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Several months ago I think I downloaded a font from either an open-source or free-font site for reasons I don't even remember anymore. In fact I can't remember where it came from but I know it began as something I wouldn't have used a whole lot if at all.
After downloading the font I immediately opened it in FontLab and before I knew it, I had gone off on my own zoned-out brain hike and started messing around in every glyph like I was rearranging furniture. I eventually snapped out of it and saved the file, not to open it again for months.
Recently after running across it again in one of my desktop folders, the file name didn't ring a bell so I opened it again and was like, "Oh yeah ... wow, check this out." I immediately began messing around with it some more and liked its progress so much I spent the next three or four weeks essentially rebuilding the entire font. As of this moment it's still nothing I'd ever use, but in my eyes it clearly has some definite potential.
Now the rub: In all honesty, I cannot remember where I got the font, its name, or anything else for that matter other than it was definitely a serif face of some sort, likely for text. However, now it's a nice-looking sans serif and considering the amount of work put into it and alterations made to it, couldn't even slightly resemble what it was when I first administered the anesthesia and opened it up. I also know that for sure because if was similar I'd probably remember what it began as.
So in simple terms what I've done here is created an entirely unique font, after starting the process with an entire set of previously created character forms. And the difference is so great, it was akin to taking a script font and turning it into a monospace for DOS.
The question now is, what if anything could I do with this font? Would I be breaching ethical goodness if I ended up selling this font or giving it to a friend for exclusive use in his/her business? YES, I realize I didn't start it from scratch but I also know the end result is completely unique. So where does that leave me? If someone takes, say, Helvetica for example and turns it into a gorgeous display script - and somehow benefits from it - should he or she start saying Hail Marys?