BSG Fandom Disappears in Second Life Overnight
by Kalel Venkman
On Thanksgiving Day, Universal City Studios ordered Linden Research, creators and operators of the popular online community, to remove any and all to remove any and all intellectual content relating to ‘Battlestar Galactica’ from its grid.
The following contact was sent to all BSG sim owners or officers, in all BSG related inworld groups:
“Linden Lab has received an intellectual property complaint from Universal City Studios, Inc., complaining about use by Second Life Residents of names and content that it believes are associated with Battlestar Galactica. For example, they have complained about names such as “Battlestar Galactica,” “Battlestar,” “BSG,” “Colonial Warriors,” and “The Twelve Colonies,” and about content such as “recreations of Battlestar Galactica ships like the Vipers, Raiders, and Raptors.”
Linden Lab respects the rights of both Second Life residents and intellectual property owners. Accordingly, we ask that you discontinue any use of Battlestar Galactica intellectual property in Second Life. You must not use the intellectual property of others unless you have their permission to use it.To address Universal’s concerns, Linden Lab has disabled certain Second Life content, including the content listed at the end of this email.
**PLEASE REVIEW ALL OF YOUR NAMES, CONTENT, AND BUILDS AND CHANGE OR DELETE ANY THAT MAY BE RELATED TO BATTLESTAR GALACTICA**
Linden Lab may remove or disable any other content that may infringe intellectual property rights. In addition, further reports of your unauthorized use of another’s intellectual property in Second Life may result in your suspension or termination from Second Life.
If you have a region or group whose name was disabled as the result of Universal’s complaint, please respond to this email with a new non-infringing name for the region or group, and Linden Lab will change the name to your new non-infringing name. As a default, while we await your new non-infringing name, the region or group has a placeholder name based on your avatar name.
For any questions about the intellectual property complaint of Universal, please contact Universal’s counsel:
Mark E. Kalmansohn
Kalmansohn & Andersen, LLP
24th Floor, 1801 Century Park East
Los Angeles, CA 90067
We appreciate your cooperation and your creation of original content in the Second Life virtual world.
All the regions in violation of this new content policy regarding Battlestar Galactica have been removed from service.
The damage to the fan community and the health of the franchise may have been considered by Universal as unavoidable, as their failure to defend and protect their copyrights and trademarks may eventually result in loss of control over their own creations. In other words, if they don’t defend their rights to their intellectual property now, it is possible for these properties to pass into the public domain. There is precedent for such occurrences, with Xerox and Kleenex brands both passing into the common vernacular and each of those companies having to fight vigorously to retain control of their own product names. A few examples of trademarks that have lost their legal protection in the US are:
Universal City Studio’s action, while legal and proper, may have done as much harm to the following of their BSG franchise as good. The BSG community on Second Life was quite substantial, and the effect on the in-world economy may be profound. The action may have a more far-reaching effect as well, since the Second Life fan base was a significant part of the fan community surrounding the Battlestar Galactica and Caprica television series. Fans turned away from Star Trek en masse in the late 1996 when Viacom began aggressively taking down fan web sites related to Star Trek. It wasn’t until they took a middle ground and allowed the sites to remain online so long as Viacom was properly attributed as the copyright or trademark holders that Star Trek fandom once again began to flourish. The situation in Second Life is more tenuous, though, since proper copyright attribution in a virtual 3D environment would be nearly impossible to properly implement or supervise.
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