Linden Lab: images, logos and IP

Image via lawdonut.co.uk

Update, December 14th, 10:07 UT: Linden Lab has issued an apology on the specific situation involving Strawberry. Included in the blog post is a broader statement concerning the use of their trademarks and the guidelines thereto, and how the Lab will be revising things somewhat for the future. 

The apology and statement are both welcome (not the least by Berry herself!), and kudos is offered to the Lab for openly admitting the error both reasonably quickly and positively.

 

As I was heading for bed last night, I caught a blog post by Strawberry Singh concerning  a trademark complaint she has received from Linden Lab.

Specifically, Berry was informed that a video tutorial she had produced a year ago had been found to be in violation of the Lab’s Trademark Guidelines. These guideline specify how terms like Second Life®, Blocksworld®, SL™ , InSL™, and the eye-in-hand logo might be used.

The guidelines are reasonably clear, and even include a point that journalists and media outlets have special permission to use these marks in articles, vis:

License for Press Use of the Second Life Eye-in-Hand Logo. We’ve given journalists and media outlets special permission to use the Second Life Eye-in-Hand Logo in published articles, blog entries, and news programs specifically about the Second Life virtual world, subject to our Guidelines and Terms and Conditions

Berry, as a blogger / vlogger, thought she was in compliance with the above requirement. The replies she’s had from the Lab – both through Tia Linden, the Lab’s IP Specialist, and other Lab personnel indicate this is not the case.

One possible way of looking at this issue – and according Linden Lab due fairness in their possible concerns – is that YouTube is a platform with a reach that goes well beyond that of a Second Life audience. As such there could be concerns about the use of the various logos and trademarks, etc., being seen as some form of “official” production  – or, were they to be used with other content related to Second Life – as an implied “endorsement” of products, activities, etc. However, were this the case, the matter could perhaps have been dealt with through a request for a suitable disclaimer to the start / end of the video and to its YouTube description.

Admittedly, this doesn’t cover concerns around licensing / monetisation which some might see as being a possible cause behind the notice being issued. But then, this doesn’t appear to be the Lab’s primary concern. Rather, as indicated in Tia’s e-mail – and underscored by the updates Berry has provided since I first read and responded to her post – is over the use of images from specific Second Life web properties and the use of a logo which had – according to the trademark guideline quoted above – previously been allowed. To quote from Tia’s e-mail response to Berry:

More specifically, we do not allow images of our avatar building page, home pages or Second Life Eye In Hand Logo to be used in any capacity. Please do not use images of any Second Life web pages or logos ( with the exception of our inSL logo noted at http://secondlife.com/corporate/brand/insl/#) in your video or any other work. You may provide a link to our website or registration page in your video if you wish.

Note the bold emphasis is mine, to underscore the specific issue: the statement that certain images and logos now cannot be use in any capacity.

If this is now the case, it is worrying for many of us who routinely blog about Second Life and have used such images and logos. I  have, for example, used the eye-in-hand logo in what I have believed to be in accordance with the trademark and branding requirements. Where do we now stand if we are now seeing a shift in position from Linden Lab? Are we now in violation of a new prohibition on image use? Are the various guidelines on trademark and brand use about to be revised? If so, how do such chances sit with conception such as Fair Use?

Of course it could come down to poor wording within an e-mail, and the underpinning reasons for the notice don’t extend beyond the one specific video. But if this is the case, then we should still be given further clarification on the use of images and logos.

I’ve written to Linden Lab raising these broader questions on the use of logos and images. Hopefully, I’ll receive a reply and will follow-up with a post should this be the case.

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17 thoughts on “Linden Lab: images, logos and IP

  1. From Nolo regarding use of logos
    Informational Uses Are Permissible
    https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/when-you-need-permission-use-trademarks.html

    Informational (or “editorial”) uses of a trademark do not require permission. These are uses that inform, educate, or express opinions protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution—freedom of speech and of the press.

    For example, permission is not required to use the Chevrolet logo in an article describing Chevrolet trucks, even if the article is critical of the company. You could (obviously) use the word mark “Chevrolet” as well as the famous golden “plus sign” logo mark. This would be true whether you were publishing a news article or an article in an academic journal.

    Similarly, if you were making a documentary film on the history of American trucks, you would not need permission to include the Chevrolet logo. However, the use of the logo must have some relevance to the work. For example, it would not be wise to publish an article critical of overseas auto manufacturing practices and include the Chevrolet logo unless Chevrolet was mentioned in the article.

    Finally, you are also permitted to use trademarks for purposes of parody or commentary. For example, if you were writing a skit about how young people are always on their phones, you could glue the Apple logo onto the actors’ prop phones without fearing a claim of trademark infringement.

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    1. Yup, as noted in my e-mail reply to you, there is Fair Use, and I’ve noted that in the article. I’ll likely be covering it in more detail in a follow-up. For this piece I wanted to get the salient points across whilst awaiting feedback that I hope will come from the Lab.

