We wanted to make you aware of a change to our Terms of Service (TOS) regarding the way that disputes are resolved between Linden Lab and Residents. You will be asked to agree to these Terms of Service the next time you log into Second Life.
In the past, we’ve received some constructive feedback that our process could be improved, and with the aim of reducing the burden on Residents, we’ve acted on this feedback. We’ve made some changes that we hope will provide Residents with a cost-effective means of resolving small disputes that they may have with Linden Lab. Of course, we hope that disputes are few and far between, and our aim is and always has been to communicate with Residents to address their concerns as best we can. However, we recognize that disputes occasionally arise, and we’d like to provide Residents with the option of resolving small claims quickly and inexpensively.
Our new updated TOS, which are the terms and conditions on which Linden Lab provides access to the Second Life environment, give Residents the option of resolving claims for amounts less than $10,000.00 USD through a proceeding conducted by telephone, online, or based on written submissions. With this proceeding—called “binding, non-appearance-based arbitration”—we aim to save Residents both time and money by eliminating the need to appear in person at the arbitration hearing to resolve small claims.
The Q&As after this post go into greater detail about the updated TOS. We hope that this change provides a neutral and cost-effective means of resolving small disputes quickly and effectively, and as always, we welcome feedback.
Questions and Answers
1. Why is Linden Lab doing this?
We know that the amount of money that may be at issue in a Resident dispute with Linden Lab may be small. So we updated the TOS with the goal of allowing Residents to resolve small claims quickly and inexpensively. The updated TOS gives Residents the option of resolving small claims through an arbitration proceeding that doesn’t involve a personal appearance by the Resident or Linden Lab.
2. What kinds of disputes does the TOS cover?
The TOS governs disputes between a Resident and Linden Lab. The new dispute resolution procedure does not apply to Resident-to-Resident disputes.
3. What is the arbitration option?
For claims where the total amount of damages sought is less than $10,000.00 USD, a Resident may choose to resolve the claims through a proceeding called “binding non-appearance-based arbitration.”
4. What is “binding non-appearance-based arbitration”?
It is a legally binding procedure administered by a private organization. This means that the arbitrator’s opinion on liability and damages may be entered as a final, binding judgment in a court of law. The arbitrator will conduct the arbitration by telephone, online, or based on written submissions, and the Resident and Linden Lab will not make any in-person appearance at the arbitration hearing.
5. How do I elect arbitration?
If a dispute arises with Linden Lab, we strongly encourage Residents to contact us so that we can learn about and try to address their concerns. However, if a Resident seeks to have a dispute resolved in arbitration, the Resident should send Linden Lab a written notice that contains the following:
(1) A brief statement of the claims alleged and the relief sought;
(2) Any preference regarding the “established ADR provider” that will conduct the arbitration (for what is an “established ADR provider,” see the next question below);
(3) Any preference regarding whether the arbitration is conducted by telephone, online, or based on written submissions to the arbitrator; and
(4) Contact information (including mailing address, telephone number, and email address) for the Resident and, if the Resident is represented by counsel, for the Resident’s attorney.
Written notices should be sent by mail or fax to:
Linden Lab Legal Department
Attn: Dispute Resolution
945 Battery Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
6. What is an “established ADR provider”?
The Resident and Linden Lab must agree on an established alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) provider to conduct the arbitration. Examples of established ADR providers are the American Arbitration Association (AAA) (http://www.adr.org/), Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services/Endispute (JAMS) (http://www.jamsadr.com/), and the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) (http://www.arb-forum.com/). Linden Lab will consider reasonable requests to use an established ADR provider. However, please be aware that Linden Lab will not consider any ADR provider that does not have published rules and procedures governing arbitration. Linden Lab also requires that the arbitrator be a retired judge or attorney with legal expertise in the subject matter of the dispute.
7. How much will arbitration cost me?
The exact cost depends on the ADR provider selected. An ADR provider’s rules and fee schedule are often available on the provider’s website. For example, the National Arbitration Forum’s rules currently provide that consumers will pay at most $185.00 in disputes between consumers and businesses where the total amount of damages sought is less than $10,000.00 USD. Businesses pay the remainder of the fees charged by the NAF.
8. What kinds of claims are not subject to arbitration under the TOS?
Arbitration is not an option if the total amount of damages sought is $10,000.00 USD or more, or if injunctive or other equitable relief is sought. Equitable remedies are discretionary and include injunctions, which are court orders that compel or proscribe certain conduct. For information about equitable relief, please see the Wikipedia entry titled “Equitable Remedy” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equitable_remedies) and consult a lawyer.
9. Does the TOS allow me to file claims in a court of law?
Yes, Residents may file claims in a court in San Francisco, California.
10. Can I file claims in a court outside of San Francisco, California?
No, if a Resident seeks resolution in a court of law, the claim must be filed in a court in San Francisco, California.
11. What happens if I file a claim in a manner that is not allowed by the TOS?
Linden Lab will notify Residents in writing of claims filed contrary to the TOS. Residents who do not promptly withdraw the claims may be liable for the attorneys’ fees and costs, up to $1,000.00 USD, that Linden Lab incurs as the result of the improper filing.
12. What law applies to a legal dispute that I may have with Linden Lab?
California law governs Residents’ relationship with Linden Lab.
13. What if I do not agree to the updated TOS?
Residents who do not agree should decline the updated TOS and are prohibited from using Second Life.