, however, be included in a package which includes items being sold.

Example:  A Second Life merchant wants to package one of their commercially sold mesh avatars along with a HUD that you have created in your project.  In a notecard, they include the three informational pieces described in the Plain Language version of the License.  They also indicate that the HUD is a free item and that the customer is only paying for the avatar.  Even though they specifically state that the HUD is free (being distributed in a non-commercial way), they still are prohibited from doing so.  The inclusion of the HUD is helping sell the avatar.  It is, in words of the Virtual World License “directed towards commercial advantage” [Section 1(i)] which is not allowed.

Additional Notes:

Note that when the term “package” is used, it means “package” in a broad sense.  It would not be acceptable to take a non-commercial package and then place it in a commercial package.  “Package” encompasses all parts, whether it is one package or several packages which have been combined together in some manner.  In a virtual world store that means the vendor which is dispensing the package is only dispensing a package in which all parts are free of cost.  Or, in an on-line marketplace, the package which ends up in the shopping cart is composed of only free items.

  • Sharing or Distributing Work as No-Modify, No Transfer (Without Instructions)

Commentary:  When your Work is shared or distributed by others, it must be done in a way that people can reproduce it.  That is best done by using “Modify, Transfer” permissions.  This assures that the Work remains open source.  (It can be distributed as “No Modify, No Transfer” but only if clear, complete, and unambiguous instructions are provided so recipients can successfully reproduce the Work from the source files.  If instructions are missing, then it must distributed with “Modify” permissions.)

Example.  A merchant is distributing a package of several free items.  In the package, they include a surfboard that you have licensed under the Virtual World License.  The surfboard is being distributed as “No Modify.”  Along with the surfboard, they include the three informational pieces (found in the Plain Language version of the License) which are required for distribution.  Even though all of the items in the package are free, and even though they include a link to the source files (included in the Plain Language version), the merchant is still not permitted to distribute the surfboard.  The merchant did not include instructions on how the source files are used to assemble the surfboard.

Additional Notes:

Typically, when an open source project in the virtual world is made available, either for testing or general release, it done so with “Modify, Transfer” permissions.  For example, let’s say that you have developed a pair of roller skates.  You set up a vendor on your land from which the public can pick up a pair of full permission skates.  Along with the skates, you have included a copy of the Virtual World License.  The License, in turn, includes the Plain Language Summary which includes a link to the source files.

With these two important pieces of the puzzle (the skates & link to source files), you have provided recipients with enough information to reproduce the skates.  Since the skates are modifiable, any recipient of the skates can see how they are put together.  And since recipients also have access to the source files, they could use the mesh parts, animations and scripts found among the source files, to reproduce a set of skates in their own. 

Now let’s say, the owner of a virtual roller skating arena, sets up a vendor which distributes your skates.  The permissions have been changed from “Modify” to “No Modify.” The skates come with the license and the license includes a link to the source files. 

In this case, recipients of the skates have only the source files to work with.  Is that enough to reproduce the skates?  Probably not for the average virtual world user. 

There is a good chance that most recipients will not be able to assemble the skates.  They need more than just having access to the source files.  They’ll need instructions on the how the mesh parts go together, how textures are applied, and where the animations and scripts are placed. 

It is possible to argue that the average virtual world user might be able to figure out a way to put the skates together using only the source files.  And, one could certainly argue that it would be a relatively easy task to use the source files if the project was simple, like a kitchen table.  Nevertheless, when someone distributes your Work using “No Modify,” the License requires a higher standard of care on their part to assure that your Work remains open source. 

Section 3(a)(1)(A)(v) of the Virtual World License says this:  “if the Licensed Work is being Shared with “No Modify” permissions, it must be accompanied by clear instructions by which a recipient can use the Source Files to reproduce the Work”

Thus, anyone who distributes the skates as “No Modify” is responsible for providing those instructions – no matter how simple the project might be.  A distributor of your work might be in luck if you have created instructions.  They can reproduce those and include them with the distribution package.  If no instructions are otherwise available, however, they will have to create them.  The instructions created by the distributor should be clear, complete and unambiguous so that the average virtual world user can successfully reproduce and use the Work. 

If the Work is a simple script or an item that is easily understood by the average user, then instructions will be simple, and may be oriented primarily to how the script or item works.  More complex Works will require more extensive instructions. 

The instruction requirement does, indeed, place an extra burden on the part of those sharing or distributing your Work, but the burden can be easily avoided if they distribute it using “Modify” permissions.

Other aspects of the license

  • Includes boiler-plate legal language for the sharing of source files and/or artistic, literary or other types of creative work. All downstream recipients must share in the same way and they must provide links to where the source files or creative work is located.
  • Includes boiler plate legal language for the term of the license. Includes typical legal language that you, as the owner, do not sponsor or endorse those who are using or who are otherwise connected with the licensed work.  Included also is standard legal language on disclaimer of warranties, limitations and release of liability, etc.
  • Includes typical language allowing modifications of the work and making those modifications publically available.
  • Includes a clause which protects the interests of Virtual World owners.


Ready to Take a Look at the License? 

You’ll find a plain language summary,” the License, and a “Super Short License Statement” here:  Virtual World License



Virtual World – Open Source, Non-Commercial – Link Summary:

– Background and Supporting Information (This document):
– License (Detailed Explanatory Information):
– License (Best for Users – PDF Version):
– License (Best for Users – Text Version – Works for Notecards):
– Super Short Statement – Text – Ready to Use for Scripts:
– Google Plus Site for Posting Comments on the License:
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