      Like

  2. (Takes the bag off for a moment…)
    I think the key word is “journalist.”
    Take a moment to look at the American Press Institute’s definition and exploration of the concept:
    https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/what-is-journalism/
    Does the content in question meet the requirements of journalism?
    Having not seen the disputed content, I’m not sure.
    But as it has been described, I’m not sure it counts as journalism. It was more advocacy and educational content.

    Blogging, Vlogging, Social Media-ing, Content Production all under a single brand blurs the lines between journalism and advocacy and education and other content production.
    A person with the label “journalist” isn’t always producing journalism… let’s take Bill O’Reilly as an example.
    He started as an actual reporter, field correspondent, and did some newspaper and radio work. Journalist.
    Moved over to on-air commentary. Journalist? Well… (cough cough) Editorials and opinion. Pundit. Blowhard. Sexual predator. Professional Jerk. Etc.
    On-air commercials and promotions during the radio commentary show? So not journalism.
    Wrote and co-wrote the “Killing” series of books. Author, Pseudo-historian. Very not journalist.
    It’s not your label or what you put on your tax form, but the actual content that determines whether something is journalism.

    On the other hand, I think what you’re doing here does meet the definition of journalism. You are reporting on developments in Second Life, Sansar, Linden Lab, and other related subjects. And when you do engage in the advocacy or educational side of things, it’s within the journalist context of reporting the facts and then explaining the impact of those facts or how the readers can use that information or what actions they need to perform.
    I don’t think you should have anything to worry about. That assumes, of course, reasonable parties.

    -ls/cm

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    1. Precisely. My enquiries are purely around the broader issue of reportage / reporting, rather than – with due respect to Berry – the specifics of the one video; particularly where the use of web property images are concerned, and the use of the eye-in-hand logo in what has been accordance with the guidelines. I’m not expecting any major issues; but as the old adage goes: better to ask than to assume.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Inara Pey wrote:

    The guidelines are reasonably clear, and even include a point that journalists and media outlets have special permission to use these marks in articles, vis:

    License for Press Use of the Second Life Eye-in-Hand Logo. We’ve given journalists and media outlets special permission to use the Second Life Eye-in-Hand Logo in published articles, blog entries, and news programs specifically about the Second Life virtual world, subject to our Guidelines and Terms and Conditions

    When I open your linked page, I do not find the cited paragraph. Can you post a screenshot of this section? For me, the paragraph reads like this:

    The License. Subject to the following terms and conditions, Linden Research, Inc. (“Linden Lab”) grants journalists and media outlets a limited, non-exclusive, non-transferable, royalty-free, fully paid-up, worldwide license to use the Second Life Hand Logo in or immediately adjacent to a published article, blog entry, or news program specifically about the Second Life world (the “License”). Linden Lab shall have sole discretion to determine whether you are a journalist or media outlet. This License is limited to the Logo obtained through our Public Relations desk by emailing presscontact@lindenlab.com.

    In this context the use of the Eye-in-Hand Logo is not permitted for a hobby blogger.

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    1. The link appears to be working for me – and goes to Guidelines for Using Linden Lab’s Trademarks, where the quote appears as the second bullet point. A direct link is available via Item 8 in the Second Life Related Policies list, available at the Second Life Terms and Conditions page.

      My questions to Linden Lab are in the context of the blogger / journalist divide, as up until this point, reportage by bloggers and community members (with or without formal accreditation) hasn’t been an issue.

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        1. Yes. I’ve read the full guidelines, and am aware of the caveats; hence seeking clarification from the Lab on matters, as these are not either / or documents, but intended to provide a cohesive set of guidelines. However, in my initial reply I was responding to your comment that the quote in the article wasn’t visible to you, and have directed you to where you can find it.

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  4. The problem here is neither LL nor Youtube follow the law on the use of trademarks. They have their own guidelines. LL’s guidelines only apply because you agree to them when you login to SL. Otherwise US law would apply. Youtube seems to side with whoever has deeper pockets.

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  5. Reblogged this on Thar She Blows! and commented:
    I’m a simple SL resident. I see mountains of text, I don’t read.
    But I’m pretty sure the legalesely interested among us might find this blogpost by the always so well informed Inara Pey somewhat helpful. So you can better self-censor yourself.
    O tempora o mores.

    Like

  6. My faith has been restored in the sensibility of Linden Lab and hopefully, this latest storm in a teacup has blown over.

    Strawberry Singh is a high profile advocate of Second Life, and as everyone is well aware acclimatisation to Second Life is rather difficult for people who are not tech minded or are not gamers. Her video tutorials on the various aspects of joining SL and putting an avatar together are invaluable to those of us who need the help, and she is the reason that many newbies are able to tackle the enormous learning curve and settle into SL more quickly.

    I am well aware of copyright and trademark issues and wholeheartedly support the protection and implementation of the pertinent laws.

    I believe an overzealous Linden thought they were doing their job but didn’t have the foresight to understand that Strawberry was not misusing the logo’s etc. but encouraging new residents.

    Strawberry Singh is to be commended and thanked for her continued efforts in making the lives of the residents of Second Life more fulfilling.

    Like

    1. The answer was pretty much the statement given by the Lab (“Update” link at the top of the article), which to me reaffirms the relevant exceptions given in the policy summary & supporting statements.

      Like

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