Goldman Sachs releases new font you’re not allowed to criticize Goldman Sachs with

Yes, that’s Goldman Sans. And yes,
Image: The Verge

Investment bank Goldman Sachs has released its very own typeface: an inoffensive set of sans-serif fonts dubbed Goldman Sans. But in the spirit of bankers everywhere, these fonts come with a catch in the contract. As their license states, you’re free to use Goldman Sans for just about anything you like so long as you don’t use it to criticize Goldman Sachs.

Just by downloading the package of fonts, you agree to these terms and conditions. And although Goldman Sans is nominally a free font, Goldman Sachs retains complete control over the license, allowing it terminate usage for any reason it likes.

Here are the relevant passages from the license:

C.c. The User may not use the Licensed Font Software to disparage or suggest any affiliation with or endorsement by Goldman Sachs.

D.2 This License shall terminate and become null and void for any use that does not comply with any of the conditions in this License. Further, Goldman Sachs may terminate this License, without notice to the User, for any reason or no reason at all and at any time, completely at Goldman Sachs’s sole discretion

For the pedants in the comments: Goldman Sans is a typeface with 10 fonts of differing weights and styles.

It’s a fitting bit of low-grade legal shithousing from a company that was most memorably described as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” This little contractual clause was spotted by Twitter user Matt Round and picked up by BoingBoing, where The Verge saw it.

Of course, no one should be particularly surprised that a bit of marketing fluff to bolster Goldman Sachs’ brand doesn’t actually mean the company is engaging with egalitarian design principles. But the license raises an interesting question: how much disparagement will Goldman Sachs allow before it terminates the font’s use?

What if you took, for example, the noticeably lengthy “Controversies and legal issues” section of Goldman Sachs’ Wikipedia page and rendered that in Goldman Sans? Is that disparagement? I mean, I would personally have my feelings hurt if you talked about how I defrauded customers for profit during the 2008 financial crisis or about my involvement in a “brazen scheme to loot billions of dollars from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.” Then again, I’m not one of the world’s most powerful, long-lived, criticized and maligned but seemingly bulletproof financial institutions. I don’t even have my own font.

Comments

They have a free font and don’t want that used against them. I don’t see the controversy. It seems like this was used as an excuse to write an article criticizing Goldman Sachs.

I think the salient point here is that public opinion on Goldman Sachs is shifting to the extent that they feel the need to put these legal protections in place. Also, more articles criticizing Goldman Sachs can only be an unalloyed good.

But is that language standard in fonts like this? I would be surprised if it wasn’t.

It’s not standard.

And although Goldman Sans is nominally a free font, Goldman Sachs retains complete control over the license, allowing it terminate usage for any reason it likes.

Exactly. Besides, who would use this font besides a G-S employee? Not like the world needs another sans-serif font.

I think we need the same legion of K-Pop fans that took down Trump in Tulsa to start using this font extensively. Plus everyone else who cares to have a little fun.

Do so much disparagement that Goldman won’t have the resources to track down all the users and sue them.

I cannot describe the amount of amusement I would get if ten thousand K-Pop fans ended up in court crying as a result of doing this. Please, please encourage it as much as possible.

FYI, Goldman pulled $33 Billion profit for the 12 months ended 31/03/2020. They got resources.

Also font copyright is really weird. Someone just needs to clone it into a "Goldmen Sucks" font and they’d likely be unable to do anything. Trademark may still apply, but that would be even harder to argue for a body font.

There is no controversy. It’s amusing and typical of banks. That’s it. That’s the point.

Here’s the controversy. Imagine that this font goes into widespread use and winds up included in word processors and/or in operating systems by default (I mean, think about it, do you know who came up with your favorite font? I don’t. Do you even know which font we’re typing these comments under the articles with? I don’t.). Then someone writes an anti-Goldman Sachs article and publishes it to their news site/blog/whatever. This, in theory, if the courts uphold it as valid, would give Goldman Sachs the ability to sue that person into the ground and generate a take down request of the article itself on copyright grounds (I suppose it could be republished in a different font, though there might be a negotiation that takes place there and ends in an out of court settlement that holds the publisher not liable but prohibits them from republishing the article in any form using any font as a condition of the settlement.). In fact, in order to preserve their copyright, they might feel the need to sue people who are infringing on it whether they want to do so or not in a given situation (In some countries, copyright operates on a basis that requires that company at least make some effort to identify and stop infringing uses or something defacto enters public domain.).

