Archive for the ‘Intellectual property’ Tag

Frank Lloyd Wright Virtual Museum to Close Saturday

Me posing in front of Fallingwater at the Frank Lloyd Wright Virtual Museum, September 2010.

Bad news comes in from New World Notes:  the Frank Lloyd Wright Virtual Museum, one of the showcases of Second Life intersecting with Real Life, will be closing after Saturday, December 4. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which was created by Wright before his death to protect his intellectual property, has allowed the license they granted to Virtual Museums, Inc. (owners of the Usonia sim and the Virtual Museum) to lapse, and then issued a cease-and-desist order. Particulars above at Ham’s article, but it appears from my reading that FLLWF is holding VMI responsible for unauthorized use of Wright’s creations.

The irony here: the FLLWF’s actions are not going to stop, or even slow down, theft of Wright’s intellectual property. As I said in much briefer form in my comment on Ham’s article, the age of the computer and the Internet broke all the de facto limitations on transmission of visual or auditory material that made copyright law easy to enforce.  Everyone who has perhaps, at most, $1,000 — perhaps as little as $500 — can buy a computer and a printer/scanner/copier, scan photographs of previously published material from books, and republish it online in seconds.  This is one of the foundations of the World Wide Web as we know it today; not as Tim Berners-Lee intended it, but what the Web has evolved into.  Once something is available today, in almost any form, the genie is out of the bottle, the bottle is smashed, and the cork is burned to ashes.  The defenders of the copyrights — who I don’t deny have a perfect right to protect their work — seem unable to come to grips with this fact.  In the case of FLLW v. VMI, an innocent group who was attempting to play by the rules laid down has been punished in the process, and the over-zealous Foundation has tarnished itself.  The Foundation would have been better served by tracking down the scofflaws who are using Wright material without permission.

I’d like this question answered:  is the Foundation expecting VMI to do the policing of Second Life for them, issuing C&D orders in the name of the Foundation to other vendors using non-licensed works?  Was this part of the license issued to them?  Is that the cause for them to drop the ax on the Virtual Museum?  If so, I’d really like to know how they think a small, non-profit group can accomplish something better than their own foundation, who can more easily afford to hire lawyers to issue C&D orders?  I’ve been sorely tempted to call the Foundation myself and ask this question, but I’m afraid I’d open a can of worms in the process.

Late News: Herbert Estate Comes Down on Dune SL RP Sim

In the several pieces of news to come down the Grid since my computer went into the shop, the most interesting — not the most important, probably, but the most interesting to me — is Hamlet Au’s report on how a major player in intellectual property has stepped in with objections.  Trident Media Group, the agents of the estate of Dune‘s Frank Herbert, have sent a cease-and-desist order to Linden Lab, which passed it on to the Dune role-playing group.  They have complied with the order by removing as many references to the Dune franchise as they can find within their power.  However, they plan to continue the game as a more generic environment.  (See Ham’s article for the details.)

This article kicked off quite a discussion, with 25 comments as of this writing.  At least one of the best-known pundits in SL, Crap Mariner, has weighed in; and the flap has even attracted the attention of the master of the open source movement, Richard Stallman, with an interesting take on the legality of “intellectual property.”

I won’t take a position arguing against or for such eminences, at least not knowingly.  What I will say is my own opinion:  that the Herbert estate has the right to defend their legal copyrights, which means anything connected with the Dune series and its sequels by Brian Herbert — but that it’s darn silly to be picking on such a small community that simply wishes to celebrate the fantasy and live the dream.  No money is being made here, except perhaps by Linden Lab in terms of tier for the regions.  Speculation: this is probably the basis on which the cease-and-desist was issued — in which case, Vooper Werribee and his comrades are “collateral damage” in the battle, innocent bystanders who are being given the finger unwittingly by Trident Media.  This could bring the franchise more ill-will than good, especially if Crap’s own speculation that Trident plans to start a Dune sim of their own are correct.

At least, in all the fooferaw, Vooper doesn’t seem to have lost his sense of humor.  From Ham’s article:

…I asked him if he planned to remove his remaining Dune-esque objects from Second Life.

