Copyright

by Timothy Geigner


Filed Under:
copyright, fonts, my little pony

Companies:
hasbro



Hasbro Sued For Font Piracy On My Little Pony Merchandise

from the live-by-the-copyright,-die-by-the-copyright dept

Live by the copyright, die by the copyright, as I've said before. See, copyright protectionism is sort of like taking a moral stand: when someone asserts the importance of their copyright, they assert it for all copyrights. For most of us, this is not a problem, because we don't spend a great deal of time bashing others over the head with the copyright cudgel. But when you're Hasbro? Especially considering all of the many various actions taken by the company to shut down anything having to do with its My Little Pony property? Well, then it would be nice if the company might at least make sure it wasn't committing copyright infringement in selling that property as well.

But that appears to be asking too much. Hasbro is finding itself the subject of a copyright infringement action over the font it uses on basically everything My Little Pony.

According to Font Brothers, American toy multinational Hasbro did so when it started to use the “Generation B” font for its My Little Pony products, without permission. The Generation B font was created by Harold Lohner and is commercially exploited by Font Brothers. One of the best known uses of the font is for the popular My Little Pony toys and videos. However, according to a complaint filed at a New York federal court Hasbro failed to obtain a proper license, so My Little Pony is using a pirated font.
From the complaint itself, it appears Hasbro was not only using the font internally without a license, but was distributing it to third parties as well.
Upon information and belief, Defendant Hasbro has used or instructed others to use unauthorized copies of the GENERATION B Font in the creation of, but not limited to, all products, goods, merchandise, television and film properties, and advertising materials connected with the “My Little Pony” product line and by way of third party vendors authorized to sell “My Little Pony” branded goods bearing the term “My Little Pony” using the GENERATION B Font, showings of which are annexed hereto as Exhibit D.

Upon information and belief, Defendant Hasbro has not purchased the special license from Font Brothers which authorizes the use of the GENERATION B font software as a resource for use on goods for sale and for distribution to third parties or in the creation of its various HASBRO “My Little Pony” branded goods, products, and/or services.
Oops. The complaint goes on to note that Hasbro had repeatedly been made aware of the lack of license and authorization for the font, but that the company had failed to even bother to respond. Keep in mind that the company appears to have used this font on tons of products and merchandise, including on its own site. And distributed it as well. All while being aware that it was unathorized to do so. Sort of puts a couple of fan-made My Little Pony games into perspectrive, doesn't it?

And, lest you think that this is all some misunderstanding in which Hasbro used a different font that was somewhat simliar to GENERATION B:
While small differences can sometimes be tricky to prove that an unauthorized font is used, in this case it is also used on Hasbro’s website. The stylesheet of the website specifically mentions the Generation B and a copy of the font stored and distributed through Hasbro’s servers.
Hasbro has since removed all uses of the font from its website, which rings more as an admission at this point than complying with any requests. And, sure, maybe super-aggressive copyright protection over the use of fonts can be a little silly at times, but it's going to be hard to find any friends to fight in your corner when you've been beating everyone over the head with copyright all these years.


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  • identicon
    AnonCow, 2 Feb 2016 @ 3:47pm

    Do you has bro?

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

  • identicon
    Doug D, 2 Feb 2016 @ 3:53pm

    Huh! I wonder if they'll switch to "Celestia Medium Redux", a fan-made font meant to remind folks of the font the show uses without directly copying it.

    http://www.mattyhex.net/CMR/?id=about

    Looks like the person behind this font actually did better coordination with Harold Lohner than Hasbro did? I am officially amused.

    (If memory serves, I actually wrote a script that automatically wraps TTF files in iOS provisioning profiles just so I could more easily install that specific font on an iPad. Though I didn't share that work until "SansBullshitSans" came about.)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 3:54pm

    I think it's hilarious to now read about Celestia Medium Redux's creation (fan-reverse-engineered variant of Hasbro's modification of Generation B, in compliance with the Generation B license):

    http://www.mattyhex.net/CMR/?id=about

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

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 2 Feb 2016 @ 4:13pm

    Fonts

    You know, I have personally created over three thousand different fonts. But in order to protect my beautiful fonts I refuse to allow anyone else see them or use them. It is the only thing that keeps me creating them. Total control and protection. Show me the money!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 4:17pm

    Speaking of font, am I hallucinating or does the font size shrink halfway through this article?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 4:34pm

    37 CFR 202.1(e)

    37 CFR §202.1 Material not subject to copyright.
    (e) Typeface as typeface.


    Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition, Chapter 900, pp.13-14
    906.4 Typeface, Typefont, Lettering, Calligraphy, and Typographic Ornamentation

    As a general rule, typeface, typefont, lettering, calligraphy, and typographic ornamentation See are id. not registrable. 37 C.F.R. § 202.1(a), (e). These elements are mere variations of uncopyrightable letters or words, which in turn are the building blocks of expression. The Office typically refuses claims based on individual alphabetic or numbering characters, sets or fonts of related characters, fanciful lettering and calligraphy, or other forms of typeface. This is true regardless of how novel and creative the shape and form of the typeface characters may be. A typeface character cannot be analogized to a work of art, because the creative aspects of the character (if any) cannot be separated from the utilitarian nature of that character. . . .

