The Latest Skirmish in the Ongoing Second Life Bento Head Wars: Genus Project Receives a DMCA Complaint, and Shuts Down Their Store as a Result

UPDATE Sept. 3rd, 2020: The Genus Project won! More details here.

The Genus Project has been highly successful with their recent line of Bento mesh heads, and even went so far as to recently give away a free gift edition of their Strong Face head in-store and via their store group, which proved to be phenomenally popular.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA for short) is American copyright law which includes a complaint mechanism which, some say, is routinely abused by those parties who want to harm or “take out” their competitors.

It would now appear that someone is doing just that. Yesterday, the Genus Project sent out the following message to their user group:

Forgive the spam if you’re already aware of the issue. For those who have not been around, the mainstore will be closed due to the DMCA situation announced here:

The Strong Face gift head is no longer available and re-deliveries will not be possible at this time. With chat being broken, we are encouraging anyone who needs help to come on to our Discord and join us there.

The above image was first shared with the Genus Project group on April 12th, 2020, and that bombshell announcement has sparked intense speculation as to the identity of the competitor who filed the DMCA complaint against Genus Project, so much so that the company quickly issued another announcement two hours later, saying:

Just a quick reminder that we do not know who filed the DMCA (read the other notice from Anna), and Catwa Clip has confirmed it wasn’t her. We are also on good terms with the wonderful people from LeLutka, and a few of us work with the good people at Meshbody. Please do not point fingers at others and while we appreciate your fervent support? Please keep the pitchforks down.

As info comes to light it will be shared. We’re not going anywhere. <3

Many people, however, automatically leapt to the conclusion that it was Catwa who had filed the DMCA against the Genus Project, which has led to further strong denials by both Catwa and Genus Project, who posted this image to their group:

Sadly (but perhaps not too surprisingly), the rumours took on a life of their own, which led to some extremely difficult times for Catwa’s customer support reps, who have been bombarded with hateful messages (please click on “Reveal Hidden Elements” in Skell Dagger’s post I just linked to). Such behaviour is absolutely shameful and reprehensible. People should be ashamed of themselves.

Other people have speculated that it was rival head store Genesis Lab who pulled the trigger, since after all the Genus Project was founded after a split from that particular brand, but they have also issued a statement that they didn’t file the DMCA, either:

So, if it’s not Catwa or LeLutka or Meshbody or Genesis Lab, who did it? Nobody knows. All we do know, is that Linden Lab received a DMCA complaint against Genus Project heads, and were obligated by U.S. law to take down the offending content.

The Genus Project company can, in turn, file a counterclaim to the original DMCA complaint, and in the following 10 to 14 days (while the offending content is removed from sale), the original complainant must file a case in court against Genus and provide Linden Lab with information on their court case. With the complaint moved to court, LL will keep the Genus content down pending the court’s decision. If the complainant fails to follow up on the DMCA claim with a court case, Genus Project heads can go back on sale (which is what some hope will happen).

So, assuming that Genus Project has filed a counter-notice, their heads could be available for sale again in a couple of weeks. We’ll see.

But this incident is indicative of the intrigue and drama that seem to erupt regularly in the world of the mesh head and body makers of Second Life. Every mesh head and body brand has its passionate adherents and just-as-passionate detractors, who do not hesitate to take pot shots at each other in such gossipy venues like Virtual Secrets (the National Enquirer of Second Life), which of course has had no shortage of submissions this week with commentary on this recent controversy, attacking various vendors and brands:

This is getting downright nasty, folks. For the love of God, behave like responsible, reasonable, sensible adults here for once. People’s livelihoods are at stake. I’m quite sure the skin, makeup, and shape makers for Genus heads are wondering what to do under the circumstances; are they suddenly out of a job?

We may be facing a new and much more intense battle, not only among the various Bento head makers, but also the mesh body makers, too, now that The Meshbody has decided to give away the fully-featured, updated version of their Classic male and female mesh bodies as L$1 group gifts to anybody who joins their group for free and visits their sim. Who knows what will happen next?

