[RESOLVED] Codename Pitchfork

Sometimes, the weirdest things just happen.

Here I am, minding my own business in SL after a nice afternoon spent, well, actually, this is neither here nor there — minding my own business as I said, when this AV IMs me out of the blue. The conversation, if you want to call it that (and you will have to forgive the dazzling display of esprit that makes up my side ; I was a tad surprised) went like this :

[Name of avatar deleted for privacy reasons]
[15:14] Anonymous: don’t mute me plz don’t mute me
[15:14] Anonymous: their after me
[15:14] Anonymous: just listen to me just 1 min
[15:15] Anonymous: PLZE!
[15:15] Anonymous: their after me
[15:15] Rheta Shan: Err…
[15:15] Anonymous: thye will get me any min now
[15:15] Anonymous: u hav to let the world know
[15:16] Anonymous: SHIT
[15:16] Rheta Shan: Is this some kind of joke ?
[15:17] Rheta Shan: Hey ?
[15:19] Rheta Shan: Right, very funny, really…
[15:19] Second Life: User not online – message will be stored and delivered later.

Oh great, I thought, more to file under « another day in Second Life ». Shee-eesh.

Which would pretty much have concluded the whole episode (and made for a very poor blog post, if at all) if my subsequent spring cleaning hadn’t uprooted a notecard in my inventory I’m sure I never put there. Yes, I know there’s no way it could have gotten there without me agreeing to it. In fact, it should not be there, at all. But it is. Which, all things considered, is only half as weird as its content. If not less.

But read for yourself : Continue reading

Chimaera

I have never been much of a political activist. The way I see it, however passionate you are about an issue, politics have a way of wearing you down by making you argue the same things over and over again, until anything you say is but the n-th rehash of things said countless times before. And while repetition might hone your skirmishing skills, each pass blunts your heart as much as it sharpens your tongue.

That, and the fact that I am a hopelessly shallow person of course, have been enough to keep me away from the nitty gritty of political work. Oh, I might cheer and wave, I might even run that first, glorious mile when events are still fast paced and exciting ; but don’t look for me when the going gets slow — unless it is in the boutiques we passed on that first mile. It has always been that way. I have always been that way. 

But life moves in strange ways, especially when you have two of them, and in one of mine at least things have been… different, lately.

Not entirely surprisingly, this has to do with trademarks ; trademarks as made into policy by Linden Lab, and as protested against by so many in the blogosphere. And then again, more surprisingly maybe, it has not. It has not because when all is said and done, what the issue really boils down to is not a silly set of writing rules for bloggers, nor even the presumption to enforce these by brute force if need be, but one simple and far more general question :

What kind of world do we want to live in ?

Yes, yes, I know how that sounds. Don’t call the orderlies yet (later, maybe : being put in a straightjacket and manhandled by burly men, then locked into a cell, only ever to get out for an ice bath or some electric shock therapy … but I digress).

Let me explain what I mean. Continue reading

Est-ce une révolte ?

Non, Sire, c’est… well, actually, we’re not quite sure.

Following the call by the eminent Ms Gwyneth Llewelyn for a general strike of the gallant fraternity (and sorority) of bloggers against the unbearable tyranny brought upon us by His Majesty’s legal and marketing departments (as documented here, here, and here), this blog will be on strike from today April 15th until April 18th 2008. No post will be available for perusal but those linked here, and none will be added until then.

As a diverting and topically appropriate interlude, we offer a reenactement of M. Hugo’s Les Misérables with a superb contemporary cast, starring Codebastard Redgrave as Jean Valjean (left), Ana Lutetia as Éponine (kneeling on the barricade), Jacek Antonelli as Marius (second from the left), Kit Meredith as Gavroche (right), and Gwyneth Llewelyn as la Liberté (center); also guest starring Catherine Linden as Thénardier, Robin Linden as Javert and Philip Linden as His most gracious Majesty, the King of France.

La Liberté menant le peuple, par Eugène Delacroix

La Liberté menant le peuple, par Eugène Delacroix

Now if I could just think of another song to sing on the barricades but this one:

Ah ça ira, ça ira, les aristocrates à la lanterne…

Post scriptum

it has been brought to our attention that the following blogs are on strike:

We have also been notified that not content with shutting down its entire SL related blogosphere, Portugal also witnesses its bona fide RL press picking up the issue. Ah, felix Portugal

Please do not hesitate to notify us of further developments.

Post Post Scriptum:

The strike has ended, but the story around it has not. Those interested in both its past and future might find this odd beast of a post of interest.

The Silence of the Lindens

Catherine Linden does not listen.

She does not answer questions asked of her either.

Granted, the marketing director of Linden Lab did post a second time on the official Linden blog about the new trademark policy, in response to the outcry in the Second Life You-know-Where blogosphere, but this was nothing but a reiteration of the original position. The Lindens did not budge a millimetre.

Truth be said, there was one good thing about the second post : with the rephrasing cutting through the legalese, shortly after the revised ToS enforcing it was force fed on all residents at logon, many more bloggers started noticing things are really amiss — for one example, see Ciaran Laval’s change of mind on Your2ndPlace. Most important maybe, it spurned Gwyneth Llewelyn, whose « Second Life® Bloggers Require Clarification » (reproduced by express permission on my own blog) clearly put the blogosphere’s questions before the Lindens, to the next logical step of presenting them with a petition to reconsider their policies. Thanks to Gwyn’s efforts to mount a real campaign, the petition has been open to for review and suggestions by other SL Y-K-W bloggers before publication.

Whether you think already this is an issue, are convinced it is not, or are at loss about what to make of the whole fuss, I urge you to take the time to read the petition. Because, as you will realise when you do, Linden Lab are going far beyond the legitimate aim of protecting a vital business asset of theirs in the form of their trademarks. Not only did they suddenly revert a policy which has led thousands of residents to create blogs, fansites, services and similar around the world they live in, and that quite in agreement with the then lenient guidelines of Linden Lab, effectively thanking good and unpaid community building with a kick in the vitals and breaking all rules of good faith, both legal and moral, in my book — they also have abrogated themselves a censor’s right to decree how, and what is to be written about their products anywhere on the internet as long as you are a resident and wish to stay so, as Kit Meredith succinctly resumed.

But don’t take my word for it. Gwyn and her contributors have put all of the matters at hand much better than I could ever do it on my own, and the petition even offers what I think is quite a reasonable compromise to the Lab. Find it quoted in full after the fold : Continue reading

Second Life® Bloggers Require Clarification

Disclaimer : The following manifesto has been published by Gwyneth Llewelyn, on her own blog. It is reprinted here to show my support of its intent. All credits for the manifesto itelf go to Gwyn. As I quote it verbatim, I have excepted it from the new terminology in vigour elsewhere on my blog.

Dear 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.