Starting today, a number of prominent Second Life bloggers are on strike for three full days in protest at Linden Lab's sudden detrimental change of position on the use of current and new trademarks.
These bloggers feel snubbed and threatened by the new brand guidelines, which they find contradictory, excessive and potentially restrictive to free speech, and are going on a symbolic three-day strike as a gesture to show that they do not find Linden Lab's answers to these concerns sufficient.
The strike initiative was started by the renowned Second Life user Gwyneth Llewelyn, and it seems that quite a number of bloggers may well follow her lead. Codebastard Redgrave, Kit Meredith and Rheta Shan have already joined the strike that we know of.
We asked Shan about the reasons for the strike. The new trademark policy was, of course, the key. "It does not take into consideration that a large number of community sites have been established under the liberal rules of the old fansite kit," she told us, "with no infringement ever intended, greatly helping LL to make SL the success story it is today, and that forcing all of these to relocate or shutdown does the fan base of SL a disservice."
Normally this would not be a problem as some external uses would be normally be protected by nominative use, but the Second Life Terms of Service have been specifically altered to allow them to apply to activities beyond direct usage for of the Second Life service for the very first time "even purporting to rule how any trademark of LL can be mentioned in any text ('my Second Life', or 'my Second Life' for that matter, as the FAQ keeps repeating, is not an a permissible way to speak of SL - you have to say 'my experience in the Second Life world')," observes Shan.
"Which means that, potentially, any resident exerting certain rights of free speech under off-world law can be banned under in-world law, for breach of the ToS. This is a very threatening scenario for which we all have vented great concern."
"We have asked for clarification on these points from LL, both off-world (reproduced here if not available during the strike) and in-world (on Robin Linden's office hour), announcing we would strike if no satisfactory answer was forthcoming. All we got was a reiteration of the brand guidelines by Catherine Linden and what I can only qualify as soothing noises from Robin Linden. The guidelines and the ToS are unamended, and LL has declared no intent of discussing these."
The bloggers' goals are twofold. Have the Second Life Terms of Service amended to match the assurances of Linden Lab that no external misuse of Linden Lab's trademarks constitutes a breach of the Second Life Terms of Service; arrange some sort of grandfathering agreement for sites that were established previously, if they were fully in accord with the usage guidelines at that time.
We'll be watching to see how this goes. Linden Lab has established past precedents for responding to very public demonstrations.
With our own apologies to William Blake's memory:
Linden! Linden! burning bright
In the servers of the night,
What immortal eye and hand
Could frame thy fearful trademarked brand?
UPDATE: Rheta Shan's been keeping track of striking bloggers.