A Blogtempest in a Blogteacup

Drama and the worlds online tend to go together like celery and peanut butter, and that seems to be doubly true here in Second Life. It seems that there is a need for controversy in many of us, a hunger for something to be righteously and earnestly upset about. This roiling discontent finds it’s expression in world, in chat rooms, on third parties, and of course, on the vast array of blogs which are written by and for SL residents.

The newest bugaboo to rise, inspired by yet more blind idiocy by Linden Labs, is making it’s presence known in an unusual fashion. Certainly it has inspired a great deal of talk both intelligent and inane, but now in an interesting twist, it has inspired silence in several normally noisy individuals. In short, some bloggers are on strike for a few days over the issue of LL and SL trademarks.

In their newest Terms of Service updates, Linden Labs heavily beefed up their copy write restrictions, basically stating that if they want, they can sue ANYONE for even thinking the words Second Life really hard. High on their list of no nos is writing Second Life incorrectly, like Secondlife or second life for instance, or leaving off the copy write/trademark symbols.

These are fairly normal requirements (or at least requests) by a large business, especially those that are multi-national and tend to appear in the press a good deal. What has inspired the fear and loathing, and thusly this strike, amongst some elements of the chattering classes, is that the Lindens have been very very vague about the particulars: who is considered to have fair use rights, and what LL will/could do to those who they feel are in violation.

Regarding these fears, and the strike in general, I have the following observations:

So what else is new?

Open ended concepts, vague restrictions and questionable threats is the bread and butter of the TOS. Someone in the Linden Legal Department believes in being VERY proactive, providing LL with at least some kind of thin legal basis for suing anyone for anything. I can see him in conferences, saying things like “Oh, and add to the TOS that burning the client software onto a CD, laser etching the CD into a ninja throwing star and then killing someone with it could result in being banned, maybe, if we feel like it…just to be on the safe side.” In the end, the language becomes something like “Doing anything we don’t like, or even getting accused of the same, could get you banned, or worse. We MEAN it this time.”

I remind you all of the inclusion of language against activities that are “broadly offensive” and “possibly illegal” into the TOS. I was certainly quite vocally upset with the privacy and discrimination issues that one opened up. That certainly threatened certain communities in SL just as directly as these trademark rules threaten bloggers, or those who have businesses that function in SL. Just as the bloggers are currently, people were upset that the Lindens spoken to (including the ubiquitous and often startlingly useless Robin Linden) made reassuring noises then just repeated the same meaningless, vague statements from the TOS, as if there were adding something new to the debate. Nod and smile, nod and smile, and pretend you said something so that these annoying users will go away…this has all happened before, it will happen again.

A Strike?

In any protect, a Strike or boycott is basically the equivalent of a Scud missile. Dumb, random, uncontrollable and just as likely to hurt friend as it is foe. I know some people are upset that LL is putting these restrictions down when they feel they perform a vital marketing job for SL, free of charge. However, I beg to differ with that one. I wouldn’t; expect that the SL blogs bring in too many new residents (though I have no figures about that), but rather mainly serve those people ALREADY in SL. Considering the high degree of churn that already exists in SL (as well as most online worlds, to be fair) I can’t really see the Linden’s losing sleep over 30 odd bloggers not writing for a few days (save maybe for dear Robin, who has to deal with such issues for salary).

In truth, it seems like just another exercise in self promotion by certain bloggers, trying to get their names on massively.com or slashdot, hopefully preceded by “well-known” or “leading blogger”. Remember the infamous Open Letter that was supposed to force LL to fix bugs before adding features, because it was signed by prominent FIC members (at least prominent that month). Well, since then we have gotten Windlight, and Dazzle, and CIS:SL and a new (and broken) mandatory client build…and all the same bugs are still there, in fact there are more. So much for the FIC’s Open Letter. Why do some bloggers think it will be different for them? Just a case of bloggers blogging about other blogs and the stories that they blog about, then serial pingbacking themselves to boost their numbers. A daisy chain of silliness.

And in Caledon?

The argument that bloggers not promoting SL will somehow hurt LL makes even less sense for Caledonian bloggers. Even if we accept that bloggers going silent will decrease new residents, the land in Caledon is purchased in advance en masse by Desmond Shang and then “rented” by parcel to residents. Therefore, if Caledonian bloggers going silent decreases the demand for Caledonian land it doesn’t hurt the Lindens, they have their money already…it hurts the Guvnah’s bottom line, which hurts all current residents. Therefore, this strike is not only pointless for Caledonians, but potentially self destructive. Does that make any sense to anyone?

The End Result?

Just as with the Broadly Offensive controversy, there will be a great deal of noise, which will have no effect, and then nothing will happen. This issue will slowly fade away, and life will, amazingly enough, go on. I have no idea why LL feels the need to create this little kerfuffles, but I REALLY can’t see them spending the time and money to go after bloggers over trademark issues. They simply want the firepower to go after those who DO try to take advantage of their brand, and as the number of virtual worlds seems to increase hourly, that may be a wise precaution…however they have not through the concept through, or anticipated the worries of residents concerning these sweeping, vague powers.

All this will pass, strike or no strike…like every teacup tempest.

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3 Comments

  1. I agree completely… We’ve seen this over and over with Linden Labs… and really, no protests, no letters, not even the programmers and scripters working on the open source really have a say or make a difference. Not to mention the fact that while Linden Lab gets enough publicity, the Caledon blogs help Caledon, and the surrounding and attatched sims.
    Silence hurting LL? I doubt it. But hurting the place where they reside? Most likely.

  2. I’d have to say I agree as well. I understand–to a certain degree–why they felt the need to raise the issue, but there were far better ways to handle it. But then, when can’t we say that about the Labs? More often than not, they seem terrifyingly short-sighted for a company who wants to be the next big thing, for as long as possible.

    *casts eyes over the list to the right*

    People found your blog by the phrase “clitoral fancies”?? Okay, that’s just mind-boggling…

  3. […] Baron of BardHaven and I do not always agree. This silly nobleman seems to minimise the strength of the Second Life written press & rantings, and always has that elite ‘I am Caledon nobility’ air drifting around him. Not much of […]


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