Licensing for TV prop use

Stephen Rapp's picture

I've been asked a couple of times recently to sign papers for using fonts for specific uses that are not mentioned in my rather simple EULA. In general my License has a standard 5 user/devices limit. I never thought of spelling out specific uses, but that has been called into question.
The email I just received today asks about using one of my fonts for props for a Warner Brothers TV production. Last month I signed an amended agreement for someone that included some TV promotions, but it was a small scale client. So after all the paperwork and emails I sold 1 standard license. Hardly worth the time. It seems ridiculous to do that for a major deal like this, but I fear my current EULA is not putting me in a position for negotiation. The only tweak it has that might be in my favor and might be why they are asking is where it says "Use of this software beyond these parameters will require additional licensing. For large multi-end user licensing please contact Stephen Rapp at (my ph. number) for a quote."

Any advice would be most appreciated.

Corey Holms's picture

As someone that has had to license for movie and television use before, I can tell you that the easier you make it, the more likely it is to be used. I've spec'd a typeface before and the foundry was so concerned about every single possible permutation of use that we just went with someone else to save us the hassle.

Don't get me wrong, you should do whatever makes you comfortable, but please don't punish people for playing by the rules. It's an industry that has ignored licensing (for at least the 15 years that I've been doing it), and it looks like Frank Martinez's work is changing that opinion. Work with them.

Maybe add a clause to your EULA that television and movie usage is on a case by case basis and that you'd be happy to work with the studio or agency. It's in both of your interests for it to get licensed.

Stephen Rapp's picture

Thanks, Cory.
I'm typically not very fussy about uses at all. I always appreciate when people inquire about specific uses and typically am happy to see them use my designs. In this case I think because my EULA is not so detailed as some that WB wants to have some specifics spelled out.
My most recent email from him said that they typically treat that type of use more like 3rd party artwork rather than a generic font. So I think they want to make sure that I'm properly compensated. I've had at least one corporation buy a single user license for much broader applications that was not willing to even divulge the number of users involved. So I also appreciate the idea that a better license could help, though I'm not in any position to enforce things.

Corey Holms's picture

Oof, the not willing to say how many uses sounds a bit dodgy to me.

Sounds like WB are trying to do the right thing and I'm sure everything will work out nicely for you both. Ha, wish I could get one of my typefaces sold for that sort of use! Good luck sir.

Have you thought of having a third party look at your EULA and give you an audit of it? There are some people out there that do that sort of thing. Pretty certain several of them are regulars on this forum as well. That way you could have an objective look at what you're including and not — possibly this could resolve your spelling things out issue?

Stephen Rapp's picture

I worked it out with them. I also talked to Stuart Sandler after the fact. I'm going to look into a EULA improvement. Stuart had apparently sold the same person licenses before and knew what to expect. So I think I came out good so far.

Thanks for the advice.

hrant's picture

Stephen, great that you got Stuart's guidance, and that it worked out.

it looks like Frank Martinez's work is changing that opinion.

Interesting. Elaborate? Please? :-)

hhp

Corey Holms's picture

Frank is well known in the entertainment design industry as he's been involved in the most high profile lawsuits against studios over font misuse. It was an assumption on my part based on 15 years of font licensing being ignored and being laughed at when I recommended the agency buy the typeface — now they are all very concerned about using licensed fonts. The only difference I've seen is Frank. Quite possible it's something else, but I've not observed any other difference.

Corey Holms's picture

Forgot to say that I'm glad it all worked out Stephen, and that you were able to get the help you needed to amend your EULA for that client.

oldnick's picture

Wow: way to mystify a simple process. Despite what the entertainment industry lawyers may think, there is no essential difference between print work and TV production work—except, of course, your font CANNOT be embedded in a video.

One of my fonts was used in Walt Disney Pictures lame-ass remake of “The Music Man”; the licensing fee was based on the number of users, and nothing else. Disney got a cool period font, I got bragging rights, end of story.

Of course, I am no Stuart Sandler (thank God): maybe I got screwed, big time, but I kind of doubt it.

P.S. Stephen—if you ever find yourself in this position again just drop me a line. As a former Art Director for the NBC affiliate in Fort Worth-Dallas (award-winning, no less), I can blow smoke up entertainment industry lawyers' asses with the best of them…

Charles_borges_de_oliveira's picture

Nick,
Stuart is a great guy. Your public bashing of him is really uncalled for.

oldnick's picture

Charles,

Has Stewart bellyached to MyFonts about having one of your fonts pulled because he "owns" the design?

Charles_borges_de_oliveira's picture

Nick,
No he hasn't because everything I create is made from scratch. But if he owned the design that you created from a source, don't you think he has a fair right to contact myfonts? I wouldn't consider it bellyaching. I would consider it protecting one's property. You and Stuart are both giants in the typographic profession and I have mutual respect for each of you but I still stand by my comment.

hrant's picture

But if the original original is by now public-domain...

hhp

oldnick's picture

Hrant—

Precisely. My source was a Dan X. Solo showing, Stewart purchased the Film-o-Type tradename and now claims proprietary rights on all the designs.

hrant's picture

If Stewart paid for it, it's his. Are you saying it's too old for legal protection?

hhp

oldnick's picture

Are you saying it's too old for legal protection?

Yes: that would be my contention, but perhaps I am mistaken…

schaffs's picture

I find this topic very interesting, and quite pertinent to my companies font business. It's not exactly the same, but for a number of years we have been looking for guidance from the font foundries on what sort of licenses we should be selling to our customers. We operate in the Document Composition/Billing Systems market. Our customer's use of the fonts is very intensive, producing millions of customer facing documents (bills/statements etc) per year. We have talked to the foundries and they have set out with us the licensing models that these companies whould procure. In the main, they are annual licenses.

Thanks
Neil

oldnick's picture

How often the font is used shouldn’t figure into the equation; otherwise, would you offer a discount to occasional users?

Karl Stange's picture

otherwise, would you offer a discount to occasional users?

Like those who only use fonts on Sundays and public holidays?

oldnick's picture

Or alternate Tuesdays? Yup…

schaffs's picture

To Nick,

To explain further. The usage of the fonts in application server type environments is not included in a standard EULA. Application server licenses are sold to the customers in this instance, and they are usally annual contracts.

Sorry for any confusion.

Thanks
Neil

oldnick's picture

Neil—

Are they public servers or in-house network servers. I am not really sure of a reason to treat licensing any differently in the latter instance: the total number of users is the total number of users, regardless of where they are geographically, as long as the corporate license covers them all.

OTOH, if the fonts are mounted on a publicly-accessible server on the internet, then you have the thorny problem of exactly how many users you actually have, and how many of them are occasional or one-time users—as in the case of customization of products, from wedding invitations to t-shirts. As I have advocated elsewhere, the only sensible approach—to my fevered mind—would be to impose and collect a one-time DRM fee at the point of sale, a task which ought to be simple enough to accomplish…but, then, finding someone who can help me edit the spacers out of an AI swatch ought to be simple enough to accomplish, too; however, to date, not a single person has offered a solution. Go figure.

schaffs's picture

Nick,

Yes, they would be internal servers. The variable data would come from mainframe/unix type environs, and then document templates are composed using Document Composition systems, which then produce output streams, like AFP, Metacode, PDF etc.

To summarise, my company works hard in representing the type industry. We appreciate how much work goes into designing a font and we want to make sure that the designers and foundries are compensated adequately for these types of licenses.

We're all on the same side :-)

Cheers
Neil

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