“No,” he answers. “We’ve made all the compliance changes we intend to now. Basically we’ve removed the words ‘Dune’, Bene Gesserit, Atreides, etc. from as many object names and descriptions as we can find. But we still intend to keep the place as a ‘generic’ sci-fi desert planet with spice mining. And still intend to roleplay here.” Ironically, he tells me Star Trek roleplayers have expressed an interest in using it for “first contact” scenarios. “Some Star Wars players are interested in using the place as a ‘spice mining’ base,” he adds. “As Star Wars has ‘spice’.”

“The spice must flow?” I suggest.

Vooper Werribee laughs. “It sure must!”

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Trademarkgate — AT LAST!

(With thanks to Dusan Writer, who put me on to this while I was tag-surfing the WordPress.com blogs)

Rather late, but at last, Linden Lab has published an article (by LauraP Linden) on the Big Blog, addressing most of the questions SLoggers and others have raised about their now legendary (read: notorious) branding policy changes. Anyone who writes a SLog, or is thinking of creating one, make sure to read this!

The pity is that it took so great effort on the part of the SLogosphere, and the raising of much bad blood toward LL, to get clarification of matters that should have been addressed back in March, when the policy was first revised from the old liberal-use mode.  Linden Lab has had to endure in that time the castigation of a number of influential bloggers — I don’t necessarily rank myself in this category (grin) — the belief by large amounts of the remainder of the Residents that they were wasting time on stupidity when they should focus on Fixing the Grid, and a three-day protest action by said prominent bloggers to draw attention to the question.  Even now, some worry that this is no improvement (I see it as much clearer, myself), or that key questions still need addressing.  The published E-mail address for trademark and brand questions, tm-questions@lindenlab.com, is going to be very busy for some time to come.  I hope they give better answers individually than we were receiving at large and at first.

Ah, well; for my part, I think the main problem is solved.  After placing a finis opus on this article, I intend to enjoy a few well-earned fingers of Bushmills and water, and then collapse in preparation for cleaning my house in the bright of morning — and my store inventory in RL on Sunday night!

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Raising the Red Flag

In my last article, I linked to Rheta Shawn’s ongoing article listing known participants in the bloggers’ protest strike to encourage Linden Lab to clarify its new trademark/brand policy.  The comments to her post show that the bloggers are approaching their concern with a sense of humor as well as seriousness — and not a little grasp of the classics, as well.  A painting by Delacroix, invocation of Victor Hugo and the musical Les Misérables that derives from Hugo’s masterpiece; it’s all there.

One writer, Laetizia Coronet of Virtual Village Voice, took it to the next level.  Revolutionaries have used the red flag as a symbol of revolt for years, and that includes, of course, revolutionaries of a more recent vintage.  In her comment, Laetizia did a bit of light filk — to the Internationale!  In the same vein, I responded that if we were going to be subjected to Marxian polemics next, I’d be putting in a phone call — to the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover.  (The modern FBI doesn’t worry too much about Commie plots….)

All that reminds me of my college days.  I have a Bachelor of Arts in humanities (hail the Seven Liberal Arts!), and was, of course, required to take several core classes.  In the one dealing with the 1800s, we were required to either write one major paper on a topic of our choice, or several smaller papers from a list of suggestions.  One classmate chose the mini-papers, and one of the suggestions was Karl Marx.  She purchased copies of Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto, and was reading them at work during lunch time.  They were laying on her desk, out in plain view, as the boss walked by.  According to my classmate, he took one look and winced, and begged her (jokingly, I’m sure) to put those things away in a drawer!  I think he was afraid she was planning to set off the revolution there in his company….

Allons, mes enfants!! Man the barricade!”

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At this press time, 23 Second Life bloggers have gone on a three-day virtual strike in protest of Linden Lab’s introduction of their new Brand Center trademark rules.

As reported here and elsewhere, LL has changed their rules from an open, easy to read and understand set of guidelines that encouraged bloggers to write about the virtual world, to a set of rather opaque rules that have left many writers uncertain what the status of their blogs will be at the end of the 90-day grace period. Many writers are wondering if they must pepper their articles with ™, ® and © symbols every time they mention the words “Second Life” or “Linden Lab” in an article; others fear being forced to change domain names that contain “Second Life” or “sl.” There have been some legal concerns that, having been compelled to agree to revised Terms of Service that include the new branding rules, any failure to comply completely will result in a shutdown of an account.

