NBC Sued For Over $2 Million... For Infringing On A Font

from the yes,-a-font dept

NBC Universal is one of the more hard core supporters of stronger copyright law, with regular statements from execs that border on ridiculous -- such as the time its General Counsel, Rick Cotton, tried to convince the world that file sharing was harming corn farmers, because people ate less popcorn while watching pirated movies (seriously...). However, apparently even the "copyright maximalist" lawyers and lobbyists over at NBC Unversal slip up once in a while. The company is being sued for over $2 million for infringing on a font (yes, a font). Of course, I think it's ridiculous that any font company thinks it's owed $2 million for such things (yes, font developers, I know you have strong feelings on this, but we've discussed them in the past). For all I care, NBC Universal should be able to do whatever it wants with the fonts it has. But, for a company that seems to tilt so far towards the copyright maximalist position, it seems worth noting when it faces a lawsuit for violating copyrights.

Now, in an ideal world, it would be a teachable moment, where those lobbyists and lawyers might finally realize that in a modern digital world, perhaps copyright maximalism doesn't make much sense (as if it ever did)... but that seems unlikely.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 12:22pm

    Law and Order?

    In the civil justice system, the copyright debate is represented by two separate yet equally retarded groups: the massive media conglomerates, who investigate infringement and do a fair amount of bitching about it to no avail while regularly infringing themselves, and the lawyer cabal, who prosecute the offenders, which today is pretty much everyone, including themselvs, Jesus H. Christ, and those odd little animals from Fraggle Rock.

    ...These are their stories.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    technomage (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 12:38pm

    Re: Law and Order?

    thanks DM, I just had a copyright infringement in my head as you caused the theme song to play without me paying the respective royalties board.

    News at 11, imagination getting sued for copyright infringement and/or possible trademark disputes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    John Doe, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 12:47pm

    Awesome..

    They are getting off cheap for $2 million; I think they should pay $80,000 per letter!

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 12:49pm

    Those are some really nice fonts. I went to the Font Bureau and added the Antenna font to my shopping cart. How many computers will you install these fonts on? Just the one. The price?

    $1400.

    For one font on one computer. Still a lovely font.

     

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  5.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:02pm

    Re: Re: Law and Order?

    "thanks DM"

    Who the shit is DM? My name is Dark HELMET, so it's abbreviated as DH (which blows, because I HATE the American League).

    Perhaps you were addressing my mother, Dark Mammaries?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Marc Stress, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:04pm

    Not Just One Font

    @Anonymous Coward.

    Not exactly. A single font from the Antenna family is only ~$40/workstation

    The entire family with 56 weights is $1050 from MyFonts

    http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/fontbureau/antenna/

    A license for 5 users is $2100 for all 56 fonts in the family.

     

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  7.  
    icon
    fogbugzd (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:05pm

    Copyright maximalists always hold the view that copyright only applies to everyone else.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Matthew, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:10pm

    Re: Law and Order?

    Those odd little animals from Fraggle Rock? You mean the Dozers. I don't think they even have a written language. If they're getting sued for copyright infringement, the situation is dire, indeed.

     

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  9.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:14pm

    I love this asinine quote from the linked article...
    "Sure, it makes sense that fonts are intellectual property..."

    How in the frick does the government granting a monopoly on an expressed letter of the alphabet make any fricken sense?! It makes no sense.

    An A is merely a letter and should not be monopolized by anyone. If you want to spend your time making an A look pretty, that's fine. But I don't see why the government should grant you a monopoly for your time.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:15pm

    Before exclaiming "OMG...This proves the system is broken!", one really should read the complaint filed with the federal district court. There is more involved than the summary provided here and in the liked article.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Not Just One Font

    That's confusing as hell but I stand corrected.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:23pm

    Re: Law and Order?

    Special Copyright Unit

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:23pm

    Re: Law and Order?

    Special Copyright Unit

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    TW Burger (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Law and Order?

    Calm down, it's just a typo. You get upset at ludicrous speed. Take a five minute break...smoke 'em if you got 'em.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Law and Order?

    I actually just wasn't upset. I just spent some valuable time trying to figure out what I thought was the funniest acroynm for DM and I needed a vehicle through which to display it.

    Anger/outrage is my standard fallback option...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    TW Burger (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:37pm

    Re:

    Forget the fonts. I'm going to copyright the English alphabet and sue the public schools for having the letters on the walls in the elementary grade classes and kindergarten. I thought about simply suing all of the publishers of all books but this seems just a bit more 'douchey'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:40pm

    Re: Law and Order?

    "...These are their stories."

    ..."SCHUUUUUNGGGGG"

    (I'm sucker for iconic sound effects...)

