Thursday, March 30, 2017

Builders Beware - Linden Labs Means Business

Builders Beware - Linden Labs Means Business

Lizzy and I were talking with some friends who build vehicles in SL.  They told us how Linden Labs once again closed another builder's Second Life account for failure to meet the Terms of Service associated with LL's DMCA policies.  Just today, another builder voluntarily closed his Second Life (MarketPlace and inworld I'm assuming) store to reconfigure builds allegedly using trademarked or copyrighted logos.
Linden Lab will respond to allegations of copyright violations in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA provides a process for a copyright owner to give notification to an online service provider concerning alleged copyright infringement. When a valid DMCA notification is received, the service provider responds under this process by taking down the offending content. On taking down content under the DMCA, we will take reasonable steps to contact the owner of the removed content so that a counter-notification may be filed. On receiving a valid counter-notification, we generally restore the content in question, unless we receive notice from the notification provider that a legal action has been filed seeking a court order to restrain the alleged infringer from engaging in the infringing activity. 
This isn't a new event.  Over a year ago, a prolific motorcycle builder was eliminated from Second Life for the same reason.  He ostensibly used copyrighted/trademarked logos and branding in his builds.  That should have been warning enough for those who remained but sadly it has not. 

I'm not singing the blues for this latest builder's punt from SL.  He sold bikes for 3K a piece using substandard materials.  Buyers were sold a bill of goods at an exorbitant rate.  There are other builders in SL who make far better bikes, hands down, and with a lower price tag.  So to this builder, don't let the door hit you on the way out!  To our friend who voluntarily closed his store, he's doing the right thing to correct an error.  We hope to see him soon.

Now, we all should know the rules when we play the game.  Failure to adhere to the ToS can get any of us tossed.  In this instance here is what happens.  Corporations and businesses who own the trademarks have floors of attorneys who do nothing but protect their company brand.  When another company, such as Linden Labs, fails to police users for brand or copyright infringement, LL can be taken to court and sued. 

Win, lose or draw, litigation is highly expensive and LL is not a large company and honestly, it isn't really a competent company on general terms.  With DMCA, they have laid down the law.  LL essentially owns everything created in SL.  Because it owns everything, it is legally liable for ensuring products it owns and markets by users/creators do not infringe upon existing copyrights.  They will act!

I'm not an attorney, though I have worked with attorneys for many years.  My former employer's attorneys took great delight in sending cease and desist letters to businesses or individuals which misused or illegally used my employer's copyrighted information.  We had two floors of attorneys.  Many larger corporations employ so many more young legal beagles all looking for an opportunity to litigate in a courtroom. 

When you build something for sale in-world, you spend a lot of your time creating and you may also spend on materials.  You have a lot of your own personal funds invested in your product.  Would you really risk your investment doing something you know you should not be doing? 

When you attempt to upload mesh, you are required to take a test.  My recollection with that test is I had to understand the ToS associated with copyright infringement.  What I took from the test is LL doesn't really care if an in-world object resembles a real world object, they care more that the object I uploaded isn't named after the same real world brand.  Let's say I upload a car which looks like a Mercedes Benz C300 and I call it a Mercedes C300, I would be violating the ToS.  I would also violate the ToS if I left the MB logo on that car.  If instead, I uploaded the same car and called it Tough as Nails Sedan (which they are, amazingly tough cars) and deleted the logo, the car would resemble almost identically a C300 but it would not be in violation of the it is today.  Those who build are free to clarify.

So why do LL businesses disregard the ToS or the laws governing LL's operations?  Here's the blunt truth.  Linden Labs is a corporation founded and operating in the United States and as such, they are required to adhere to the laws of the United States and States (such as the State of California where Linden Labs is located) in which it conducts business.  If you aren't residing in the United States, you might think the laws do not apply to you.  In a way of looking at it, you're right but if you play or conduct business in Second Life, those laws DO apply to you and they are enforceable by Linden Labs because you are conducting business in the United States.

A few years ago, Lizzy and I observed a rant from a performer who got in trouble for not filing income taxes in the United States.  This performer was not a citizen of the United States and didn't think he should be required to file income tax forms with our Internal Revenue Service.   When your profits are earned in the United States, you are expected to file and pay taxes on those earnings.  Taking profit from your Second Life account to your personal account means you're earning money and those earning are taxable in this country regardless of where you live.

When you conduct business, follow the rules or you can find yourself starting over from scratch.

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