Gwyneth Llewelyn, one of the best-known SL bloggers, has demanded a clarification of LL’s new policy beyond the second article posted in their Big Blog (the official SL blog), which is considered essentially a rehash of the actual Brand Center page without any true explanation of what the Lab’s intent toward bloggers is. At the end of her article, she stated that she would “go on strike” for three days if no full explanation was given by LL. Other bloggers have now chosen to join her in this. A list to date of participating blogs can be found at Rheta Shan’s blog, Rheta’s World, along with a nice touch of humor that raises the image of a Les Misérables-like stand on the virtual barricades, raising the red flag of revolution.  A protest stand in front of the Governor’s Mansion in Clementina is planned for Sunday, at good times for both European and American participants.  Interested participants should contact Gwyneth Llewelyn for more details.

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Linden Lab is still botching its public relations with a group that has done it more good for free than any amount of paid publicity could have done. The appointment of a new communications manager, Katt Linden, is a positive step for the future; but they should address the present as well, which includes this situation.  That they have not, in a form that is clear and satisfactory to the Residents concerned, does not augur well for their future communication ability.  While it is quite possible that Second Life could have grown in similar ways from paid advertising, nothing beats the advertising of satisfied customers — the legendary word of mouth.  Someone who likes what they see will try to get more people involved in it to share the fun; they will talk it up to friends and strangers alike.

Similarly, though, a dissatisfied customer can also express their dissatisfaction — and many studies have shown that the words of a dissatisfied customer affect more people in the long run.  Those studies were done years ago, in the days before public use of the Internet.  Imagine now how much reach this powerful communications tool can have.  The current customer base outside of the concerned bloggers are mostly unworried at this time; but potential future customers can run across all the negative press generated by the controversy, and be turned away by concerns over a potentially tyrannical situation.

In their second blog writeup, Catherine Linden also seems to believe that we don’t understand why trademarks are important to companies.  She fails to realize, apparently, that there are many professionals, corporate types, Highly Educated Persons, and just general smart people that understand quite well what value a trademark holds.  Few or none of us have any objection to LL’s protecting their rights — provided that they do not step on our rights in the process.  The newly restrictive attempt at trademark enforcement, coupled with a failure or disregard to explain things adequately to satisfy our concerns, makes LL look even worse in the eyes of an increasingly estranged customer base.

The ball is in Linden Lab’s court.  How will they respond now?

Trademarkgate© — Latest Newslink

Check this week’s issue of the Metaverse Messenger for a Perspective piece — essentially an editorial or op-ed — by Phoenix Psaltery on the trademark and branding situation; or what, for short, I believe I shall begin referring to as “Trademarkgate©.” [1] Two key paragraphs:

You know, I totally understand LL’s desire to protect their branding. I know it’s important for a company to protect its trademarks, its logos, and its intellectual property, but for Linden Lab to have permitted residents to use domain names such as SLExchange, SLProfiles, SLTrivia, and SLBoutique (now OnRez.com) for the last four years, and then to suddenly try to say that they’ll all have to change their established business names is cutting the throats of the very people that helped to popularize Second Life as a platform, a game, a social networking site — however you look at it.

What’s worse is how it affects residents who have worked long and hard to establish their businesses and were very careful to follow Linden Lab’s previous branding guidelines to the letter, only to now be told that they aren’t in compliance with the new regulations because their URL has “SL” in it. Talk about changing horses in midstream!

Please read in full; the article starts on page 5, and jumps to page 19.

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Additionally, Hamlet Au has completed the survey he was running at New World Notes, and he publishes the results, along with a distillation of 10 questions concerned Residents are wanting answered by Linden Lab.

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[1] “Trademarkgate” is a copyrighted term of the avatar known as Harper Ganesvoort, and all rights are reserved in perpetuity, unless you are a fellow Second Life blogger. Linden Lab will have to pay royalty through the nose for the right to use this term (grin).

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Gwyn Sets Up a Petition to Linden Lab

A quick note before I head off to bed, as I’m finally feeling tired. Gwyneth Llewelyn has written another detailed article on the trademark rumble. While I’m not sure I agree with all of her conclusions in law, I definitely support her requests for redress as a need for Linden Lab to meet on behalf of we SLoggers.

Gwyn’s Home » Petition to Linden Lab on the Policy of Trademark Enforcement

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