    CBMHB

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Jon B., Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:41pm

    Re:

    I'm lazy. What difference do the details make when the premise is faulty?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:42pm

    Reading the linked WSJ blog article, NBC is not being sued for using the font. They are being sued because NBC evidently only purchased one license for each of the offending fonts, and Font Bureau Inc. is alleging that NBC has distributed those fonts to many more users and installed them on many more computers than that single license grants.

    This is more of a licensing dispute/piracy issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    TW Burger (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Law and Order?

    I know, I just had to use as many Spaceballs references as I could.

    DM
    Dark Mantle
    Dark Matter
    Dark Man
    Dark Monster
    Dark Mommy
    Dark Mammer-Jammer
    Dark Mofo
    Dark Mother
    Dark Maniac
    Dark Marketing
    Dark ?

    Yeah, Dark Mammaries is funniest. I see your Swartz is bigger than mine.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Sweetwater, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Law and Order?

    "Perhaps you were addressing my mother, Dark Mammaries?"

    Did she get those from not cleaning them off after anal sex?

    Don't even ask me how it's possible. I don't make the rules.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:47pm

    Re:

    I should clarify, that is they are not being sued for using a font that they have proper and valid lisenicing for. It seems that NBC also used "several" fonts that they never aquired a license for. Again, piracy issue.

    http://cityfile.com/dailyfile/7508

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:48pm

    Re: Re: Law and Order?

    "..."SCHUUUUUNGGGGG""

    Well, I'm going to say you got it wrong, my friend. I'm going to say it would more accurately be represented as:

    "Dung Dung!"

    Which, ironically, is what most of the parties involved appear to be full of anyway....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:49pm

    Is a font software?

    "NBC made infringing copies of the software and distributed it to multiple locations."

    Fonts are software? Really?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    harbingerofdoom (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:54pm

    interesting..on top of the 2mil, they want NBC to just hand over all computers hard drives, videotapes, DVDs and literally anything else that has the software in question or output of that software turned over to them for destruction as well.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 1:57pm

    Sounds A bit like

    California... Rulez are good as long as they don't apply to me..

    The California way...

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Legit Case, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 2:00pm

    Fonts Aren't Free

    If I were the judge I would give a judgement to Font Bureau of whatever the amount of used licenses were not paid for minus the license NBC paid for and punitive damages of $5,000.00 agaisnt NBC being dicks for trying to skirt the license.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 2:02pm

    Re:

    "interesting..on top of the 2mil, they want NBC to just hand over all computers hard drives, videotapes, DVDs and literally anything else that has the software in question or output of that software turned over to them for destruction as well."

    ...please tell me that includes the physical personage of one Jay Leno. I think America has made it clear that we've had enough of that jackass...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 2:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Law and Order?

    You are correct sir!

    I was mistaking it for another show's sound.

    Inside Edition?

    CBMHB

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    web20lawyer, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 2:17pm

    copyright law

    Whether we appreciate it or not, Fonts are protected under copyright law. They are the product of design work and possess commercial value. Believe me NBC knows that. I suspect there is a tremendous amount of copyright infringement when it comes to fonts used online and on mobile networks. Most organizations, do not keep track of when and where they got their license to the fonts. -- by internet trademark lawyer --- http://www.web20lawyer.com/page0/page28/copyright-lawtml.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Law and Order?

    "Inside Edition?"

    Gossip Girl?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 2:35pm

    Re: copyright law

    Whether we appreciate it or not, Fonts are protected under copyright law.

    Indeed. No one denies that. We just think it's ridiculous.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    herodotus (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 2:37pm

    Re: Re: Law and Order?

    "..."SCHUUUUUNGGGGG""

    Well, I'm going to say you got it wrong, my friend. I'm going to say it would more accurately be represented as:

    "Dung Dung!"


    However appropriate this might be as commentary on the issue, the proper onomatopoeia is "Doink Doink".

    I have asked numerous literary professionals and they all agree.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    bigpicture, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 2:43pm

    Ironic?

    Would it be ironic if: "that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction", or "what you sow is what you will also reap", or "he who lives by the sword dies by the sword" or "the thing that I fear most has come upon me"?

    Or just stupidity that they don't already know that?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 2:47pm

    Re: Awesome..

    Now are you talking about each letter used every time or just $80,000 for each of the 26 letters since 2 million is roughly $80,000 for each letter of the font.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    John Doe, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 3:00pm

    Re: Re: Awesome..

    $80,000 per every use of the letter. After all, that is file sharing and it must be penalized for every file, er letter.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Rangda, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 3:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Law and Order?

    "Who the shit is DM?"

    Everyone knows that DM is Danger Mouse, who along with his trusty sidekick Penfold continually saves the world from the evil clutches of Baron Silas Greenback.

    Cue copyright infringement as I hum the Danger Mouse theme song loud enough for my wife & son to hear it; that must be good for a few million at least.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    How Old Are You?, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 3:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Law and Order?

    You know this is not Fark correct Sweetwater?

