UPDATE: The situation described herein has been resolved; please read the follow-up post here.
Perhaps thinking we had missed its worst, Linden Research Inc. decided to file a trademark complaint with YouTube against one of the biggest promoters, supporters, and advocates of Second Life, blogger/vlogger Strawberry Singh. The “offending” video is a tutorial, included in her “Introduction to Second Life” blog post, in which she explains to new users how to create an account, download the official viewer, and move around in their 3D surroundings. Since she unavoidably screen-captured her web browser to show people around the official website, the video obviously displayed SL’s eye-in-hand logo. The logo was also featured prominently in the 3D walkaround, as the in-world welcome area itself includes it.
According to Linden Lab’s own Trademark Guidelines webpage, “We’ve given journalists and media outlets special permission to use the Second Life Eye-in-Hand Logo in published articles, blog entries, and news programs specifically about the Second Life virtual world, subject to our Guidelines and Terms and Conditions.” The terms of this licence are here.
Anyway, Strawberry was informed by Tia Linden (LL’s IP specialist) that she did not have permission to use the logo and that she filed an official complaint with YouTube about it. In turn, YouTube gave Ms Singh 48 hours to resolve the issue directly with Tia Linden. Ms Singh emailed Tia Linden immediately, “asking for clarification, what exactly [she] did wrong and how [she could] fix it as [she] didn’t understand the complaint at first“. Tia responded after a few hours and these were her exact words:
Thank you for your continued support of Linden Lab’s Second Life virtual world.
However, we have not given you permission to use Linden Lab’s intellectual property in the manner of which you have done.
More specifically, we do not allow images of our avatar building page, home pages or Second Life Eye In Hand Logo to be used in any capacity. Please do not use images of any Second Life web pages or logos ( with the exception of our inSL logo noted at http://secondlife.com/corporate/brand/insl/#) in your video or any other work. You may provide a link to our website or registration page in your video if you wish.
In any case, please conform to the guidelines for usage of Linden Lab’s trademarks at http://secondlife.com/corporate/brand/trademark/ when making the requested revisions.
Ms Singh replied to Tia Linden’s initial response, requesting further clarification as to whether she needed to modify the video, the video description, the blog post, or delete the video and/or the blog post. In a highly unprofessional manner, knowing that YouTube gives a deadline of 48 hours to resolve such issues before putting the reported-for-infringement user through its disciplinary measures, Tia Linden failed to respond. By the way: When communicating officially with someone, especially about legal matters, it is proper that company representatives use their real names.
Another Linden Lab employee told Ms Singh the following:
Our only request is that the images of our registration, avatar building and home pages be removed. This is prohibited and we never give permission. The video can be edited to not include the content in question and they are welcome to insert a hyperlink to our home page for users to play.
While we appreciate the promotion of Second Life, we simply ask that the user follow the guidelines set forth here: http://secondlife.com/corporate/brand/insl/ when using Linden Lab’s trademarks.
This makes no sense, because the video then would be an illegible mess. Plus, the ownership of the trademarks is perfectly clear to everyone who has at least one functioning brain cell. But I digress…
From what I gather: Linden Lab’s IP specialist did not assume good faith anywhere in this whole case. She applied an interpretation of the law and LL’s own guidelines in a manner that the worst bureaucrat would. She failed to follow-up with the person she took administrative action against, thus leaving them out of options and alternatives. She effectively strong-armed a user by escalating things immediately and by not showing any willingness to cooperate with the user (this, of course, requires good faith). She alienated an ardent supporter and advocate of Second Life. She alienated a large chunk of SL’s user base. She caused yet another PR fiasco for her employer. Her move, even if well-intentioned, was beyond stupid.
Now, if her employer (Linden Research Inc.) fails to see the case for what it is, i.e. a complete and utter PR fiasco caused by a moronic interpretation of the legislation and the company’s guidelines, they have no one to blame for the fact that everyone wonders if and why they’re still around, and I’m certain that many educators and academics will be reluctant to continue proposing Second Life as a tool. I’m pretty sure the people at Adobe, Autodesk, and Trimble are laughing their posteriors off at the moment, as what the Lab has done is tantamount to them going after people posting tutorials on YouTube about how to use Photoshop, AutoCAD, and SketchUp.
PS: As if I haven’t already written so in my blog’s sidebar, Second Life and the Second Life Eye-in-Hand logo are trademarks of Linden Research, Inc. and I’m in no way, shape, or form, affiliated with them. As if I’d want to.