Second Life® Bloggers Require Clarification

Trademark protestDear Linden Lab®,

Your recent change of policy regarding the usage of your trademarks — Second Life®, Linden Lab®, and others registered by Linden Research Inc. — will effectively prevent the operation of the very vibrant community of bloggers, forum posters, websites, community portals, and even 3rd party services, that have provided Linden Lab® with links and driving traffic to your blog, and raising brand awareness for free for your product Second Life®.

Probably thousands — if not dozens of thousands — of sites include (now illegitimately) the name “Second Life®” or “SL®” somewhere in their names. From sites like Reuters (which has a Second Life® channel) to whole companies that have a “Second Life® Division” (and promotes your product by the explicit naming of it), a plethora of online communities, products, and services — some free, other commercial, many in the limbo between both extremes — include, in some way, your registered trademarks.

Your previous policy, established in May 2004 (“Second Life® Fansite Tolkit”), and later reinforced with referral programmes like “Viva La Evolution”, positively encouraged the widespread use of your trademarks, so long as it was quite clearly displayed that no infringement was intended. To requote your own terms of agreement for the usage of your trademarks:

USE OF SECOND LIFE MARKS

While you are in full compliance with the usage guidelines described here, you may use the “Second Life” name on your website, as well as the related logos and graphics available at Toolkit, solely in the form described there. Additionally, you may use screenshots from Second Life to the extent that Linden Lab has the right to authorize use of the content within such screenshot, including screenshots of Linden in-world objects and Linden avatars, subject to these usage guidelines.

Under those very friendly terms, a plethora of fansites of all sorts popped up, driving traffic to Second Life®’s main website, its blogs, forums, and other related sites — making SL®’s own ranking quite high on Google, Alexa, and other systems — while at the same time, in a period of a little less than four years, allowing the number of registered users to skyrocket from 10,000 to 13 million.

Fansites, blogs, 3rd party sites, Second Life®-related online communities, 3rd party sites that create products and services related to Second Life® are the “off-world” counterpart of the dynamic and enthusiastic community that made Second Life®, as a brand, get world-wide recognition — without the need for Linden Lab® to spend millions in advertising and campaigns on the media. We worked for free on the promotion, brand awareness, and market recognition of your products — while, at the same time, we also worked for free creating the fantastic content of the 3D environment that makes Second Life® a place worth to visit, to enjoy, to chat, to socially connect, to do business, and launch the pillars of the upcoming metaverse — fulfilling Philip ‘Linden®’ Rosedale’s dream of having more users in Second Life® than on the Web.

We’ve been the ones ultimately promoting that vision, spreading it around, and making sure that the world noticed your product and your brand. We were very successful — thanks to your gentle and encouraging former policies.

And for four years, you have been thankful enough to allow us to do that promotion, by establishing very reasonable and clear guidelines of the terms of usage of your trademarks.

Your sudden reversal of position — effectively limiting the display of the name “Second Life®” on most sites, domain names, products, and services, through a mechanism of explicit approval that you fully admit “can take long and might never finish” and will only be available to a very limited number of sites — means that suddenly all the off-world promotion of Second Life® will necessarily have to stop; or face a lawsuit in court; or, at the very least, receive a Cease & Desist letter from your lawyers and be forced to shut down.

The current terms can be aggressively enforced or not. According to your blog, we are supposed to have a 90-day grace period to remove all mentioning of Second Life® and its logo from our fansites, blogs, forums, or 3rd party sites offering products and services related to Second Life®. In fact, what this means is that we are forced not to talk about Second Life® any more — or, if we do, we cannot explicitly name the product at all.

This is, obviously, absurd.

The compromise between Linden Research Inc. (owners of the registered trademarks) and the community of volunteers that have so faithfully promoted your product, Second Life®, was quite clear for the past four years. We had clear guidelines of what we could do and what we couldn’t. Abuses could still be effectively dealt with by your legal department; to the world’s knowledge, these cases were few and scattered, if any. They were not significative to prevent a vast number of dozens of thousands of sites of all sorts to draw traffic to your own site; to reach out the huge audience on the Internet; and to drive new users to register. The numbers fortunately speak for themselves: with almost zero promotional costs, you managed to grow a thousand times in four years, thanks to crowdsourcing the promotion of Second Life®.