There is probably no shortage of companies who look with envy at the top-selling models of heads and bodies, and would dearly love to knock Maitreya Lara and Catwa off their lofty pedestals, and thereby potentially gain a bigger slice of this lucrative Second Life market. Stay turned for further dispatches of skirmishes to come, in what I jokingly used to call the Bento Head Wars, but which I am now officially dubbing The Great Bento War of 2020. (Chapters in history books will be written about it…documentaries will be made… 😉 )

One thing that I can guarantee is that it will not be boring. Stay tuned!

P.S. I am not a lawyer, I have never filed a DMCA complaint, neither have I ever been the recipient of a DMCA complaint. What I have written here is my best understanding of what’s going on, based on this very informative discussion thread on the incident over on the official Second Life community forums.

What Is It About Second Life and Other Virtual Worlds That Incites So Much Drama?

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Following the many online communities that have sprung up around various virtual worlds over the past decade (especially Second Life), I often find myself wondering about what it is about them that seems to bring out such a high level of conflict and drama.

God knows, I have (accidentally or on purpose) stirred up drama myself at times. The last time it happened was back in January, when I got angry when Linden Lab asked me to take down the pictures I had taken of their Aech’s Garage experience in Sansar. In a diva fit, I even stopped blogging for several weeks.

Looking back, I’m not proud of how I reacted then, even if everything turned out okay in the end. (Better than okay, in fact. I used that incident as an impetus to rebrand and refocus my blog, and it has really made a big difference in my overall perspective on, and writing about, social VR spaces, virtual worlds and the metaverse. I’ve gotten a lot of positive personal feedback on the change, too.)

The continued popularity of websites such as SLSecrets, where a seemingly endless succession of avatars can talk smack about each other, never fails to amaze me (yes, I know it’s wrong, but I visit it revery so often anyway). Discussion forums such the official Second Life forums and the long-running, venerable SLUniverse are infamous for the dust-ups which can occur there. Why does this happen?

First, some people seem to think that they can hide behind an avatar, and act out, lash out, or sow dissension. A very recent example: one of my female alts was listening to the music and dancing at Muddy’s Music Café, and I decided to move her from one position to another on the dancefloor where it was less crowded.  Immediately, someone IMed me, “LOL nobody’s paying any attention to YOU bitch ROTFLMAO!”

And I thought to myself, “Why did he even bother saying that to me? Did he think I was drawing unnecessary attention to myself?” He just said that to mess with my mind, and he (partially, temporarily) succeeded. Some people are just toxic, and best avoided.

Of course, such continued negative and antisocial behaviour can lead to a lot of repercussions, everything from to being blocked, to a kick from a sim, to a full ban from Second Life. (I do actually have one SL avatar who is notable for being banned from the Emerald sim, home to the White Armory and Silvan Moon Designs. I’m afraid that I don’t actually remember what I did to deserve the swift kick and ban by one of the sim owners, but I’m pretty sure it was something they didn’t like. It might have had something to do with bagpipes ;-P )

Another area of conflict is in what people consider to be the underlying behavioural rules of the virtual world. For example, some people prefer to strictly separate real life from Second Life (or whatever virtual world they are using). Others don’t. When these two types of people mix, conflict and drama are almost inevitable. That’s because they are playing by different ground rules.

And finally, it’s not just virtual worlds that incite drama. It’s EVERYWHERE online. Facebook. Reddit. You name the place, and there’s drama and conflict.

So, what to do about it in virtual worlds? Well, having proper, explicit community standards and policies in place (preferably written down in the Terms of Service you agreed to when you first joined) helps. Being able to enforce those policies through provided in-world tools such as mute, block, kick, and ban helps too. I should probably define these four terms:

  • Mute: Turn off an avatar’s sound so you cannot hear them.
  • Block: Turn off an avatar’s appearance so you cannot see them.
  • Kick: Being able to remove an avatar from an experience/domain/region.
  • Ban: Being able to permanently keep an avatar from visiting an experience/domain/region (at worst, the entire virtual world platform).

Current social VR spaces/virtual worlds have different levels of implementation of these tools. For example, you can mute, but not block, an avatar in Sansar.

So, how do you choose to deal with the inevitable conflict, drama, and poor behaviour that seem to happen in virtual worlds? What tips and tricks have you found to work? Sound off in the comments!