The Rise Of The Clipart Trolls

from the the-fun-of-copyright-law dept

There are so-called patent trolls, abusing patent law to basically force others to pay them cash for no good reason. And there are “sample trolls” who have abused copyright law to get musicians to pay them money (often despite the fact that the “trolls” probably really don’t even own the copyrights in question, and the use is almost certainly “fair use” anyway). And… now… we can add to the list the “clipart troll.” Slashdot has a post detailing the apparent campaign of one George Riddick, who apparently claims to hold the copyright on tons of common clipart, and is trying to use the recently enacted ProIP law to basically threaten tons of sites, who often were using clipart that they had licensed. Riddick may, in fact, own the copyright on some of these images, but rather than try to build an actual business around them, he seems to have focused solely on blaming others for his own failure to craft a reasonable business model — and now it’s moved on to suing others as well.

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Comments on “The Rise Of The Clipart Trolls”

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15 Comments
Dan says:

Re: Re: Broad Use

What does that mean, that the font itself is not viable for protection, but the FILE that contains that unprotectable information can be copywritten? All the font is is the file. The font doesn’t exist on its own in nature, in some sort of primordial pool of natural information (unless you’re talking about physically writing the font on paper). If you can copyright the file, you can copyright what the file contains. That is like saying you can copyright a book, but it is legal for someone else to take chapters of your book and sell them to magazines as articles because the individual chapters are not under copyright, just the book.

DittoBox says:

Re: Re: Re: Broad Use

Fonts are binaries, and are thus covered by copyright. Typefaces however are not covered. So basically every type house has used something of a loop hole to publish their wares.

Typefaces were originally carved in wood, molded into lead, or were molds for linotype machines. As such you could not copyright or patent them. Now that they have become binary files they can be copyrighted. The actual design can’t be copyrighted though, just the binary file that describes it.

DittoBox says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Broad Use

Let me mention one more thing. You can’t copy and distribute the font files. You can copy the design of the glyphs/characters for your own font if you want.

It literally takes 1-2 years of full time work for 1 or 2 persons to create high quality typefaces such as Adobe Warnock, Hoefler & Frere-Jones Gotham, FontFont Meta etc. Remember I’m not talking about shitty fonts you’ve downloaded off the internet.

There are thousands of glyphs, kern pairs, language options, ligatures, screen hinting, variants etc. to deal with. There’s a lot of tedious work involved that most people don’t know about.

That said if you want to copy the outlines of a font to make your own, by all means go for it. There’s nothing that says you can’t. The design isn’t copyrighted. Most type houses have their own versions of Helvetica, Garamond, Frutiger etc. When you buy these fonts or any other you’re paying for the time and labor involved in creating them, not for the design itself.

Fonts are a weird spot in copyright because as of right now it’s difficult to find a business that compensates people for years of work without selling binary licenses.

another mike says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Broad Use

So fonts can’t be copyrighted, but where do they stand in terms of trademark. If you create a new font for you logo, do you get the logo and the font in the trademark, or just the logo?

Who else remembers when Abercrombie & Fitch sued American Eagle over their trademark? There was something in there about the fonts being similar.

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