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I am not a typographer. This is only one aspect of my job running a small 2 person operation. Hence I lack a solid understanding of what is obviously a highly complex legal and moral set of issues. The original thread gave me lots to think about but I’d like some advice if I may about a situation I find myself in. I’m starting a new thread because the original is getting so long and my question, while building on the foundations discussed in that thread, heads off in a new direction.
My company is packaging a new literacy series. Ie hundreds of small books that teach children to read. Technically we are not the publisher. We are more or less managing the project on behalf of the publisher. We have a sample design using a font that we like but that is somewhat stylised and some of the glyphs are not ideal legibility wise. Specifically the “f” and the quotation marks are not suitable. We spent massive amounts of time searching for the perfect font or even a reasonable compromise font. We could not find one. It would appear the major educational publishers have created their own for this purpose so we do not have access to them even if we believed they were the best option available.
Coming from a technical background and applying a technical perspective to the problem I thought no problem. I’ll just modify the appropriate glyphs. I downloaded FontLab Studio, opened up the font made the changes and saved it. Seemed to work. While checking something in the manual it mentioned licensing. Hmm there was a new thought. Never occurred to me that I couldn’t make derivative works. I thought that all I had to do was pay for the font and ensure everyone downstream did the same. So what could be the issue? I checked the license. They don’t allow derivative works. Now this is where it gets messy for me. Many of the terms in the license are not defined and I am having problems drawing the line between a derivative work and an original work in the sense of glyphs outlines or shapes.
In an ideal world I’d like to do just as I have done so far. License the font and make a few minor changes myself. I am unsure as to whether this transgresses the no derivative clause. What is the consensus on this one?
Assuming that the answer is yes and it is not an option, lets examine this from the designer’s perspective. At the moment she is laying out in InDesign. She has applied character styles to the problematic glyphs that stipulate the use of another font at that point. Hence the problem is sort of solved by mixing typefaces for the quotation mark issue. The “f” is a problem not easily addressed in that way however. Assuming it could, the mixing of typefaces in the layout is a messy, error prone and time consuming business. I could make it easier for her by again opening up the font in FontLab Studio, replacing the problematic glyphs with different ones (all legally licensed) as appropriate and saving it as a modified font. Is that a derivative work? I am just taking licensed fonts and repackaging them for our convenience to achieve the same outcome as before. Everyone gets their money and we get a practical workflow. What is the group-think on that one?
The previous thread seemed to have rough consensus re the issue of the outlines not being copyright. Ie converting to outlines to get round these kind of issues was more or less ‘valid’. Certainly it is common practise.
Now if I open up my ‘licensed’ font, the one I have paid money for when I pressed the “buy” button (saw that issue addressed some where in these forums too) and want to change one glyph, say back to the problem ‘f’. Now I’m assuming that it is ok to mix and match fonts (or should I say gyphs?) that I have paid for given the end logic as above is that the end product (the printed page) is identical and everyone gets their money so what is the hurt?
Now say I can’t find a suitable replacement outline for the ‘f’ so I make my own. It has to sit style wise within the font design so I kind of emulate it (the style) by eyeballing it and I end up with something that I can live with. Is that now a derivative work? The glyph has not been copied and pasted but I have done my best to copy the style. That could a copyright violation. I really don’t know. Is it?
To take this weird argument a step further: In the previous thread we seemed to agree that the outline was not copyrighted but in FontLab the glyph is just that. An outline! A shape defined by Bezier curves just as in Illustrator! Wasn't Illustrator an off shoot of Fontographer? Could I get round this situation by creating an outline of a font in Illustrator and cutting and pasting it into FontLab? Absurd argument I know. However it does, for me at least, point out how problematic the font licensing mess is.
The need for a lawyer to use a font is absurd. It is just all too hard.
I’m trying but so is this situation.
I am really curious as to your opinions on this. Both from a practical point of view (I need to know what to do) and from a more academic or abstract perspective.