    By they way - whiskey tango foxtrot sir.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    Comboman (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 4:58pm

    Re: copyright law

    "Fonts" (computer files which reproduce typefaces on a computer system) are indeed protected under copyright, but the typefaces themselves are not protected by copyright. Any "Web 2.0" lawyer worth his fee should know that (look up Eltra Corp. V. Ringer if you want precedent). I don't know the details of the NBC case, but unless they are actually distributing font files, I think they're safe.

    Nice website by the way. I hope you have paid license fees to the designers of Cambria Bold and Georgia Serif.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 5:02pm

    This is karma, pure and simple

    NBC Universal is a supporter of a lot of bad ideas in copyright law, such as: the total, complete elimination of fair use and increased copyright terms. This is just karma coming back to them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 7:48pm

    you can't copyright the alphabet, unless they were using this as part of a design and not for the dissemination of words i find this a hard row to hoe for font bureau as much as i think NBC are a bag of douche. None of those fonts are particularly impressive either.

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 2:46am

    Zucker is falling into a trap if he supports NBC-U+CMCS.A if he isn't given his golden parachute before merger.

    A merger with CMCS.A is going to have too many regulatory hurdles. It will be a CMCS.A and DIS all over again! If NBC is on the block, Zucker needs to look outside. After all, Roberts' shareholders will come with pitchforks- His shareholders wanted a dividend, not a buying spree.

    The trap is set from so many angles. I hope he can see it and not step into it. If capital is needed, do an IPO. Why do you need CMCS.A approval? Malon knows this game, but Denny Berma is a tool.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    JimK, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 9:37am

    Fonts are Software

    One thing that it would be really good to remember is that fonts are indeed software. This case is being brought because the appropriate licenses weren't purchased.

    If you purchased one copy of Microsoft Office, would you expect to be able to install it on ALL of the computers in your office? Of course not.

    Just because font software isn't typically shackled with restrictive serial numbers and other piracy prevention measures does not mean that people can copy fonts from machine to machine at will.

    Quality fonts take a lot of time and effort to develop, and the people should respect that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
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    Overcast (profile), Oct 13th, 2009 @ 4:26pm

    lol, Poetic Justice.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    HL, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 4:07pm

    Re: A font isn't a letter

    Dear Ima Fish,

    A FONT is not equal to a letter. When someone creates a font, he or she is, in essence, creating a work of art, to stylize a particular alphabet, numbers, and symbols. Yes, a font is copyrightable. In olden days, a font would be created by actually carving blocks of wood or casting bits of metal. Today, it's done through computer programs. So, what's your problem? If a person can hold a copyright for painting a picture or writing a computer program, then why not for a font?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Dave Nalle, Oct 17th, 2009 @ 10:33pm

    Irony

    Ironically, my font designs have been banned from use at NBC by those same stickler lawyers because my sister is an NBC employee and they think it would be a conflict of interest.

    But perhaps this means I should sue Starbucks which recently used my Buccaneer font without properly licensing it (see story here: http://www.fontcraft.com/fontcraft/?p=1474

    What I find problematic with this suit is the amount of the damages. I don't see how they can sue for much more than the cost of the unpaid licenses plus some reasonable penalty, because the prominent use of the font actually benefits the foundry by raising public awareness of the font and effectively acting like free advertising.

    Dave
    http://www.fontcraft.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2009 @ 10:52am

    Most of the people commenting are complete idiots. Designing a font takes a long long time and a ton of planning and revisions. This is the same as acquiring permissions to use a photograph or some customized programming code to assist in software development. $2 mil is getting off really easy. These ads created with these fonts generated millions in ad revenue and tons of viewers to attract new sponsors. $2 mil is nothing for NBC.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    icon
    Cassstephhere (profile), Mar 19th, 2010 @ 8:38pm

    Fonts and copyright

    I posted this elsewhere:

    First, I'd like to add that trademark and copyright are not the same thing.

    In North America fonts are not protected by copyright (they are in the UK). The only protection they can have is the trademark registration or possibly patent and copyright protection of the software itself (the actual instructions that tell a scalable font what to do, not the glyphs or letterforms themselves), but since most font designers use existing software, that's rarely an option.

    The only exception might be if the glyphs are particularly ornate or unique.


    These things are not protected: Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation,
    lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients
    or contents..."

    You can find this on page 3 of the PDF download of the copyright site: copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf

    Read Eltra Corp. v. Ringer:

    opengavel.com/opinions/1978/F/004/1978-F004-06140001.html

    “The Committee does not regard the design of typeface, as thus defined, to be a copyrightable pictorial, graphic or sculptural work within the meaning of this bill and the application of the dividing line in seciton 101.”

    Please also read Adobe System v. Southern Software, which did change things somewhat from the Eltra Corp. Case:

    lw.bna.com/lw/19980303/9520710.htm

    (you'll have to add the prefixes for the sites, this system won't allow it).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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