Let’s take it another step. What if Goldman Sachs were to pay to be the default or one of the top listed fonts on operating systems, word processors, web site publishing platforms, newspaper formatting software, etc.? That’s not so hard to imagine. Some of those types of software are having trouble generating revenue streams. They might be willing to do that, especially if they think the font looks nice and is something their users will enjoy.

What if Microsoft did the same thing about itself on all the fonts it holds copyright to, which is probably a lot?

Maybe a company like this pays to make a font with a provision like this protecting them from being criticized the only font available on a popular cross-site commenting system, type of message forum software, or social networking site.

I could see as the world continues to move toward more of a thin client model where the user owns a dumb terminal and the operating system is in the cloud by subscription, some companies offering a free sponsored version of an OS with one font- the one that keeps you from criticizing them. Maybe a group with a political point of view does it, even.

Now, those scenarios probably all sound farfetched, but let’s try to look at this another way. What is a purpose of that clause not covered by other clauses and general copyright law that is not to stifle free speech? I can’t think of any. Can you? So, if there aren’t any other purposes, why is it there? Writing something you would otherwise write using another font in a new font Goldman Sachs creates isn’t really "using it against them" in any material way- the number of people who truly would think it’s worse if an article exposing hypothetical misconduct on the part of Goldman Sachs truly reflects more poorly on the company because it’s in the company’s font is almost certainly negligible.

My guess is that the courts will find this provision illegal and thus unenforceable, but there have been a lot of oddball appointments to the courts lately, so that’s not absolutely certain. Hopefully the ALCU or EFF immediately write an article in this font criticizing Goldman Sachs and makes sure they see it, attempting to trigger a lawsuit against them and win it, or attempting to demonstrably show that Goldman Sachs is not enforcing the copyright and that it is therefore invalid, and asks the court for a declaratory judgement to that effect.

This sort of thing has to be challenged.

The precedent it allows is too awful.

Goldman Sachs has a poor reputation in some circles already. If this font is a small attempt to improve that reputation, putting a provision like this in there more than negates any good will they might have otherwise generated, and reinforces existing negative impressions people may hold of their company. On that basis alone, their PR department should be fighting to have this provision removed from the font. So, if Goldman Sachs doesn’t remove it, that means they have a reason for wanting it to be there, and since there is no conceivable good reason for it to be there, it would logically have to be a bad reason.

Do you even know which font we’re typing these comments under the articles with?

Because I’m that person, the Verge comment section uses Helvetica if you have it installed on your system, and otherwise whatever your computer/browser’s default sans-serif font is.

Imagine that this font goes into widespread use and winds up included in word processors and/or in operating systems by default… Then someone writes an anti-Goldman Sachs article and publishes it to their news site/blog/whatever. This, in theory, if the courts uphold it as valid, would give Goldman Sachs the ability to sue that person into the ground and generate a take down request of the article itself on copyright grounds

That’s not how that works.

This screams for abuse proper usage.

It’s a fitting bit of low-grade legal shithousing from a company that was most memorably described as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."

I really doubt anything I read today will top this total gem of a sentence. Thanks James!

We need that sentence using their font

i have an idea

It was unnecessary to include "disparage or" – the following part of the license protects them.

"Further, Goldman Sachs may terminate this License, without notice to the User, for any reason or no reason at all and at any time, completely at Goldman Sachs’s sole discretion."

True. But then the Verge wouldn’t have posted about it, and less people would know about the new font. And if you don’t care about the opinions of tech news site, and believe that any publicity is good publicity…mission accomplished by GS!

Some people love slurping on corporate feet, don’t they

As a graphic designer, my first thought was "oh this font looks gorgeous" and yes, it was designed by the Dalton Maag font foundry (they are the ones who made the Ubuntu typeface for example).
Anyway, I guess it’s nice – from a design standpoint – to see more corporations getting their own custom typefaces even if it’s a frigging bank full of controversies…

Just so folks know, it is possible to copy this font completely and just rename it to make it owned by another individual/company. It’s a loophole in the copyrights of fonts. So, I’m sure this will be done. And, I’m pretty sure that’s where Goldman got this font, copying another…

The font itself was designed by a very good foundry. It’s not that rare for companies to commission or create their own fonts (Apple, Microsoft, Google, New York Times, The Olympics, etc).

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