The “inSL” programme is definitely interesting, but a small new logo, worthless to an audience of hundreds of millions of users that are familiar with the eye-on-hand logo, without a massive campaign of promotion behind it to reflect the logo change, is not enough. “inSL” doesn’t say much, and it cannot be expanded to talk and promote Second Life® directly. And, anyway, the same restrictions apply to the usage of “inSL” as with all your other trademarks. We appreciate the grant to use that new logo, but we also feel it will be unable to gather the same support and promotional effort as the old logo and the product name did in the past four years.

We would thus kindly request that you clarify your position regarding the usage of the trademarks Second Life® and the logo on all fansites, blogs, forums, or other 3rd party websites offering products and services related to Second Life®. This clarification should be as easy to follow as your previous policies on the usage of those trademarks. They should make clear that all people intending to promote your product and raise your brand awareness are not facing lawsuits because they have faithfully used your trademarks using the old policy, and wish to continue to do so in the future.

We consider that an appropriate response should be forthcoming in the next few days, or we will be forced to shut down our own blogs, websites, forums, community portals, and other 3rd party sites to avoid litigation — and thus deprieving Linden Lab® from the traffic generated by millions of direct links and millions of viewers that learn first about Second Life® through all those sites.

Personal note: This blog will enter on strike on April 15th, 2008, for a period of 3 days, if no clarification by Linden Lab is published before that date.

Permission is granted by the author to fully copy & adapt the text above if you wish.

The T-shirt is available from PalUP Ling. Thanks, PalUP!

More links to the same topic.

Apologies if you are unable to add any more comments. It seems that the WordPress software is entering a strike on its own accord, but this time it’s not my fault!!!

Updates

Second Life Left Unity have published their own Open Letter to Linden Lab®.

A small “task force” is currently getting together to draft a better document. The purpose: not to push Linden Lab® to give a “yes”/”no” answer (which they very likely will answer with “no”) but a list of very reasonable claims and some questions that can individually be compromised upon.

About Gwyneth Llewelyn

I'm just a virtual girl in a virtual world...

20 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

  • Hear, hear! I believe eliminating links to they who shall not be named is only appropriate given the unfriendliness of their announcement (however justified it was by the need to protect trademarks and registered marks).

  • Pingback: Smartest Person in SL take on the new “SL” usage policy | Lost in Bananaverse()

  • A short follow-up… I’d welcome you to attend Robin Linden’s office hours (see the SL® Wiki for this) and raise this issue with her. Namely, if you think your current blog name might be a problem, bring it up to her. During her last office hours the issue was not raised at all, in spite of her pushing the subject.

    Still, one thing seems to be clear. One of the major reasons for going through all this trouble is that when you’re a holder of a trademark, you need to enforce it, or it reverts back to the public domain — and Linden Lab® certainly wishes to keep Second Life® as a valuable asset of their company!

    The second issue is that a lot of their competitors are placing ads with things like “Start your Second Life on There.com” or something similar. You might even see things like “Clothes for your Second Life” on Google Ads and be redirected to… IMVU. This is what LL needs to prevent.

    And thirdly, there is currently a lot of scam sites, like, well, http://www.second-life.com/ — not to mention places like “The Official Second Life Site for [Insert Country Here]” which is anything but official. So all these cases are very clear violations/abuse of LL’s trademarks.

    Still, this will mean that things like http://slprofiles.com, or http://slexchange.com, or even http://secondlifeherald.com will have to go — and that is something quite sad to see.

  • Shorah Gwyn,

    Great post, as always.

    I don’t suppose you’ll try and get as many other sites as possible to pull out for a few days at the same time? It would have a better impact.

