With over 10,000 subscribers to her Second Life-themed YouTube channel and a Second Life-themed blog with 100,000-150,000 monthly pageviews, the SL user known as Strawberry Singh is among the most prominent social media personalities in the virtual world, and is often featured in major media coverage for her activity around Second Life, such as this Vice story on the Avatars Against Trump media campaign she helped found.
At least one viewer isn't fully happy with all her YouTube videos promoting Second Life, however -- Second Life corporate owner Linden Lab. As she explains on her blog:
Last year I did a tutorial called “Introduction to Second Life” in which I shared two new video tutorials... Since I used the Second Life website and was in the welcome area, Linden Lab’s eye-in-hand logo is displayed prominently throughout the video. I didn’t think that would be an issue as it says on their Trademark Guidelines page that journalists and media outlets have special permission to use it in blog entries etc… I guess I misunderstood and assumed that it would be okay for me to use in a tutorial on my blog, especially since I was linking to their website and everything.
I’ve been informed by Tia Linden through YouTube that I do not have permission to use the logo and she filed an official complaint with YouTube about it. YouTube has given me 48 hours to resolve this issue directly with Tia before they hit my YouTube account with this complaint.
In a follow-up communication, Linden Lab staff expanded the complaint even further:
"Our only request is that the images of our registration, avatar building and home pages be removed. This is prohibited and we never give permission. The video can be edited to not include the content in question and they are welcome to insert a hyperlink to our home page for users to play."
This isn't exactly an easy request to address, since after all, it's directed at tutorial videos for registering and starting Second Life. And it isn't as trivial as simply deleting the videos in question -- for one thing, Strawberry makes a significant income from her media activity around Second Life: by her estimate, earning her "around $10,000USD a year (and sometimes much more than that)".
"So basically," she tells me, "they don't really care if I was promoting SL, they just don't want me to have the registration page and the avatar building page, etc. in the video... I guess I just won't do that kind of video in the future."
Other SL YouTubers have reportedly received similar notices; another, Cassie Middles, has yet to receive one, but is already pulling videos preemptively -- as "a safety precaution," she tells me, "unlisting my tutorial videos. They were all 'how to' for how to join Second Life, create accounts and move and interact in Second Life."
Linden Lab's actions seem contrary in spirit if not in letter to its stated policies around media use of its trademarks, unless the company's assumption is that bloggers like Strawberry are not "real" media. (Even though her blog gets more pageviews than many traditional news sites.) What's stranger is that Linden Lab is not only focused on protecting its trademark, but "images of our registration, avatar building and home pages". And those are very much the subject of legitimate journalistic and academic interest:
According to recent Linden Lab complaints showing a screengrab of this Second Life avatar creation page in a YouTube video is prohibited
I just wrote an analysis piece on Second Life's avatar creation process, which some criticize for offering non-binary avatar options, and featured a screencapture to illustrate the problem:
Surprisingly (as screencapped above), some of the latest starter avatars force a gender choice ("a female avatar cannot use the brown horse attachment that the male warrior uses"), and even more boggling, forces the female avatar to stereotypically ride "like a lady". This has literally been a recurring problem with the platform for at least 13 years.
I've contacted Linden Lab for a comment on all this and will update this post with a reply whenever I receive it. It's quite possible this is just a ham-handed misunderstanding from new staff, or maybe there's deeper elements are at play. In any case, the company so far isn't being very clear or open with its user community in this instance. Somewhat ironically, Linden Lab was just earlier this week calling on the US government to exercise more transparency and better communication over its own Internet policies.
Update, 2:10pm: Linden Lab spokesman Peter Gray referred me to this announcement, An Apology to Strawberry Singh & A Call to YouTubers: “Un-Cease & Desist”:
Recently, the Linden Lab IP team sent a takedown request regarding a YouTube video created by the great Strawberry Singh. She and many others have pointed out that this seems like a mistake, and we agree. We have reversed that takedown request and have reached out directly to Strawberry, but would also like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to her... Like most businesses, we have policies in place around permissible use of Linden Lab trademarks. These are intended to legally protect our trademarks and brand, and to avoid confusion that can arise about what’s actually from an official source vs. a third party (to help with this, we have the “inSL” program). This policy has prohibited showing portions of the SL join flow, and that’s what triggered the recent takedown request. We’re revisiting that portion of our policy now.
Mention of the "SL join flow" would explain why Linden Lab requested that YouTubers remove "images of our registration, avatar building and home pages", since those are part of the new user experience. What's left unexplained, however, is why the original takedown requests happened at all. As I suggested earlier, this seems to be a matter of inexperienced, overzealous staff members not being briefed on Strawberry and other SL vloggers. But that just raises another question: Why would a company that's utterly dependent on user-generated content show so little awareness or consideration of its most important user-generated content creators?