The NBC Font Fiasco

The NBC corporation is being sued for $2 million in damages over the use of fonts licensed from a font design studio called Font Bureau, out of Boston. The fonts in question are Bureau Grotesque, Interstate and Antenna.

The claim is that NBC only purchased a single-user license which seems implausable when you consider that these fonts are being used in the graphics of multiple programming, including Jay Leno and Saturday Night Live.

Font Bureau is not a small studio, and they’re certainly going to get some great publicity from this lawsuit. But what’s really important about this suit is that it shines light on a pretty serious issue that’s all too common: font theft. I’m guessing that the designers at NBC didn’t purchase one copy of Photoshop and illegally install copies on all the other machines in their office. So why so casual about fonts? Why do fonts and font designers not command the same respect that corporations afford other licensed creative work, such as photography or applications?

Let’s face it. The general public, and even some of designers tend to take our fonts for granted. But the truth of the matter is that developing a family of fonts, or a type-face, is difficult, time-consuming and when executed successfully, provides users with an essential branding component.

I hope that we will see Font Bureau reach a successful settlement in this pursuit so that we have a strong precedent for acknowledging the talent of our font designers and the importance of typography in branding.

Posted in branding, design, typography, Uncategorized

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