The talk of the day was #berryCopyright, a (erroneously named, as the dispute was about trademarks and not copyrights) hashtag encompassing a trademark complaint Linden Research Inc. filed with YouTube against a tutorial video by blogger/vlogger Strawberry Singh, who shared on her blog what had happened to her. Thankfully, sanity prevailed and Linden Research Inc., after considerable outcry by community members, bloggers, and commentators, reversed the ill-advised takedown notice and publicly apologised to Ms Singh. The trademark complaint which was filed with YouTube by the company’s IP specialist, who goes by the “Tia Linden” name in-world, was revoked, and an encouragingly-worded post was made on the company’s official blog. This trademark complaint honestly made no sense whatsoever, as the appearance of LL’s trademarks (most notably, the “eye-in-hand” logo) in the “offending” video had every hallmark of fair, informational use, as one can easily understand by reading the International Trademark Association’s material on the subject, and the material provided by Nolo (the latter was contributed to Strawberry Singh’s original post as a comment by Alana Onyett).
I’m going to quote the pertinent passages from the latter source, to clear out any misunderstandings and/or misinterpretations regarding what constitutes fair use and what constitutes a trademark violation:
Informational (or “editorial”) uses of a trademark do not require permission. These are uses that inform, educate, or express opinions protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution—freedom of speech and of the press.
For example, permission is not required to use the Chevrolet logo in an article describing Chevrolet trucks, even if the article is critical of the company. You could (obviously) use the word mark “Chevrolet” as well as the famous golden “plus sign” logo mark. This would be true whether you were publishing a news article or an article in an academic journal.
Similarly, if you were making a documentary film on the history of American trucks, you would not need permission to include the Chevrolet logo. However, the use of the logo must have some relevance to the work. For example, it would not be wise to publish an article critical of overseas auto manufacturing practices and include the Chevrolet logo unless Chevrolet was mentioned in the article.
Finally, you are also permitted to use trademarks for purposes of parody or commentary. For example, if you were writing a skit about how young people are always on their phones, you could glue the Apple logo onto the actors’ prop phones without fearing a claim of trademark infringement.
Had the trademark complaint remained, the impact would be palpable: Bloggers, vloggers, even academics and educators offering tutorials w.r.t. the use of Second Life as a platform, the use of LL’s corporate website for SL to create and manage accounts, the use of the official viewer, etc., would suddenly be exposed to the risk of having their informative content removed, and even their YouTube accounts. They would have to engage in an unequal legal struggle, at considerable cost, and the result would be a chilling effect across the userbase, and, naturally, the long-term effects on LL’s products would be non-trivial. As I wrote in my previous post on the matter, what happened was tantamount to Adobe, AutoDesk, and Trimble going after people posting tutorials on YouTube about how to use Photoshop, AutoCAD, and SketchUp respectively.
Thankfully, sanity prevailed. Below I quote LL’s post verbatim:
Recently, the Linden Lab IP team sent a takedown request regarding a YouTube video created by the great Strawberry Singh. She and many others have pointed out that this seems like a mistake, and we agree. We have reversed that takedown request and have reached out directly to Strawberry, but would also like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to her.
Strawberry, we feel fortunate to have you as a member of our Second Life community (and Sansar as well!), and we are grateful for the public support that your blog, YouTube channel, and other social media activity provides. We’re fans of your work, we are sorry for this misstep, and we hope you will continue sharing your awesome videos.
Below is some more info on what happened and why, and what we’re going to do differently in the future.
Like most businesses, we have policies in place around permissible use of Linden Lab trademarks. These are intended to legally protect our trademarks and brand, and to avoid confusion that can arise about what’s actually from an official source vs. a third party (to help with this, we have the “inSL” program). This policy has prohibited showing portions of the SL join flow, and that’s what triggered the recent takedown request. We’re revisiting that portion of our policy now.
The support of the SL community is incredibly valuable. Resident-created videos, blogs, and other social media not only enrich our existing community, but also help it to grow by showing off incredible SL content to the outside world, helping new users to get started, and more. While we still need policies in place to protect our trademarks, we will apply them as permissively as we can with the goal of encouraging and supporting our community.
Many years ago, the illustrious SL legal team made news by sending an “un-cease and desist” notice to a parody blog – rather than asking for a takedown, it offered encouragement to the creator. In that same spirit, we would like to offer our encouragement to Strawberry Singh and other Residents helping to evangelize the virtual world on YouTube and other social media. We appreciate your enthusiasm for SL, we are grateful for your support, and we ask you to please proceed and persist.
Consequently, Ms Singh was able to re-upload her video. With this, I consider the matter concluded, but I do wish it had never happened in the first place, and I also do have to wonder what would have happened if the one on the business end of the complaint was not a wildly popular blogger/vlogger, but a community member of far lower importance and influence, one who could not rally a large number of supporters (especially influential ones) at the drop of a hat.