Use of illegally uploaded fonts

Laurentius's picture

Is it illegal to download illegally uploaded fonts? And is it illegal to use them?

dezcom's picture

I feel like we are witnessing legal arguments between Perry Mason wannabees and the Cochran Group fan club. The legal brief sounds like a Uligy to me. :-)

ChrisL

kentlew's picture

U.S. Copyright Code, Title 17, Section 101 "Definitions":

A “computer program” is a set of statements or instructions to be used directly
or indirectly in a computer in order to bring about a certain result. (5)

[. . .]

(5) In 1980, the definition of “computer program” was added to section 101. Pub. L. No. 96-517, 94 Stat. 3015, 3028. The Intellectual Property and High Technology Technical Amendments Act of 2002 amended section 101 by moving the definition for computer program from the end of section 101 to be in alphabetical order, after “compilation.” Pub. L. No. 107-273, 116 Stat. 1758, 1909."

Nick Shinn's picture

This is a moot point.
Many fonts with OpenType features have "proper" code written by the type designer, e.g.

lookup smcp_latn1 {
sub @smcp_latn1 by @smcp_latn2;
sub @figs_numr by @figs_sups;
sub @figs_dnom by @figs_sinf;
} smcp_latn1;

Nick Shinn's picture

With that piece of original coding, I downsize fraction number glyphs for small caps--perhaps I should apply for a patent?

**

It's unfortunate for type designers, but most people don't understand that type design is not just about making attractive-looking letters, but concerns the visual mechanics of how letters fit with one another. Of course, if one looks at letters individually, they don't appear to have much originality--but the same could be said of the components of music or literature. The way type design is treated, it's like the only novel that could be copyright protected would be entirely composed of neologisms, or shizzolated, which would be the equivalent of the gimmick fonts shown in the Lipton tract.

EK's picture

In Canada, “every original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work” is subject to copyright. "Literary work" includes computer programs, and "computer program" means "a set of instructions or statements, expressed, fixed, embodied or stored in any manner, that is to be used directly or indirectly in a computer in order to bring about a specific result".

However, in Canada, downloading for private study or other fair dealing purpose is not illegal even if the uploading was illegal.

Thomas Phinney's picture

The Lipton article is very interesting, albeit in need of much work. I want to give her feedback in hope of improving it, but a first pass suggests that writing up such feedback will be an all-day endeavor. :(

Cheers,

T

paragraph's picture

This debate about software and code is weird. Who writes assembly code (or Basic for that matter) by hand?
Who writes PostScript by hand? POP, anyone? Compilers of all levels have been in use for decades, and yet all resulting software is protected by copyright.

%%EOF

Si_Daniels's picture

>Who writes PostScript by hand? POP, anyone?

Yes, Pop did write PostScript by hand for years. We miss him :-(

paragraph's picture

Goodonya, Sii :)

EK's picture

who said anything about writing by hand?

paragraph's picture

By studying the internals of “Benton Sans”, I came to the conclusion that no human being ever wrote any source code to this so-called “font software”.
...

When a real professional, for instance someone like Juri Yarmola, who is both a programming expert and a font expert, compares the internals of any letter from the version of 2003 with the internals of the corresponding letter from the version of 2008, for instance these two letter internals

2003: 68 CC B9 B7 76 D9 80 8B 05 E0 17 9B FD C3 47 EB 1F F2 2F E4 6D 79 15 31 91

2008: 68 CC B9 B7 76 D9 80 8B 68 11 BD BC BC D3 47 18 2C 5B 2E B4 6F C0 35 E7 2F 78 EA 93 34 4B 26 29 08 F5 E9 66

then he will recognize at once that nobody wrote the “source code” of the so-called “font software”, because completely different drawing sequences had been generated fully automatically by two completely different font generating programs in 2003 and 2008.

How about reading the thread?

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Who writes PostScript by hand?

Anything is possible in the alternate reality known as "The Uliverse".

Uli's picture

"Source code" of my comment:

http://www.sanskritweb.net/temporary/PostScript.ps

"Object code" of my comment:

http://www.sanskritweb.net/temporary/PostScript.pdf

PS: Mr. Berlow went into hiding, no?

