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The Lawbringer: Fonts and why you cannot sue Deathwing

Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Running parallel to the games we love and enjoy is a world full of rules, regulations, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?

Thanksgiving is here and, as a citizen of the United States of America, I must do my legal (I think?) duty and eat a ton of food and bake a pie. The pie baking happened last night, actually. Delicious, delicious pumpkin pie. You seriously have no idea how hungry I am ...

Anyway, as it is time to celebrate and be joyous and thankful and all that jazz, The Lawbringer this week is light and fun. I've assembled two little anecdotes from the past week to share with you guys, provide a little food for thought (since the holiday is about eating ... right? Get it? Whatever ...) and give you something fun to read while you're in the car back from whatever embarrassing family gathering you're currently heading far away from.

You can't sue Deathwing

You would not believe the number of emails that I received (two) after The Shattering occured from angry players wishing to take legal vengeance upon the self-proclaimed Aspect of Death, Deathwing. While a noble and perhaps foolhardy goal, I don't think you would gain much traction in suing Deathwing for breaking your stuff or destroying your world.

Why can't I sue Deathwing?

We do not really know how the laws of Azeroth work. Does each human kingdom have its own set of laws and rules? Probably. Is there such thing as jurisdiction on Azeroth? Most likely. What lawyer on Azeroth or Draenor would take your case? Who knows?

Deathwing is definitely a criminal in the eyes of our laws. In fact, he's the physical embodiment of malicious intent. The problem with suing a dragon, at the end of the day, isn't about serving papers or hiring lawyers -- it's about enforcement of the law. Laws don't work unless they can be enforced, and sadly, we don't get to enforce any kind of judgement against Deathwing until at least patch 4.4 or 4.5.

Also, there comes a time in every man's life when he has to look back at the paragraph he just wrote, stare, wonder, and be thankful that he gets to write phrases like "the problem with suing a dragon."

Sadly, Deathwing is not within the long arm of Azeroth's law. Not now, anyway. Sure, he may have destroyed your pretty dock and flooded your basins. He might even have broken that dam you dwarves prattle on about so much. Suffice to say, the day will come when Deathwing will have to pay for what he's done to our world, our material possessions and our Dalaran portals. Until then, put all of your hate in escrow.

What font is this?

Many people emailed me this week asking about a certain thread in a certain forum about a certain font contained in a certain addon. Being the addon guy here at WoW Insider, you can imagine how this particular incident was exciting to me, considering it blends two of my favorite things. You all had some pretty good questions about fonts, licensing, and the reasons behind copyrightable fonts. Well, here's a quick primer on fonts and why it is not a good idea to package fonts with addons.

The font issue at hand, in no uncertain terms, was a mix-up. People make mistakes. Read the thread for yourselves here, as it is quite the interesting scenario. As for the resolution -- everything has been fixed, so don't worry about your favorite addon.

Can you copyright digital fonts?

Digital fonts are, in fact, copyrightable as computer programs, for the most part. The design of the font is not the part being copyrighted, but rather the code that gets installed and distributed as part of being able to display and type the specific font. Distribution of a computer program, therefore, applies to font programs as well. If the distribution of the font is limited to a number of computers or for certain types of uses, for instance, than a misuse of the distribution goes against the predetermined end user license agreement.

Caution, addon creators

The last thing we want is for addon creators to get in trouble over licensing issues with fonts. So, when you download or purchase a font, you agree to use that font in a certain way, if there are conditions attached. Addons that package fonts with them may potentially be under certain restrictions that the addon creator did not know of or had no way of knowing about. In light of the issues that sprang up around the addon that caused such a thread, I wanted to provide a little resource for addon developers of free fonts that have little to no licensing requirements, as well as some information to make sure no addon creators have trouble with font issues.

  • Vitaly Friedman's epic post on 25 of the best free fonts Remember that you would still need permission for many of these fonts to be redistributed in an addon package, so send off an email or two before distributing and be sure to read the licensing information.
  • Adobe has an font anti-piracy initiative page here that neatly explains some aspects of its font licensing.
  • Read about the Open Font License here.
  • Check out some awesome fonts under the OFL that can allow for redistribution at the Open Font Library.

See you guys next week!

This column is for entertainment only; if you need legal advice, contact a lawyer. For comments or general questions about law or for The Lawbringer, contact Mat at mat@wow.com.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

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