Saturday, December 16, 2017

News and Commentary: Linden Lab Offers Apology to Strawberry Singh Following Takedown Demand

By Bixyl Shuftan

Protecting what they consider trademarked images and names has been an issue for companies for decades. For instance, for years the Lego corporation has asked people to call it's building toys "Lego bricks" and not "legos." Some have gotten a reputation for going overboard, such as when Disney once demanded a preschool paint over images of Mickey Mouse and other characters. For Linden Lab, the issue of trademarks usually comes up when one of it's residents makes an item inworld that is trademarked by someone else. But it's own trademarks haven't been an issue for many years, until now.

Strawberry Singh is a noted and award-winning blogger of Second Life, one whom has been doing so for years. On December 13, she announced she was removing one of her tutorial videos, "Introduction to Second Life." The reason, one of the Lindens, Tia Linden, complained to Youtube about it, and Youtube gave Strawberry 48 hours to resolve the issue before taking action on her account. Wondering what was wrong, Strawberry emailed Tia asking what was the issue. Tia soon answered, saying while they appreciated her continued support of Second Life, "we have not given you permission to use Linden Lab's intellectual property in the manner of which you have done." She emailed her again, but did not get an answer by the time the 48 hours was almost up and deleted the video, saying in her blog post, "in the future, I probably won’t be doing any other tutorials like this where I show how to use Second Life because their logos might pop up in the videos." She would tell Hamlet Au when he asked shortly afterwards that she didn't think the Lab cared she was promoting the virtual world.

As Strawberry's blog has a lot of readers, it didn't take long for word to get around, to New World Notes, Modem World, Living Virtually, and presumably other blogs. Hamlet Au would write, "Linden Lab's actions are contrary in spirit if not in letter to its stated policies around medua use of its trademarks." Inara Pey wrote, "the statement that certain images and logos now cannot be use in any capacity. If this is now the case, it is worrying for many of us who routinely blog about Second Life and have used such images and logos. ... Where do we now stand if we are now seeing a shift in position from Linden Lab? Are we now in violation of a new prohibition on image use?" Mona Eberhardt's title of her commentary was more blunt, "Yet Another Stupid D**k Move by Linden Lab." Daniel Voyager has yet to write about the incident, as of the writing of this article, but did end up retweeting a statement from Ebbe Linden (left).

Eventually, the Lab began to realize it had a public relations mess on it's hands. Ebbe Linden ended up defending Tia Linden from an angry Tweet by Mona Eberhardt, "I'm willing to take all kinds of heat, but suggesting that Tia is anything but an incredible team player and professional crosses the line for me. ... We will review policies that make things better and easier for us all though."On Thursday, they issued a public apology on the official Second Life blog.

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.

Following the apology, the Lab explained that the incident came from it's policy of protecting it's trademarked images, and that it would be revised to allow people to write about and video to promote Second Life without worry of hassle, "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."

Strawberry would tell the Newser, "Aside from a big thank you to all of my readers that gave me so much support yesterday I really don't know what else to say. I was so surprised at the response my post got as my reason for doing the post was just to inform others of what happened so they don't experience the same thing I did. I never expected that people would be so vocal and supportive and do all that they did for me yesterday. I was also pleasantly surprised with the Lab's response too. I was not expecting a response at all so all of it was so encouraging and uplifting and I'm so happy that the end result will be hopefully a better policy for all Second Life bloggers and bloggers in the future."

Linden Lab also mentioned what happened with a parody blog in January 2007 in which the blogger invited the Lab to issue a "cease and desist" letter. But instead Linden Lab's lawyer issued an "uncease and desist" letter, stating, "Linden Lab objects to any implication that it would employ lawyers incapable of distinguishing such obvious parody."

Also at the time, there was at least one instance of someone making modifications of the eye in hand symbol for the purposes of promoting Second Life. In early 2006, Yiffy Yaffle came up with a "Second Life Furry" logo as a way for sims to be identified as having a population of furs. The symbol is seldom seen today, though presumably from lack of interest.

Perhaps the incident was the result of one overzealous employee, but unfortunately Linden Lab has a history of making foul-ups such as this. While the Lab did apologize to Strawberry, that the incident happened in the first place is likely to be seen by many longtime residents as just the latest in a long series of blunders.

Sources: Strawberry Singh, Linden Lab, Washington Post,Twitter

Bixyl Shuftan

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