What's the legality of using fonts internationally?

dendicott's picture

Hi all

Can anyone answer this?

We are opening an overseas office to publish local editions of UK magazines along with reprinting one-shots. We own licensed copies of all the fonts to be used on the local editions but not the titles which we intend to reprint from PDF's, though creating new covers, and some additional pages.

Legally are we supposed to own the fonts used in the PDF's? It seems to be a grey area. If I needed to amend pages, I could theoretically extract from the PDF's the areas I don't need to affect/can't as we wouldn't have fonts. The question is, would this technically be illegal or could I argue that we are reprinting material with small changes??

Look forward to your thoughts.

Thanks

p.s. I should point out we are not trying to dodge the bullet on cost, just trying to understand the legalities.

Si_Daniels's picture

A few considerations. Fonts are generally licensed for a particular site - ie for workstations at one location. Obviously outmoded in today’s world of laptops but none-the-less that's what the licenses say.

Most licenses allow PDFs to be passed around organizations, so you're probably okay sending PDFs to the overseas office.

But the editing of covers etc., seems to be tricky part. You don't open PDF's, right? You send InDesign of XPress files plus a bundle of fonts? If so I don't think the overseas office can avoid licensing these fonts for use locally. If they want to stay legal.

gohebrew's picture

Usually, most major manufacturers of fonts in the United States include in their licensing agreement (that comes with your purchase of the right to use their fonts) also the right to embed their fonta in a PDF (although some manufacturers of Arabic fonts do not include this common right).

There is however another difficult legal problem when you use some US font manufacturers' font designs or even public domain Unicode data in Europe. This is because in Europe, there are different laws pertaining to font designs and public domain Unicode data that are not applicable in the United States.

So, if your magazine PDF uses legally licensed fonts obtained in the US, the PDF file may contain embedded illegal fonts in Europe.

I am unaware of a legal court decision or precedent regarding this. Hence, there will be a an unwillingness to enforce action because the issue is so unclear.

Si_Daniels's picture

>This is because in Europe, there are different laws pertaining to font designs and public domain Unicode data that are not applicable in the United States.

I've been around the font licensing biz for a while, but this is the first I've heard of this. Any sources for these claims?

Or are you simply saying that Monotype UK might have a different EULA than Monotype US? Surely the EULA under which you licensed the font would be the one you'd use?

Thomas Phinney's picture

I'm as confused by that statement as Si is. Although we use different translations of our EULA, as far as I am aware, the licensing terms for Adobe fonts are the same worldwide. Moving the fonts into a different country does not change the licensing terms. You're bound by the contract, period.

T

dezcom's picture

"This is because in Europe, there are different laws pertaining to font designs and public domain Unicode data that are not applicable in the United States."

There are different laws pertaining to intellectual property in that outlines in fonts are not copyrightable in the U.S. as they are in some other countries (the names are however and the software is). The EULA is not affected though. The individual EULA is binding in all locations.

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

Attempting to clarify--The outlines as drawings of letters are not copyrightable but they are AS software.

ChrisL

Thomas Phinney's picture

I'm not sure even that's an accurate statement. Judge Whyte seemed to say that the *digital* vector outlines of letters were indeed subject to copyright, based on point placement. But I'll leave it to the lawyers and judges to debate.

Cheers,

T

dezcom's picture

Thomas, the trouble is that lawyers don't clarify in a way that lay persons can understand. Often, the clarification is murkier than the original statement :-)

ChrisL

gohebrew's picture

>> I’ve been around the font licensing biz for a while, but this is the first I’ve heard of this. Any sources for these claims?

>> the *digital* vector outlines of letters were indeed subject to copyright, based on point placement.

I would have to clarify for SII, disagree with Dezcom, and agree with Thomas.

We are discussing two issues here:

1) the software instructions, which are subject to US copyright like any verbal expressions are subject to US copyright, to describe "intellectually" the shapes of letter forms.

In years prior to the the advent by Adobe of PostScript fonts, the prevalent font format was bit maps. The US Copyright Office ruled that the software instructions which made up bit map font technology were not "intellectual" or verbal instructions, and not subject to registration for US Copyright. Instead, bit map fonts were "mere digital data depicting letter forms.