Rob O. Font's picture

@Phinney: "a first pass suggests that writing up such feedback will be an all-day endeavor."
All of an earth day, or you traveling on Saturn where you might have a chance to react in a "day"? ;)

@Uli: I apologize for making such rude remarks about Matthew, Mike and Roger, who are not here to defend themselves, and wouldn't even if they were here because I'm such a rude and verbosely argumentative person they couldn't stay long anyway."

Accepted.

@Uli: I'm also sorry I don't really know much about how all this works, I'm just trying to learn by making wild statements and seeing what happens.

That's what I thought! :) e.g. At the US Copyright Office nobody examines, whether that which you submit for registration is copyrightable or not. Lawyers should know how this works but since Lipton says it's an issue Uli must jump! I know how it works — class?

Cheers!

Uli's picture

EK:

> who said anything about writing by hand?

Nowadays, it is possible to produce "computer-generated works" instead of writing works "by hand".

see www.law.duke.edu/journals/dltr/articles/2001dltr0024.html

A typical example of computer-generated works is the conversion of fonts from one format to another. Let's assume, you have 1000 fonts in PostScript format, which you want to convert to TrueType fonts. If you use a converter (e.g. TransType, see www.fontlab.com/font-converter/transtype), your only own "creative" activity will consist in clicking on the folder, so that the converter knows the fonts you want to convert. Then, it generates fully automatically 1000 TrueType fonts as computer-generated works.

Do you think you have become the author of 1000 copyrightable works?

EK's picture

I was just responding to someone's comment about writing by hand, since I didn't understand where it came from.

Thomas Phinney's picture

@people-reading-Uli: In the conversion example, it's a derivative work. Usual guidelines for derivative works apply.

@Dave Berlow: I finished writing up all my comments on the article today. I just need to write a nice letter to go with it, &c.

Uli's picture

Mr. Thomas Phinney:

> @people-reading-Uli: In the conversion example, it’s a derivative work. Usual guidelines for derivative works apply.

This Being is Nothingness!

Copyright protection is only granted to authors of intellectual works. Copyright law rewards the creative intellectual activity of authors. A work of authorship is a work created by the own intellect of the autor. If a person does not exercise his own intellect, he cannot be the author of an intellectual work and hence cannot be granted copyright protection.

Here is a fictitious example, which is easier to understand than the above font conversion example:

At the website of Mr. Ricardo Cordoba, who uploaded above "Twilight Zone" picture, we learn that he learnt the English and the Spanish language so that he has the intellectual ability to create works of authorship in English and Spanish. But Mr. Cordoba did not learn the French and the German language, so that he does not have the intellectual ability to create works of authorship in French and German.

Now let's assume there is a copyright lawsuit, and Mr. Cordoba as a defendant states that he translated Sartre's French work "L'être et le néant"

www.amazon.fr/LEtre-N%C3%A9ant-Jean-Paul-Sartre/dp/2070293882
(For English see www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Being_and_Nothingness)

into the German language. The judge asks whether Mr. Cordoba can read and write French and German books, which is denied by Mr. Cordoba, who claims that no knowledge of languages is require for copyright protection, because he bought a computer translation program which made a fully automatic translation of the electronic file of the French work "L'être et le néant" into the German language so that he is the author of the German translation "Das Sein und das Nichts" as a derivative work of copyright.

Is this correct?

Who does not exercise his own intellect cannot be the author of intellectual works and therefore cannot be granted protection by the copyright law.

Another example: Mr. Thomas Phinney and Mr. Miguel Sousa repeatedly stated here and elsewhere that all Adobe PostScript and OpenType fonts are fully automatically hinted by entering a simple command line such as

autohint -a AGaramondPro-Regular.otf

Irrespective of whether hints of PostScript fonts are regarded as computer programs or not, they are generated fully automatically so that he who enters above command line does not need to have any intellectual ability whatsoever except the ability to enter the command line. But he who does not exercise his own intellect cannot be the author of intellectual works so that nobody can be granted protection by the copyright law for automatically generated hints of PostScript fonts.

Thomas Phinney's picture

But he who does not exercise his own intellect cannot be the author of intellectual works so that nobody can be granted protection by the copyright law for automatically generated hints of PostScript fonts.

