Linden Lab Gets Legal With Helpful Resource On Using Second Life For Education

from the trademark-abuse dept

Chalk up another victory for trademark bullying. Linden Lab, the creator of Second Life, apparently just got around to registering certain Second Life trademarks, but wasted no time using them to shove around at least one site that was only helping to get more people to use Second Life. Game Politics points us to the news that the operator of the Second Life in Education Wiki was on the receiving end of a legal nastygram. This is, frankly, dumb.

The site has been around for over two years without an issue, and helps educators better understand ways to use Second Life as a tool for education. It's clearly put together outside of the auspices of Linden Lab, but is a useful tool for educators who want to use the virtual world. It's the sort of thing Linden Lab should be encouraging. No "moron in a hurry" would go to the wiki and think that it was run by Linden Lab. Linden Lab's lawyers will, of course, claim that they have to monitor uses of their marks to avoid it going generic, but that's a cop out. They do not need to go after anyone who uses the mark in any way. In a case like this, where it's clearly an educational tool, not being used to describe a different or competing platform, there's no issue. Still, the operator of the site has decided it's not worth fighting, and will be changing the name of the site and moving it to a different domain. Too bad. Another win for needless trademark bullying.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    thublihnk (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 1:19pm

    While this article is illuminating in it's obvious intended way, I now know why Second Life is installed on a few computers at my school.

    Interesting, I'll have to look into that.

     

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  2.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 1:38pm

    Oh, never mind

    I always thought that Second Life had the potential to become a 3D version of the internet. Like how I host an HTTP page on my server at home now, I would host a 3D virtual environment in the future, something like how the Home thing on PSN works except more open.

    But, now that we see they have and will use their legal teeth, it's never going to happen. Shame, with the expanding adoption of broadband, it could have worked.

     

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  3.  
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    Pete Linden, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 2:13pm

    Linden Lab comments

    Linden Lab's comments on this are available here: http://www.metaversejournal.com/2009/10/03/trademarking-and-educators-linden-lab-responds/

    - Linden Lab's PR team

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 2:24pm

    You mean second life is not only for cybersex???

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 2:33pm

    Re: Linden Lab comments

    Matters such as this involving a person or site that is a strong supporter will almost always be handled in a hamfisted way if contact is initiated via legal counsel. Counsel is inclined to issue a communication along the lines of a cease and desist letter, rather that a communication explaining concerns and offering to work with the person/site for the mutual benefit of each.

     

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  6.  
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    CJ, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 2:43pm

    Looking at the response- "It's nothing personal?" It may not be personal to the company, but it is certainly personal to the user that receives a cease and desist notice, and not conducive in trying to form a community.

    The vagueness of the general "protect intellectual property" statement repeated in the response makes me uncomfortable; how does Linden Labs determine when "protecting intellectual property" is appropriate or not appropriate? Does Linden educate on fair use or how and when it is appropriate to use trademarked materials?

    I question whether this particular action was necessary at all.

     

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  7.  
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    Danny (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 2:59pm

    or it could have been a win win

    Or Linden Lab could have licensed use of the Mark to the wiki for a very nominal fee (say $1) and an explicit statement at the wiki that it is a licensed Mark.

    Mark is protected from the generic argument, and a useful tool guiding people to use the LL product is encouraged.

     

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  8.  
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    WammerJammer (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 3:23pm

    Linden Lab Gets Legal With Helpful Resource On Using Second Life For Education

    I see the Money and the Lawyers. When are the abused gonna start using their guns? Maybe we need to move these Lawyers to Texas where you can bring your gun(s) to the bar.

     

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  9.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 4:24pm

    Re: Linden Lab comments

    From the link: "In this case, both Second Life and SL have been Linden Lab trademarks since we first started using them for our virtual world many years ago. "

    This is sort of like a real estate developer trying to promote their development while simultaneously trying to prevent anyone else from talking about it. In short, it's stupid, regardless of what trademark law says.

    Why the frak do you need to 'own' "SL?" Are you giving "X-Street SL" any shit? Can I write a forum post about SL(tm)?

    Jeebus, dude. I just got into "Deuxim Vie". Don't make me hate you.

     

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  10.  
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    Snickers Snook, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 4:38pm

    Actually they do have to go after TM infractions

    LL does have to actively protect their mark. Vigorous enforcement is a necessary evil because the courts have ruled that marks can go generic otherwise. Danny's point about licensing it is the same one I made elsewhere. That would have been the preferred alternative but it also means drawing up a contract and monitoring it. God knows Linden Labs is lousy at follow-up on this stuff.

    The "SL" mark is a different story entirely. That's a claim coming from common usage that existed BEFORE Linden Labs starting actively using it themselves. I think they are on shaky ground -- but legal bullying may rule the day on it.