    The Office may register a computer program that creates or uses certain typeface or typefont designs, but the registration covers only the source code that generates these designs, not the typeface, typefont, lettering, or calligraphy itself. For a general discussion of computer programs that generate typeface designs, see Chapter 700, Section 723. . . .

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:00pm

      Re: 37 CFR 202.1(e)

      You are right to point this out. However...

      ``... the Copyright Office is persuaded that creating scalable typefonts using already-digitized typeface represents a significant change in the industry since our previous [September 29, 1988] Policy Decision. We are also persuaded that computer programs designed for generating typeface in conjunction with low resolution and other printing devices may involve original computer instructions entitled protection under the Copyright Act. For example, the creation of scalable font output programs to produce harmonious fonts consisting of hundreds of characters typically involves many decisions in drafting the instructions that drive the printer. The expression of these decisions is neither limited by the unprotectable shape of the letters nor functionally mandated. This expression, assuming it meets the usual standard of authorship, is thus registerable as a computer program.'' 57 FR 6202.''


      Bitmap fonts are not copyrightable. Scaleable ones are.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:18pm

        Re: Re: 37 CFR 202.1(e)

        Bitmap fonts are not copyrightable. Scaleable ones are.
        Your concluding line is a very sloppy generalization. Intolerably sloppy in the circumstances. Even though the FAQ you're quoting does note:
        …the unprotectable shape of the letters…


        Look closely at the second paragraph that I extracted from the Copyright Office Compedium:
        … the registration covers only the source code that generates these designs, not the typeface, typefont, lettering, or calligraphy itself.
        Even a scaleable font is not copyrightable as typeface. The generating instructions may indeed be copyrightable code, but in all cases, that code must be carefully distinguished from the typeface itself.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 8:44pm

          Re: Re: Re: 37 CFR 202.1(e)

          Why is it then that Adobe sells fonts and in their font licensing FAQs says this: "The Adobe® Type Library consists of over 2,400 fonts, more than 800 of which are wholly owned by Adobe."

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

        • identicon
          Dingledore the Flabberghaster, 3 Feb 2016 @ 2:37am

          Re: Re: Re: 37 CFR 202.1(e)

          And, as is clear from the article, we're talking about the generating instructions here. The generation instructions are stored in a file called GenerationB.otf.

          There is nothing to stop people creating fonts that look very similar to existing font families. That is done all the time. However, creating a full font family is a massive job and frequently the similar free fonts don't have the detail and finesse of the licenced one.

          You're trying to confuse a visual representation of a font - which can't be copyrighted in the same way you can't copyright your own handwriting - with a file that defines the instructions to recreate that font face and spacings consistently - which can be copyrighted.

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

          • icon
            DannyB (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 6:02am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 37 CFR 202.1(e)

            You've hit the crux of the issue. He's trying to confuse the unprotectable result (the look) of using and executing the GenerationB.otf file, with the very copyrightable GenerationB.otf file itself -- which Hasbro HAS distributed without a license.

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

        • icon
          DannyB (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 5:59am

          Re: Re: Re: 37 CFR 202.1(e)

          OK, then. Hasbro could expend significant effort to develop it's own look-alike font, using originally, newly created instructions which drive the adjustments of the shapes as the font is scaled to fit in different numbers of pixels.

          The look may not be protectable, but the font, which does contain a form of computer software instructions, is protectable. Hasbro HAS distributed and used unauthorized copies of that font software.

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

          • identicon
            Doug D, 3 Feb 2016 @ 8:58am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 37 CFR 202.1(e)

            Hasbro doesn't need to do that. A fan already did, for other fans to use, and made it available under terms that I believe would permit Hasbro to use it without royalties.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 7:50am

        Re: Re: 37 CFR 202.1(e)

        lol @ The Copyright Office is "persuaded".

