Hand-lettering a non-available font

rampian's picture

We found a wonderful font to use on a book cover we're working on but had a hard time finding a place that sold it. I finally contacted the font's creator and he said that the font wasn't available for sale anymore. The book's designer suggested that the illustrator hand-draw the title based on the font with some changes. Does anyone know the legal issues surrounding this?

hrant's picture

There are no legal issues I know of concerning making an original illustration based on a font. But if you tell us what the font is (or what it looks like) we might be able to find something very close.


Miss Tiffany's picture

I will second what Hrant said.

Scott Leyes's picture

The shapes of letterforms cannot be copyrighted. However, the delivery of letterforms CAN be. You can copyright a font's name, for example, like "Helvetica" or "Univers." You can also copyright (legally protect) the digital data (the "program") that creates or delivers the font, so the digital "font" files you buy/use on a PC _ARE_ copyrighted (they are considered a computer program like any other, so they enjoy the same protection under the law a, say, Microsoft Office does).

As long as you are not "copying" the digital outlines of the letters (by using something like Fontographer), you are fine. Also, because fonts/type on computers are inherently accessable, there is generally no restriction on access/re-using the outlines in a drawing program or as part of a logo... not being able to use a font to create words would severely limit its usefullness.

Restrictions on fonts are similar to the restrictions placed on most stock/clip art (the royalty-free art, that is): use it, modify it, print it, but DON'T re-sell it or re-distribute it in a form that other people can use in font form. For example, I can send you a PDF with an embedded Helvetica Neue, but there's no way for you to sue that face on some other document... it's part of what I created, and I paid for the font, but you don't have to (cuz you're just reading with it). I could even create a poster in Illustrator where I display every character in the font and convert it to outlines... you could open the file up and access the outlines all you want, but you are legally restricted from copying those outlines into a font-creation application and re-selling it as your own.

In any case, you're using an existing letter design as an "inspiration" or source for a new illustration... assuming you're ot copying vector outlines from the original font, and are, in facat, re-drawing letters in Illustrator, then you're fine.

Christian Robertson's picture

It would be cool if more people drew their titles themselves. Designers rely way too much on fonts for titling in my opinion. This is especially true in the case of logotypes.

cuttlefish's picture

You can't copyright a font's name (or anything else's) but you can register the name as a trademark. It's still a legal protection, but not the same thing.

crossgrove's picture

Forget legal issues; if you want lettering, hire the original type designer to do the lettering for your book cover. You already have contact with them.

rampian's picture

Hmmm. This is very helpful--thanks guys. We have an illustrator for the project and she'd probably want to do the title art to go along with her illustrations, but it was a good idea to suggest hiring the original type designer Crossgrove. I'd never thought of that---might come in handy for other projects! The name of the font is 'Gararond.' Really cool looking font. Here's a sample:

blank's picture

It would be cool if more people drew their titles themselves. Designers rely way too much on fonts for titling in my opinion. This is especially true in the case of logotypes.

That would require more designers to actually be able to draw, something many schools abandon teaching right after foundation year.

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