     

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  11.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 4:56pm

    Re: Actually they do have to go after TM infractions

    LL does have to actively protect their mark. Vigorous enforcement is a necessary evil because the courts have ruled that marks can go generic otherwise.

    People always say that, but they almost always get the facts wrong. Yes, you need to actively protect it -- but just for cases where there might be confusion or which could potentially make the term generic.

    That's not true here. Nothing about this usage would make the term generic. It was referring to the official Second Life -- not some generic virtual world.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 5:18pm

    Re: Re: Actually they do have to go after TM infractions

    "People always say that, but they almost always get the facts wrong. Yes, you need to actively protect it -- but just for cases where there might be confusion or which could potentially make the term generic."

    And that's the downside of having staff lawyers who are trying to prove they're relevant.

     

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  13.  
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    gr8oldies (profile), Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 5:39am

    Re: Re: Linden Lab comments

    Why the frak do you need to 'own' "SL?" Are you giving "X-Street SL" any shit?

    That's because Linden Labs owns X-Street SL

     

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  14.  
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    Prokofy Neva, Oct 4th, 2009 @ 11:27am

    Paid Educational Consultants, Not Victims of Bullies

    We can always count on TechDirt to post pieces that undermine copyright. Would there be a case of trademark assertion that you'd approve of?! We saw TechDirt before banging on SL over the question of "bulk permissions," and your flogging of that issue did a great deal of harm in inciting a determined minority of copyleftist coders to demand bulk permissions, which led to bugs that caused theft exploits, and created a climate of impunity only increasing the theft of IP in SL.

    LL didn't just register these marks yesterday -- they registered them 18 months ago and notified the community on their blog repeatedly and there were extensive conversations about it. There was a means to register inworld use of the term "SL" but it was made clear that "Second Life" and "SL" could not be used on third-party websites or products because these terms were trademarked. And it's *ok* to trademark intellectual property.

    In fact, there were several very high-profile cases in the last year of SL community businesses that used to have "SL" in their names and changed them due to this announcement. The independent online newspaper "Second Life Herald" changed to the "Alphaville Herald". The shopping site SLexchange.com changed to Xstreet and then was bought out by Linden Lab and became XStreetsl.com. The SL educators were well aware of these developments; they just thought they were exempt because they're special.

    I was one of many residents that changed my site formerly using these terms. Why not? I expect LL to protect the copyright of me and my tenants, and I see no reason why I shouldn't respect theirs.

    It's HUGELY misleading to portray the education wiki as somehow some exclusively non-profit and non-commercial enterprise. Nothing of the kind. Many of the people calling themselves "educators" in SL in fact are *paid consultants* in sole proprietor or small business hustling their consulting around the software -- some of them very highly paid -- who make a *business* selling educational software and "solutions". They have a vested interest as a class to keep their work tools free or low cost, so they constitute a very aggressive lobby on behalf of open-source and against this trademark effort, but they're hiding behind "service to the community".

    There are also educational insitutions in SL that in fact have HUGE grants from the government or private foundations to perform their projects in SL and they also have *a vested interest* in having all the software, knowledge bases, content, etc. be free so that they can maximize *their grants and their own position*.

    This is not a tale of a victim of some brutal and rapacious and indifferent company harming innocent volunteers in non-profits. It's a story of fiercely competing businesses using the slogan of education around consulting services more than anything else.

     

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  15.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 5th, 2009 @ 12:54am

    Re: Paid Educational Consultants, Not Victims of Bullies

    We can always count on TechDirt to post pieces that undermine copyright. Would there be a case of trademark assertion that you'd approve of?!

    Hmm. Do you understand that copyright and trademarks are two totally different things?

    And yes, there are plenty of cases of trademark assertion that I approve of: those where there's genuine confusion or clear "passing off" or appropriation. None of that is true in this case.

    We saw TechDirt before banging on SL over the question of "bulk permissions," and your flogging of that issue did a great deal of harm in inciting a determined minority of copyleftist coders to demand bulk permissions, which led to bugs that caused theft exploits, and created a climate of impunity only increasing the theft of IP in SL.

    I have no idea what this references, but anyone who claims that you can "steal" IP clearly has no idea what they're talking about. Come back when you've learned something.

    It's HUGELY misleading to portray the education wiki as somehow some exclusively non-profit and non-commercial enterprise. Nothing of the kind. Many of the people calling themselves "educators" in SL in fact are *paid consultants* in sole proprietor or small business hustling their consulting around the software -- some of them very highly paid -- who make a *business* selling educational software and "solutions". They have a vested interest as a class to keep their work tools free or low cost, so they constitute a very aggressive lobby on behalf of open-source and against this trademark effort, but they're hiding behind "service to the community".

    Um. That's all very nice, but doesn't change the point. Nothing about this wiki had it passing itself off as being run or sponsored or endorsed by SL. There was no confusion, thus there should be no trademark issue.

     

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