Finally, Uli, you wrote something I agreed with. Let's both mark this day on our calendars, shall we?

Haven't heard back from Ms Lipton yet. If she's interested in it, it will be interesting to see how she reacts to my initial 1800 words of commentary.

Cheers,

T

Uli's picture

> Let’s both mark this day on our calendars, shall we?

YES.

I have heard from others that you are a very fine chap, and I wish you were not my intellectual opponent in copyright law matters.

Uli's picture

Mr. Nick Shinn:

> This is a moot point. Many fonts with OpenType features have “proper” code written by the type designer, e.g.

lookup smcp_latn1 {
sub @smcp_latn1 by @smcp_latn2;
sub @figs_numr by @figs_sups;
sub @figs_dnom by @figs_sinf;
} smcp_latn1;

I consulted the OpenType font format specifications here:

http://www.microsoft.com/Typography/otspec/chapter2.htm

If I understand these OpenType specifications correctly, then GSUB definitions, which at first glance look, as if they were the source code of an executable computer program, are not compiled into an executable program, but instead a non-executable lookup data table is generated on the basis of this pseudo code. If my assumption is correct, then OpenType features are not computer programs, but only binary data, i.e. binary lookup tables. But those who are more familiar with the internal structure of OpenType features may correct me.

PS: In the above chapter2.htm, the word "program" is used nowhere, and the word "code" is used in this chapter only in the sense of Unicode, character code etc.

William Berkson's picture

Uli, if you read the definition Kent posted, above, in the US copyright code, a computer program (= software) is any set of statements or instructions that results "directly or indirectly" in bringing about "a certain result". In this case the result is the rasterized character. Thus both the sets of numbers representing nodes and handles--the code for the glyphs--and the open type code are software.

If I'm not mistaken, at the level of machine code, every statement is a number or set of numbers. The computer only knows numbers.

Uli's picture

Mr. Berkson:

It is now exactly six years ago, that I studied the technical details of the data structures of OpenType feature lookup tables, so that I cannot answer your question exactly (this would require for me to study the data structures again in detail, and for this again I do not have enough time right now).

EK's picture

Who does not exercise his own intellect cannot be the author of intellectual works and therefore cannot be granted protection by the copyright law.

In "sweat of the brow" jurisdictions, this is not so clear.

paragraph's picture

It is now exactly six years ago, that I studied the technical details of the data structures of OpenType feature lookup tables, so that I cannot answer your question exactly

Not a question in question, more a statement.

Obfuscation, evasion, leaps in arguments, verbosity, scholarly jargon misused, pretentiousness, browbeating: what weaponry.
Wait, I forgot vomit.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Sent my thoughts off to Ms Lipton after a pleasant email. I should mention that she characterized the paper as "an early draft."

Cheers,

T

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

At the website of Mr. Ricardo Cordoba

Uli, I do not have a website... Maybe you were looking at my online portfolio, but that is not my website.

Also, I do not like the way you strike back at people who make a joke... You do not joke... ever. You are much too serious. Not to mention bitter, and retaliatory. Something is indeed wrong with your programming.

If I understand these OpenType specifications correctly

I seriously doubt you understand anything correctly. But what's worse, there are a lot of people here, patiently trying to reason with you, and you continue to be obstinate... extremely so.

Uli's picture

Mr. Ricardo Cordoba:

> I seriously doubt you understand anything correctly.

I have written a lot of books, most of them reprinted in second and third editions, and the books written by me also include four books about computer programming.

But you may continue to seriously doubt that I understand anything correctly. I think that you yourself never doubt that you yourself understand anything correctly.

dezcom's picture

Ricardo, I think he mistook you for Ricardo Montalban, he has a website :-)

ChrisL

Artur Schmal's picture

I was always under the assumption that 'software' can actually be anything which is not hardware.
So i.e. databases or libraries are to be considered software as well, although you would need a 'program' to produce any kind of result out of them. In this respect digital font files should be considered software as well.

Further, I find it hard to belief that digital font files that have not manually been written bite by bite can not be copyrighted.
This would mean that one also can not claim copyright for jpg files exported from Photoshop or pdf files exported from a lay-out application.