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

    • identicon
      Nomad of Norad, 3 Feb 2016 @ 12:39am

      Re: 37 CFR 202.1(e)

      This is what absolutely flabbergasts me about this lawsuit. A font is something meant to be *used* as a component in a construct, such as the lettering on the pages of a dead-tree edition of WAR AND PEACE. If they demand that you pay by page-produced in that type font of every page of every physical copy of WAR AND PEACE produced, then you've negated the main purpose of that type font existing: as a *tool* used in the making of something *else* (i.e. that book). To put it another way, the purpose of a type font isn't for the admiration of the type font as some sort of object de art, its purpose is for the reading of the text that just happens to have been made up of that type font, but could have as easily been made of any other similar type font. If a type font company pulled a stunt like that with, say, Barnes and Noble, or Tor Books, i.e. demand that they pay them by linear FOOT for the use of their font... well, lets just say it probably wouldn't end well for the type font company, particularly since no other company would do business ever again with that type font company, or use that particular type font again. They'd all switch to a different font and leave that company in their dust to die an ignoble death.

      In any event, as has been pointed out here... by law, type setting cannot be copyrighted, probably for exactly the above reason: to prevent some greedy type font company from after the fact demanding $100-a-book royalties for the use of their font in all those sold copies of WAR AND PEACE.

      That's probably also why Hasbro ignored all the letters from that company saying they hadn't licensed the use of it in all their products. Hasbro probably looked at the letters and said, "What sort of ludicrous, ignoramus, bullshit is this? Type setting is NOT copyrightable! It explicitly says so right there in the copyright law! Go pound sand!" And they promptly circular-filed the letters.

      Mind you, this doesn't mean I absolve Hasbro of being a heavy handed copyright/trademark extremism company, because they really are, but the case of the type fonts, I think they're in the right. I about blew a frakking gasket when I originally saw the news of this, for precisely the reasons outlined above. This is purely greed on the part of the type font company. Nothing else. The fact that Hasbro has shown themselves to also be greedy (in that they bight the fan-based hands that feed them, by stomping on fan-made MLP stuff) is neither here nor there.

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

      • identicon
        Nomad of Norad, 3 Feb 2016 @ 1:05am

        Re: Re: 37 CFR 202.1(e)

        On the other hand, I mostly took at face value what was said here about Hasbro being overprotective of their properties. If that's false -- and some here make it sound like it might be -- then I withdraw what I said about Hasbro being heavy handed.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 4:38pm

    Font of earnings?

    The piece I read on this the other day mentioned millions in liability. I have a hard time seeing that as while the font contributes to the whole product, it is far from the whole product. So what in reality does a font contribute to the whole income?

    The only excuse I can think of might be statutory damages, but still.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 11:15pm

      Re: Font of earnings?

      Statutory damages are capped at $150,000 per work infringed for willful infringement, and I presume there's not more than a small handful of font file works (not copies!) being infringed, so statutory damages don't seem to get to millions either.

      Yea, I'm not seeing millions in actual damages, but I've no informed clue of font licensing on that scale either.

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

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 6:04am

      Re: Font of earnings?

      It seems that Actual Damages would be what could have been earned by the copyright owner if Hasbro had done the right thing and licensed the font for their vast usage of the font.

      Especially for such a fine company that seems to take the most minor of copyright infringements so deadly seriously.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 7:06am

      Re: Font of earnings?

      They are probably arguing that even if the font is a small part of it, if it's used on thousands of copies of products, and TV shows, etc. it adds up to a lot. Plus they're probably not expecting to actually get as much as they ask for.

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

    • identicon
      parliboy, 3 Feb 2016 @ 3:08pm

      Re: Font of earnings?

      So what in reality does a font contribute to the whole income?

      Hasbro does $100M in the girls' toys market every quarter. This doesn't even address licensing plays. So can we agree that one percent of that is reasonable?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 4:39pm

    Hasbro probably did have a broadcast license at least

    Font Bros' web page for Generation B used to boast that it was "the official My Little Pony font". It was like that for at least 4 years (the earliest snapshot I could find), but shortly after this story hit the web they changed the description and removed all mention of MLP. Clearly Font Bros. has been well aware of the font's use on TV the entire time, so I find it hard to believe that Hasbro didn't at the very least buy a commercial broadcast license for the font all those years ago.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 4:50pm

    If we're going by copyright rules, the statutory damages for this should be roughly $100 trillion.

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

  • identicon
    Mark Wing, 2 Feb 2016 @ 5:19pm

    My Little Piracy.

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

  • icon
    Whatever (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 6:25pm

    I think Font Bros are about to find out that their business model is built on copyrighting something that generally can't be made copyright.