However, when Adobe introduce outline typeface software, fonts took on a totally new meaning. Outline typeface software was not "mere digital data depicting letter forms". Rather, they were "intellectual" verbal instructions, like any verbal expressions are subject to US Copyright, and in deed subject to full US Copyright without any disclaimers.

Years ago, I worked at Font World, Inc. of Rochester, NY. I was engaged in a fascinating correspondance with the head of the US Copyright Office about my registration of various sets of typeface software programs. That head person of the US Copyright Office wanted me to add a disclaimer to my registration application that I was only registering the software programs, but not the instructions which rendered the shape of the letter form. She insisted that such descriptions were not "intellectual" verbal instructions, but "mere digital data depicting letter forms", and hence not subject to US Copyright.

I refused. I argued that this is comparable to retelling a story. One person's account os different than another person's account. One storyteller embellishes the story by choosing certain words, and another person tells the story differently. Similarly, two type designers describe exactly the same type design, in two different ways. Although the typeface software programs are the same in a sense that they describe the very same design, nevertheless the typeface software programs are very different, as Thomas points out that "Judge Whyte seemed to say that the *digital* vector outlines of letters were indeed subject to copyright, based on point placement." The key words are choice "point placement."

In the end, the refusal to add a disclaimer was accepted, the typeface software programs were accepted for registration, and the US Federasl Court ruled in Adobe's favor to protect their intellectual property rights.

2) the actual design of the letters - there is no law protecting one's ownership to a design of a letter form, according to US Copyright law. On Europe, however, there are laws which protect one's ownership to a design of a letter form. At Linotype, in Haupage, Long Island, NY, I saw fascinating technical drawings of letter forms of popular Linotype designs for submitting to the US Trademark Office. This is a novel and costly approach, but in the US Trademark Office a design can be registered and protected. This may be a way to solve the whole issue.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Just to clarify, the US protection of the actual design of letters is "design patent"; it's the "US Patent & Trademark Office." Unlike copyright, you have to actually register the design to get design patent protection. Or at least that's my understanding, I'm not a lawyer, etcetera.

T

gohebrew's picture

According to my limited understanding of the extra time and expense that Linotype of the USA devoted to the creation of seemingly engineering drawings of each character and letter form to meet the requirements of the US Patent & Trademark Office, this was done so their actual design of characters and letter forms are admissible “design patents”.

This seems like a lengthy, time-consuming, and costly, approach to protecting ones design patents. A company as large as Linotype, or Monotype, or Agfa, maybe even Adobe, could do this. But smaller type foundries certainly can not.

In Eurupe, I don't know what are their requirements to secure a design patent. Perhaps, it is the same, or perhaps it is rather less lengthy, less time-consuming, and less costly.

Apparently, in Europe a letter form's design is recognized as intellectual property, like Unicode data from a public domain text. In the United States, it is not.

Why?

Thomas Phinney's picture

Submitting design patents is really not that difficult. It costs a bit of money, though. I find the fee schedule a bit hard to decipher, but I gather the total cost will be several hundred dollars. Luckily design patents don't have the major maintenance fees which apply to utility patents.

If anyone wants to see what a recent Adobe patent application looks like, go to the USPTO Web site, and do a search for patents with the title "Type Font" (we use the generic title for all of them), or for inventor "Slimbach; Robert". Unfortunately, it costs money to actually acquire a copy of the patent filing.

(Usual disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer and am not offering any legal advice here.)

Cheers,

T

kentlew's picture

> According to my limited understanding of the extra time and expense that Linotype of the USA devoted to the creation of seemingly engineering drawings of each character and letter form to meet the requirements of the US Patent & Trademark Office, this was done so their actual design of characters and letter forms are admissible “design patents”.

I've spent some time studying Linotype drawings such as you describe, as well as other aspects of Linotype manufacture in the mid 20th century. It would not surprise me to learn that copies of these may have been submitted for the purpose of design patent application.

However, I've never before heard the contention that these drawings were done expressly or primarily for this purpose.

Mechanical drawings were created for every character of every size of every typeface design as a critical part of Mergenthaler Linotype's manufacturing process. And it was just that, a manufacturing process. Creating fonts of Linotype matrices was a complex machining process, with very minute and precise tolerances, and required complete and thorough blueprints for every piece.

I doubt that MLCo would have maintained an extensive drawing office -- with two levels of management and scores of workers, not to mention an extensive q.c. process -- just for the sake of preparing patent applications.

-- Kent.

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