Best,
Artur

Uli's picture

Mr. Schmal:

> This would mean that one also can not claim copyright for jpg files exported from Photoshop or pdf files exported from a lay-out application.

For you in the Netherlands, all creative "works of art", whether drawn or painted, whether a picture on paper or a picture file (jpg, tif, bmp etc.), are protected by copyright law, but you cannot claim a separate copyright for a jpg file of a painting. But since paintings in whatever physical form are copyright as "works of art", why do need a separate copyright for jpg files?

By the way, in the German Nazi era, a few "Nazi" typefaces had been regarded by the third "Reich" supreme court as "works of art". Some of these "works of art" ("kunstwerk" in German and Dutch language) are depicted here:

http://www.sanskritweb.net/forgers/kunstwerk.pdf

Rob O. Font's picture

"Obfuscation, evasion, leaps in arguments, verbosity, scholarly jargon misused, pretentiousness, browbeating: what weaponry."
You cannot be talking about Uli the "humanist", can u?

"I should mention that she characterized the paper as “an early draft.”
Hey! that's what they called the Titanic too.

Cheers!

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

I think that jlt said it best, earlier in this thread:

The world is hard enough - why would you knowingly add to the amount of unpleasantness in it? Don’t you have better things to do with your existence?

jlt's picture

a lot of fancy language here being used to justify unethical behavior (mostly blaming even more unethical behavior on foundries).

what is the point of living unethically? who really benefits? does it make the world better?

these are not questions for uli to ask the rest of us, but for him to ask himself.

nobody is being converted here. i think this would work better as an internal dialogue, a topic for meditation.

aszszelp's picture

Well, skipping Uli and opponents, coming back to the original question:

No, it's not illegal to download illegally uploaded fonts. However it would be "illegal" to use them. So what's the point in d/l-ing them in the first place then??*

[Though if I understand it correctly, _technically_ it wouldn't even be illegal to use them, merely not rightful. (Or is it only me who understands the word "legal" as a public law expression, not applicable in civil law, where you might not have the right to do something, e.g. not the licence to use the font)].

Szabolcs

*) Of course there might be cases, e.g. as the abovementioned private study, etc.:
However, in Canada, downloading for private study or other fair dealing purpose is not illegal even if the uploading was illegal.

Quincunx's picture

> For you in the Netherlands, all creative “works of art”, whether drawn or painted, whether a picture on paper or a picture file (jpg, tif, bmp etc.), are protected by copyright law

So how does this apply to type designs / typefaces / fonts then (in the Netherlands)?
I thought it also applied to these, but with all the vague debates about it, I don't know anymore.

paragraph's picture

http://www.wipo.int/copyright/en/
http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Universal_Copyright_Convention_(Geneva_Act)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Copyright_Convention

russellm's picture

I'm kind of surprised that a discussion about if it OK or not to use stuff somebody elses swiped would go on for so long. Maybe I'm missing something, but it dosen't seem like there is much of a grey area here.

Is it OK to accept a stereo that "fell of the back of a truck"?

Well... No. It's not, but if you are determined to do so any how, it's your conscience.

-=®=-

EK's picture

The analogy to a physical object fails (again). The owner of the stereo has been illegally dispossessed. The owner of the copyright may have lost a profit, but profits are only protected in part by the law, and the nature of the protection is fundamentally different.

Moreover, the creator of this thread asked if downloading and using is illegal, not if it offends anyone's conscience.

If you've followed the discussion here, you should have understood that there is nothing to prevent downloading of the fonts (certainly not in Canada) and that the legality of use is determined by the type of use, and not by the manner the fonts were acquired. Creators have rights, and so do users.

Quincunx's picture

Come to think of it, I actually find it kinda funny to ask these kind of questions on Typophile. For all we know it the illegal fonts he is talking about were designed by one of the people posting in this thread. Which would basically change the question to "Hai gais, I found yer font illegally, can I haz it for free???/ I don't care if u dont get money!!1".

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

The idea that digital content, just because it is easy to copy, is somehow exempt from the rules that apply to physical content (an idea similar to the notion that "information wants to be free"), is at least partly to blame for the sorry state of the music and newspaper industries... and probably some other industries, too.

