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Welcome to Hadopi, now let us infringe your font rights

By | Published on Wednesday 13 January 2010

OK, this is my favourite story of the year so far. The French government agency which will oversee the controversial new three-strikes system being introduced in the country – Hadopi – last week revealed its logo. And it turns out it infringes a font copyright.

The Hadopi agency – or the Haute Autorité Pour La Diffusion Des Œuvres Et La Protection Des Droits Sur Internet, if you prefer (I don’t) – will administer the much previously reported and rather controversial new anti-piracy initiative in France which will result in net users who persistently infringe copyrights through file-sharing having their internet connections disconnected. Three-strikes, of course, has many opponents, and is generally opposed by key players in the net provision and telecommunication industries.

Either way, in the web domain, Hadopi will be a big copyright enforcer. So imagine the joy of the more petty of those opponents when it was revealed that the Hadopi logo employed a manipulated version of the font Bienvenue, a font neither the government office nor their design agency had a license to use. Because, yes, there is copyright in typefaces, people. Font rights are probably among the most abused on a commercial level, but one would assume a government appointed copyright enforcer might remember to buy a licence for the fonts they use in their own corporate identity.

The main reason the unlicensed font was spotted by the font geeks is that Bienvenue was created by designer Jean-Francois Porchez specifically for France Telecom, and therefore no other commercial operation can get a licence to use it. Oh dear, that means Team Hadopi are infringing a copyright owned by a telecommunications giant. Brilliant.

A journalist from French news site Numerama has investigated the logo, and has told TorrentFreak that Porchez has confirmed that it uses his font, albeit with a little manipulation, especially of the ‘d’ and ‘p’, which have been stretched to form a box around the ‘o’. But the manipulation isn’t enough to constitute a new font, and, according to Numerama, the design agency who created the corporate identity have admitted as much and are now trying to find a similar looking font which they can licence.

Team Hadopi have issued an apology for their cock up, which France Telecom has accepted, so no legal action is likely from that department. However, TorrentFreak say Porchez – who may or may not have rights himself in the font – is consulting his lawyers. So Hadopi’s first major project may, as yet, be fighting rather than pursuing an infringement claim.