    I’d consider doing the same thing, but this world is not the main reason I write – Uru is (and with its Second Shutdown, there’s lots to write about, in part about other worlds!).

    The biggest concern will probably come from the Convention, actually – I do believe that there was a prior OK to use the trademarks et al, but apparently now its in limbo. Bah.

    /salute
    –Timothy Kimball
    aka ‘Alan Kiesler’

  • Pingback: Portugal Code » Blog Archive » Second Life® Bloggers Require Clarification - Gwyneth Llewelyn()

  • Pingback: SL Brand Center — Followup « Around the Grid with Harper()

  • Pingback: Second Life® Bloggers Require Clarification | Ana Lutetia()

  • Pingback: Second Life® Bloggers Require Clarification at Geta()

  • Pingback: Second Life® Bloggers requerem clarificação at Geta()

  • Pingback: Second Life® bloggers request clarification « Second Arts()

  • Pingback: The Grid Live » Second Life News for March 28, 2008()

  • Can I scribble my name under your letter as well? I fully support it.

  • Yes, definitely, Laetizia — publish it on your blog too if you wish 🙂

  • Pingback: Linden Lab Promises a Reply on Trademark Issue to Blogger « Around the Grid with Harper()

  • Linked back! 🙂

  • I’m sorry Gwyn but whereas I support the call for better communication, a lot of this is way off the mark.

    First of all you should only need to use trademarks if you’re using the Linden Lab brand for marketing or advertising purposes. That’s pretty much standard practice. There is no need to keep putting trademark symbols in a general blog entry. Take a look at the media at large and you’ll see they don’t do it.

    Linden Lab need to protect their trademarks or they will lose their right to use them.

    You’re outside of the United States I believe so some of the trademark symbols are not needed.

    This isn’t about silencing criticism, this is about marketing. Whereas I agree that prior discussion should have taken place (and I don’t consider 90 days to comply as prior discussion) some of the things being said simply don’t make sense.

    Linden Lab have a history of making overnight policy change annoncements, they have not gained anything from prior experience, their communication with the community remains abysmal but this is how they work, I don’t know why anyone expects anything different.

  • Pingback: Second Life® Bloggers Require Clarification « Education in virtual/real worlds()

  • Ciaran, I’m pretty sure the usage of ® and ™ is really minor and nobody at the ‘Lab will worry about it…

    The real issue here is clarifying in which cases Linden Lab is willing to “grandfather” some existing projects, which have high visibility not only inside the community — but on Google PageRank too! — and which, thanks to them, a lot of people have joined Second Life®. “The Virtual World Shakespearan Company” or “The Virtual World Ballet Troupe” will definitely not attract anyone to join SL® if people happen upon either of these names somewhere on the ‘net…

  • I said elsewhere I’d support a campaign to allow the use of Second Life in similar terms to inSL or SL. I mean Microsoft (who have similar guidelines) don’t want people using MS instead of Microsoft.

    Brand awareness is important, so is ownership of a brand. I search for news on Second Life, I don’t search for news on SL.

    The issue with domain names has always been there as far as I know (I haven’t been here as long as you) my fansite download says you agree to avoid confusion with your domain name and using Second Life in your masthead.

    My main beef with this is that we should have been having this discussion before the policy changed. That would have avoided a lot of the confusion over this issue.

    If people are in breach of the new guidelines but not the old guidelines then yes, that is an issue, which is why this discussion should have been taking place before they announced the policy but some people seem to think everything they say about Second Life now needs to be in line with the trademark guidelines and that simply makes no sense.

  • Pingback: SL Post of the Week « Second Arts()

  • The SLLU open letter to the Lindens about these further curbs to freedom can be viewed on http://www.slleftunity.com

  • Pingback: PT Code » Blog Archive » Linden Lab® irá dar resposta oficial ao “nosso” pedido de esclarecemento.()

  • The supposed ‘clarification’ of the new trademark rules are a huge let down to everyone, they in fact do nothing to clear up the questions of most residents or fan sites.
    These fan site, website, blogs, newspapers etc have spent the last 4 years boosting Second Life’s hits and promoting SL freely and enthusiastically, what are they to do now? Why would any company turn on the very people that love them and show it on a daily basis?……………..