EK's picture

I'm afraid you have it all wrong, Ricardo. Suppose you open a business and do well. Suppose I open a competing business across the street and take away some of your business. I caused you economic harm. I may even took advantage of your efforts, since some of my clients only became aware of my business by coming to you first.

Yet, the fact that I caused you economic harm doesn't mean I took away your property. Your profits are not legally protected (unless I violated some other right of yours, e.g., your trade-mark, or by "passing-off").

The term "intellectual property" misleads you into believing that your economic interests are protected beyond the scope of copyright, trade-mark, unfair competition, and other recognized categories of law. The right to exclusive profit from your creative work is not a natural right, but one that requires legislation.

If you fix your creative efforts in a physical medium, your property rights in the tangible are protected. In addition, the law prohibits others from unauthorized copying, unless it is for a permitted use (e.g., private study). But you cannot claim more than that.

Yes, some creators deserve better, but it is not possible to build a theory of property rights based on stomping one's foot and yelling, "unfair!".

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

The right to exclusive profit from your creative work is not a natural right, but one that requires legislation.

I'm quite aware of this; thanks anyway. However, the law is what permits society to exist -- it's an agreement or a contract. I could go set fire to my neighbor's house, but I don't. Not only because it's against the law, but because I would feel bad if I did it. It would just be wrong, period.

As russellm said above,

Is it OK to accept a stereo that “fell of the back of a truck”?

Well... No. It’s not, but if you are determined to do so any how, it’s your conscience.

aszszelp's picture

Actually you are right saying: it's law that makes society work.
However, it's equally true, that it's more often than not actual law and legal, juridical practice (which does contradict moral law and conscience) that enables profits. I don't want to point to Wall Street here, for a most obvious and current example. ;-) ——— and I think, that–partially–it's similar reasons that motivates Uli (when attacking business practices of "big" foundries–nota bene, never directly designers), e.g.

Szabolcs

paragraph's picture

never directly designers

Huh? I could not be further away from Wall Street in any terms, yet I rely on the copyright protection to derive my (meagre) income from my font's sales.

To see the illegal use (read theft) of fonts repeatedly and systematically promoted on a forum ostensibly dedicated to font design and typography makes me wonder. Wouldn't a warez forum be more appropriate for this?

EK's picture

@Ricardo: if everyone agreed about what's "ok", we wouldn't need the law, would we?

@Paragraph: you are still confusing theft with unlawful use, as theft leaves the owner without the thing stolen, while unlawful use does not. There are cases where the user believes he was entitled to the use and the copyright holder does not; sometimes a court finds for the former, sometimes for the latter, but there's no theft there.

@Paragraph2: And where did you see "illegal use promoted" here?

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

if everyone agreed about what’s “ok”, we wouldn’t need the law, would we?

It's a social contract. You can play by the rules or not. No one ever said otherwise.

But if someone doesn't play by the rules and gets caught, there are consequences. Just like there are consequences for playing by the rules.

paragraph's picture

EK, there are many threads such as this here, and they all revolve around using fonts without a licence. Anyone who argues for whatever reason that there is no copyright on fonts because they are not software or because they are not original enough is doing exactly that. I for one think that the original poster was having a bit of fun: why else put ‘illegal’ into the question three times?

Is it illegal to download illegally uploaded fonts? And is it illegal to use them?

As before, how about reading the thread?

EK's picture

I have to wonder at your question, since it's been dealt with extensively in this thread, including by some of your colleagues: No, the act of downloading is not illegal per se. As to the use, it may or may not be legal, regardless of the source of the font.

There is a fundamental flaw in your post, which you may refuse to acknowledge, but that's ok, since the law is the law no matter what you or I think, and the flaw is this: a licensed use is lawful, but an unlicensed use is not necessarily unlawful, since the law gives users rights, too. So, a creator might say, I don't allow my work to be used by X for purpose Y, and the law would answer that the creator's permission is not required. The fact that copyright exists in fonts, in countries where it does exist, does not mean that the rights of the copyright holder are unlimited, but that the font is property to the extent the statute says so and no more. If that is not clear to you, I can refer you to some good sources from Australia and other common law jurisdictions.

paragraph's picture

Oh please. Can we just settle on:

The fact that copyright exists in fonts, in countries where it does exist

and be done with it? That's actually all I'm asking.

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