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.

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Companies: nbc universal

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Comments on “NBC Sued For Over $2 Million… For Infringing On A Font”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

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.

Rangda (profile) says:

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.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

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.

HL says:

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?

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: 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…

web20lawyer (user link) says:

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

Comboman (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

JimK says:

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.

Dave Nalle (user link) says:


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.


Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Cassstephhere (profile) says:

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:


“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:


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

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