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.

My Love-Hate Relationship With the Second Life Gossip Website Virtual Secrets

Virtual Secrets (formerly known as SL Secrets) is sort of the National Enquirer of Second Life: a long-running website where anybody can anonymously post a picture, usually to call out the (mis)behaviour of another avatar, store, event, or brand. Common accusations include:

  • one avatar attacking another avatar’s looks, behaviour, or relationships (essentially, an SL version of The Dirty)
  • one avatar cheating on another;
  • an avatar engaging in sexual ageplay (a bannable offence under the Second Life Terms of Service);
  • one store stealing another store’s design or intellectual property;
  • an SL brand copying real life intellectual property;
  • a store not putting in sufficient design effort on a gacha or an item for a shopping event;
  • a supposedly too-cozy relationship between a store and an event organizer or blogger manager;
  • people getting banned from clubs, and other club-related drama;
  • clubs or stores using alts to artificially boost traffic statistics.
A Typical Virtual Secrets Post

And the list goes on, and on, and on… but I was very surprised this week when somebody actually used one of the pictures from my blog for their post!

(Which I think is a compliment about modesty in dress…in which case, thank you. But it could just as easily be a jab at how Vanity Fair is overdressed. With Virtual Secrets, you just never know…)

I must confess that I do find myself reading the latest installment every Sunday, just to find out what the latest drama is on the grid, but I often come away from it feeling a little depressed and disheartened by how people attack each other.

Every so often, somebody does post something genuinely funny, insightful, or positive, but they are pretty few and far between:

So I will admit that Virtual Secrets is my guilty pleasure. But I feel guilty that my entertainment comes at the expense of another person. So I confess that I have a continuing love-hate relationship with the website.

What I do find interesting is that I can think of no other virtual world that has such a gossip site. There is just something about the ecosystem of Second Life that seems to lend itself to all the petty drama and mudslinging that enable Virtual Secrets to be as popular as it is.

Perhaps, it’s a sign that a virtual world has “made it” if websites like this spring up around it? I’m quite sure that competing platforms would love to generate the levels of enthusiasm, engagement, and outrage that seem to drive so many of the posters to Virtual Secrets.

But what do you think? Feel free to leave a comment below, thanks!