[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

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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

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.

Dear Catherine Linden,

following up on your post on the Official Linden Blog on the Brand Center, I turn to you today in my quest for an instance able to certify that the measures I have taken on my blog do indeed make it conform to the new trademark policy of Linden Research. Not wishing to incur costly legal disputes, I have made the following amends:

  • All mentions of Linden Research’s trademark ‘Second Life’ have been replaced by ‘You-Know-Where’ throughout all posts, pages and comments.
  • All mentions of Linden Research’s trademark ‘SL’ have been replaced by ‘Y-K-W’ throughout all posts, pages and comments.
  • All mentions of Linden Research’s trademark ‘grid’ have been replaced by ‘you know where’ throughout all posts, pages and comments.
  • Common derivative terms have been adapted as fitted this  ‘Second Lifers’ for instance has been replaced by ‘You-Know-Where denizens’ throughout all posts, pages and comments, ‘SLURL’ by ‘Y-K-WURL’, etc.
  • Related uses of Linden Research trademarks have been corrected likewise: the subtitle of the blog now reads ‘Rheta Shan’s You-Know-Where blog’, and posts relating to the trademarked product are now tagged ‘you-know-where’.
  • The Disclaimer page has also been amended to conform to the required form.
  • Finally, all errant ‘s’ appended to Linden Lab have been removed throughout all posts, pages and comments.

I have left these edits documented for inspection, and will do so for the length of the grace period generously offered by Linden Research, or until a crack team of censors trademark lawyers from your office signifies the all-clear for this measure, preferably with an official seal of approval (a large watermark ‘TM’ might be fitting). I must however preemptively beg your leniency as to an issue that is bugging me: the title of the post Second Life Guess, which, as any expert you care to consult will probably be able to explain to you, is a pun, or play on words – I’d appreciate a proposal on how to handle the translation into the new terminology in this case. I also must apologize for not having converted the incriminated trademarked terms to the new form in URLs, as I have not found a solution to do so this without breaking the link to the targeted page. On this matter too, advice would be greatly welcome.

Once approval is given, I will extend this corrections to all other statements on the web I have made, as far as I have editorial rights to these (I am very much afraid there is not much I can do about old Twitter posts, barring deleting them all. Would that be the suggested course?).

If I may, I would urge you to accede to my request in a timely fashion, allowing me to turn this blog into a shiny example for the entire Second LifeYou-Know-Where-related blogosphere. I can promise that, once your and the censors’ trademark lawyers’ approval has been given, I will use my influence in blogger circles for the blogosphere to follow my example and conform to your expectations.

Do not hesitate to contact me, in-world or here, in case of questions.
Cordially yours
Rheta Shan (avatar)

Second Life Guess

[I apologize for not being able to correct the title of this post so as to conform to the new trademark policy of Linden Research. A suggestion by the office of C. Linden and / or Linden Research’s censorship trademark lawyers is however pending]

Linden Lab’s ban on SL Y-K-W banks is in effect as of today, on the dot two weeks after it has been announced. Two weeks in which, in the words of Massively’s Tateru Nino :

…we’ve had protests – some assuredly genuine, some apparently staged – runs on banks (a sort of game of musical chairs, where everyone hopes not to be the one left standing when the music stops), and the usual commingled mish-mash of cheering, screaming, jesting and angry outbursts…

— much of it happening in the SL Y-K-W blogosphere (see my own round-up of it here). Now the grace period is over, the economic effect of the ban turns to have fallen somewhat short of the sky caving in, in fact seeming to be near to negligible for the SL Y-K-W economy as a whole (though I am sure that on the personal level, for people having lost money in the crash, this is an entirely different story).

Seeing that and the fact that Linden Lab seem nowhere close to reverting their decision, the discussion of the pro and con seems to have petered out somewhat. Artur Fermi stating in essence « Good riddance, and keep the hype down » on Your2ndPlace and Aldon Huffhines / Hynes arguing on SLNN that Linden Lab’s decision is ill conceived and drives needed financial services out of the official grid, and that LL should reconsider are more or less the last ones to battle it out. Prokofy Neva and Benjamin Duranske on the other hand have added most welcome shades of grey to the often black and white discussion by casting some light on the people behind the banks. So, what am I up to, besides fawning for some more pats on the back for my diligent compiling work ?

Well, there is a twist on the debate I find fascinating : Continue reading