Saturday, October 17, 2009

NBC sued for Copyright Infringement over Fonts

It may seem unusual, but yes, those fonts you are using are graphic designs, and copyrightable. In fact, while Adobe owns a great many of them, Font Bureau owns - and creates - custom fonts for clients. Enter NBC, and their copyright/trademark/breach-of-contract, and so on. As Softpedia reports here, and The Business Insider here has the actual copyright registrations on display, and Ars Technica has another take here. With apologies in advance to our non-US readers, Saturday Night Live, one of the shows that is alledged to have used the fonts without a license, cracked a joke about the $2M in damages that Font Bureau is seeking - suggesting that NBC doesn't even have $2M to pay out:

The SNL joking about not having $2M wouldn't be so laughable if

(Continued after the Jump)

the entire Business Week brand hadn't just been sold by McGraw-Hill to Bloomberg for a paltry $5M. Really? $5M? Yes - according to the Wall Street Journal (here), the 80-year-old holding of McGraw-Hill is now a Bloomberg property. But I digress.

This should remind you that you can't just copy software package X from one computer to three without paying for more seats. Photoshop "helps" you with this, by requiring activation of your software, for example.

In this case, a font was purchased for use on one computer, and was used on multiple ones, and even - allegedly - distributed outside of the company. This would be like someone licensing your photo for a brochure in English, and then printing it in Spanish and French as well, figuring you'll never find out - hence, the value of discovery.

What's that, you say? "It's just a font - big deal!" Really? Try saying it this way "It's just a drawing of the letters of the alphabet - no one owns the alphabet!" Then, try that logic on "it's just a photo of the sky and the mountains, you can't copyright those things - they belong to everyone!"

The font is an artists' rendering of the letters of the alphabet in a unique and creative manner, just as that photo of Half Dome by Ansel Adams is more than a photo of a sky and a mountain.

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Unknown said...

It is not as clearcut as it seems since typefaces are not copyrightable. However, Font Bureau sued NBC for copying the font software, as well as various trademark and breach of contract issues.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fonts - Are fonts copyrightable?

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