This blog is on strike from April 15 to April 18 as a symbolic gesture of protest against Linden Lab’s™ ambiguous and over-reaching new trademark policy and change to the Terms of Service (section 4.4). From the Terms of Service:
Except for the licenses expressly granted [in the Second Life® Brand Center] or in a separate written agreement signed by you and Linden Lab, Linden Lab reserves all right, title, and interest in the Linden Lab Marks and does not authorize you to display or use any Linden Lab Mark in any manner whatsoever. [emphasis mine]
Due to the ambiguous wording of both the policy and Terms of Service clause, they could easily be interpreted to mean that one is not allowed to even mention the words “Second Life” or “Linden Lab”, even in non-commercial contexts such as a fan site.
Normally, the effects of such a ridiculous policy would be mitigated by their unenforcability in courts, where nominative use — using a trademark for the purposes of referring to the product, service, or entity it represents — is recognized as fair use.
However, Linden Lab has put itself above the courts for determining fair use. If Linden Lab decides that it does not like how you are using its trademarks, even outside of the Second Life service, you are in violation of the Terms of Service, and they may may simply ban your account, shut down your business, and reposess your land. In such an event, your only means of redress is a costly law suit against Linden Lab to restore your account.
I find this policy therefore objectionable, and quite frankly foolish. Linden Lab has, at a glance, killed off its most effective marketing tool: the word of mouth of its fans. No longer can I write freely about all the cool things that happen in Second Life. I must be on guard at all times, making sure I place the proper trademark notices just-so, at peril of my virtual life.
But in actuality, the simplest way to avoid infringing on Linden Lab’s trademarks, is to make no mention of them. Ever. So, no longer do I reside in “Second Life”; I now reside in “a Certain Trademarked Virtual World”. I can no longer recommend “Second Life” to my friends — even if I had the goodwill to recommend it.
Thus, to protest this policy, and to symbolize the silencing of Second Life bloggers, no new posts will be made until after April 18, and this blog shall instead display this explanatory notice.