    I could picture Hasbro not only winning, but perhaps even running these guys out of business.

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

    • icon
      techflaws (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 9:43pm

      Re:

      I understand this as you saying it's not possible to copyright fonts. Or am I jumping to conclusions here?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 1:03am

      Re:

      While you cannot copyright the ideas behind letters and fonts, you have the copyright on a font that you create, just like while you cannot copyright the idea of a picture of mount Fuji you have copyright on any picture of it that you create..

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 9:15am

      Re:

      ..and what about the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted intellectual property (ie. the Generation B font file) hasbro was distributing to their users?

      if it was, in fact, not properly licensed by hasbro and if recent copyright case rulings are anything to go by, i'd expect hasbro to be run out of business.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 6:27pm

    Copyright misuse

    Copyright misuse is the attempt, whether by licensing or otherwise, to expand the limited monopoly granted by a copyright beyond the bounds set by public policy.

    The current law, practice, and policy firmly places typefaces outside the scope of copyright. Now, at the same time, a computer program which generates a typeface may be copyrightable and licensable as a program. But every attempt to leverage license terms for a computer program in order to obtain an improper monopoly in uncopyrightable typeface —ought to be condemned as misuse.

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

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 6:11am

      Re: Copyright misuse

      Maybe the owners of GenerationB.otf are NOT trying to create an improper monopoly on the look of the output of their GenerationB.otf font, with its embedded computer instructions that decide how to adjust the font vectors to fit different resolutions of pixels.

      But maybe they ARE trying to protect their GenerationB.otf file which Hasbro has used, and distributed, without a license.

      Hasbro could expend the significant resources to develop their own vector type face font that looks the same. But they didn't. Or they could have licensed the one they used, but they didn't.

      (Elsewhere in this thread, it is discussed that there is another look-alike font that was independently developed.)

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

  • identicon
    Doug D, 2 Feb 2016 @ 6:50pm

    The actual specific asset being used, like a TTF file distributed to deliver "Generation B" to people, can be protected by copyright.

    The visual design of the font *itself* cannot -- that's (potentially) subject to a design patent, but not copyright.

    I don't know if "Generation B" has a design patent, or when it expires. But considering the way the specific font was referenced on the web site, part of what's going on here would appear not to be complete bullshit -- looks to me like there was an actual copyright violation there.

    As for the merchandise, that's less clear. If the design patent has expired and they used a "clean room implementation" so to speak, not using the TTF or other file under copyright without permission... there *might* be no "there" there, from a legal standpoint.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:25pm

      Re:

      I don't know if "Generation B" has a design patent…
      I don't see any mention of a design patent in their complaint. I suppose it's remotely possible that they might have one, but simply fail to aver that fact—especially if any such speculated patent has expired.

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

  • identicon
    Zem, 2 Feb 2016 @ 8:39pm

    AS Muffin Mare would say, Sharing is Caring.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 10:21pm

    Hasbro's actually been pretty gracious about fan-works, game nonwithstanding. My Little Pony: FiM's season 5 opener was pure fanservice based on a bunch of fanworks, including Dr. Whooves.

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

    • identicon
      Nomad of Norad, 3 Feb 2016 @ 12:49am

      Re:

      At that, I have seen plenty of My Little Pony avatars on the virtual world of Second Life, and there's a number of people who roleplay as (their own invented) pony characters with them. I actually have one of those avs in my inventory there that I've worn on rare occasions, which I bought simply because it looked so cute. I've never actually watched the show, though.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 11:28am

    A lot of people here don't seem to understand that it's VERY likely (and we have one such instance documented) that Hasbro simply copy-pasted the "GenerationB.otf" file to all those who work on the merchandise.

    Giant companies like Hasbro feel that, in being giant, they're doing others "a favor" by using (and automatically locking) their work for very little or free.

    Don't forget that typeface can be trademarked when used in conjunction with a color and phrase.
    Hasbro could theoretically trademark (if it hasn't already) the phrase "Friendship is Magic" written using GenerationB.otf, colored in pink.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 8:22pm

    Holy sweet mother of Karma!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Cowherd, 3 Feb 2016 @ 11:03pm

    Are we finally talking about

    the elefont in the room?

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

  • icon
    Lupius (profile), 27 Nov 2016 @ 2:21am

    The hilarious part of this story is that Hasbro could have avoided all of the negative publicity associated with this copyright infringement claim, by paying a one-time fee of $19.95 USD. Having read through all of the ToS and licensing agreements associated with buying access to a font from Font Bros, just buying the license once would have covered just about all of the different purposes to which Hasbro might have applied their licensed font.

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


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