"Inspired By" – What's fair and legal?

claes's picture

I absolutely love the custom handlettering style from the early 60s (think Ed Interlock type of stuff) and I'd love to make a font like that of my own.. In fact, I already am making one at the moment. I found this lovely looking custom type on a movie poster from the early 60s that I'm basing my font on but I'm curious about the legalities of it, and what's considered fair and legal when you're inspired by something. The poster in question certainly didn't contain a full alphabet, so the vast majority of the letters/font is completely original work, just in the same style. That makes me think I'd be okay considering basically all of the most well-known fonts from history are basically copies of typography from antique books, and many type designers out there seem to base many of their designs on old lettering found in books and whatnot..

fontplayer's picture

That certainly sounds at least as fair as most of the stuff in this industry.

Si_Daniels's picture

If you've not already seen this I think it's worth a read...

Call It What It Is
by John Downer

http://www.emigre.com/EFoITrbF.php

claes's picture

thanks for the link! that's a very good article, definitely helps (especially with the definitions bit). out of those I'd say my design falls into the homage category. a few of the characters are (at the moment) basically the same as they appear on the poster, but most of them are completely new in the same style, particularly the masses of ligatures i'm making. so homage seems to fit best.

dezcom's picture

I am certain;ly not a lawyer, so take the following as just another laymen's opinion.
The main crux seems to be if you draw it yourself from scratch and draw your own outlines. That does not mean a complete new design. There are a zillion Caslon and Garamond inspired faces out there. People look at specimen books and make ther own drawings legally. The big thing is the use of the name. If someone has trademarked or copyrighted the name (don't ask me which term is correct) then you can't use the name without permission. An example is, you cannot put out a face called "Ed Interlock" even if it looks nothing like the original.
I recall that Christian Schwartz did a face based on lettering he saw on industrial buildings in Pittsburgh. It sounds like your project falls in that arena.

ChrisL

claes's picture

don't worry, i won't call it Ed Interlock. (;

dezcom's picture

LOL!!!

:-)

ChrisL

claes's picture

*ponders the name Claes Interlock* d:

dezcom's picture

Or "Lock Interclaes" :-)

ChrisL

Si_Daniels's picture

How about...

Claes Locked Up - "throw away the key edition"
Claes Loc'd After Dark
Claes Clocked by Ed

Si

dezcom's picture

Ed InterclockenClaes?

ChrisL

claes's picture

hehe.

i'm leaning towards "Santa Claes Clockenspiel" now. (;

this thread sure kept itself on topic. :D

Nick Shinn's picture

basically all of the most well-known fonts from history are basically copies of typography from antique books,

Well yes, of course digital historical revivals are based on historical models!

But there have also been a lot of new digital fonts.
Look at FontFonts, a huge catalog by now, and all brand new (except maybe Bodoni Rough) even trad style faces such as Quadraat, Scala.
There are other ways to get ideas for typefaces other than mining history.

Stephen Coles's picture

Word, Nick.

Just FYI: Wiescher's Bodonis are no longer in the FontFont library. He's selling them through his own label.

claes's picture

But there have also been a lot of new digital fonts. Look at FontFonts, a huge catalog by now, and all brand new (except maybe Bodoni Rough) even trad style faces such as Quadraat, Scala. There are other ways to get ideas for typefaces other than mining history.

of course. i'm certainly not saying all type are knockoffs from historic originals or anything. this font in question i'm working on would be the first time i've ever done anything i'd consider inspired by something specific.. hence my reasons for making this thread.

Miss Tiffany's picture

The best thing you could do is create a new thread in the appropriate crit area and let us have a look at it. The posters from that here have a lot to be inspired by. I'd love to see what you are doing.

kris's picture

You mean doing a simliar thing to this?

claes's picture

The best thing you could do is create a new thread in the appropriate crit area and let us have a look at it. The posters from that here have a lot to be inspired by. I’d love to see what you are doing.

okay, since you ask so nicely. (:

i'll have a sample up in the critique>display forum shortly.

claes's picture

You mean doing a simliar thing to this?

yes, like that and like Ed Interlock, and whatever other ligature-crazy typefaces there are out there.

claes's picture

Miss Tiffany,

the sample is up. check it out here.

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