  • Jason

    Of course, some of these trademarks have only been applied for, not granted yet (can we speak out against the granting?).

    Even if granted, the trademark is only in certain areas of business…a person might make the case that their use of “SL” is in regard to a business outside of the area in which the trademark in enforceable.

    Finally, Linden’s previous allowance of people to use the terms & logos pretty freely may mean that all such prior usage is now legally something they cannot force you to stop (look up estoppel)…provided you can hire a lawyer to win you such a case.

  • Jason

    Two good wikipedia links about Linden changing their mind about trademarks:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laches_%28equity%29
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estoppel

  • The real criticism of Linden Lab here is not its policy on trademarks in general, but its grossly inconsistent approach (which is why I have not voted in your poll, since there is no “I don’t terribly care as long as the approach is and has been fully consistent over the long term”).

    The reason given for the change on their latest ‘blog post on the subject is utterly incoherent: the handling of the matter is extremely unprofessional, and will cause immense disruption to legitimate and desirable activity in SecondLife for no good reason whatsoever.

  • Pingback: Ainda as Trademarks e os ‘coisos’ «()

  • Great post Gwyneth – it’s actually sad to see how Linden Lab promoted sites like ours in the past and now forces these same sites to change their domain name and everything that goes with it. I highly doubt Linden Lab would take to take to sue all those sites out there since that is a battle they can’t win but enforcing their new TOS in world would of course be much easier. As I asked Linden Lab, how do we in world “change” objects we’ve given out to our members that include this “bad” url or include scripts connecting to these sites? I assume the reason why I haven’t received a response to this question is simply because there is no solution!

  • Since clarification doesn’t seem to be forthcoming, it would at least be helpful to know what action will be taken against those out of compliance. if it will be a letter received telling the blog/web site owner that they are out of compliance, the easiest thing to do is just wait and see if you get a letter and then make your changes. My site, SLPulse.com is a free press release service for the residents of SL. Changing its name would pretty much render it useless.

  • Pingback: Nexeus Fatale » Blogger Strike?()

  • Pingback: trademark issue | Ana Lutetia()

  • Pingback: Clarificação do LL (a quente) at Geta()

  • Anonymous

    HEAR HEAR!!! Everything you said I have had in my own head since it all came out.

    Not only bloggers should strike But what if the residents have a strike on logging into “no name” for a few days and see what happens.

    I dont know what real impact it would have totaly on it or if it would be effective. But It sure would be interesting to have 2 days of a strike on “no name” No lindens purchased no currency exchanged ect..

    Iv been so disgusted with “no name” recently Im about to bail and say screw it all. Its a mess and they could really care less. Like you said here, we built them up and hmm do you think we can tear them up just like we promoted them so generously?

    “no name” is a peice of “@#$#$%” right now and I have even gone back to the time I came into “no name” and read old note cards and I’ll say I go back to Jan. 07 …in my chat notes we were talking the same ole crap. Crashing, Lag and why dont they do anything.

    My own computer never ever gave me trouble and I ran some pretty cruel programs that tested its ability without causing harm to it. But “no name” has caused my computer a lot of grief.

    In a few months I may be fully wheened from “no name” and hopefully will have moved on with my more important RL.

    Great Blog by the way!

  • Anonymous

    One more thing. I have a necklace in RL that I purchased of the hand symbol crafted by an artist in Israel. Its a jewish good luck symbol I was told. So its actually a symbol thats been used for centuries. I dont know where im going with this…

    I just thought Id mention it…has anyone else purchased RL jewlery that looks like “no names” sacred sysmbol?

  • Pingback: [put title here] » Blog Archive » A Bunch of Links()

  • Pingback: Est-ce une révolte ?()

  • Pingback: Chimaera()

  • Pingback: Blogger Strike? | Nexeus Fatale()