Reinterpretation Vs. Copying

Hello dear typophiles community,

A client asked me to use a font for his logo that he found on dafont (doh…)
The one is "Little Days" and supposed to be freeware.
However, reading its comments I've discovered it's extremely similar to this commercial font Memimas.

Looking forward, I've fallen on this article by Luc Devroye. He claims it’s not a copy, but I must admit I find his arguments totally wrong.

I'd like to know your point of view. How would you understand the relation between "Little Days" and "Memimas"? Do you feel Devroye’s arguments are solid?

Thank you

PS: I do not know M. Devroye nor both fonts’ authors.

BlueStreak's picture

[deleted]

oldnick's picture

From what I can observe, the outlines for Memimas are crappy PostScript (missing extrema), but the letters join much better than those in Little Days...

BlueStreak's picture

I may be incorrect, and if so I hope someone will correct me with source material. My understanding, based on U.S. law, is that a typeface (the design of the type) cannot be copyrighted. Only the name can be copyrighted. The only protections I know of regarding type in the U.S. is patent protection of the software used, i.e., the font.

So since this typeface uses what seems to be original outlines based on the Devroye article, the Little Days font is an original work.

BlueStreak's picture

By the way, and for what it's worth, I find Daniel Pelavin's Kulukundis similar, but cuter:

http://www.paratype.com/fstore/fonts/ITC-Kulukundis.htm

Synthview's picture

My understanding, based on U.S. law, is that a typeface (the design of the type) cannot be copyrighted.

Are you sure?
So could I just open any font in FontLab, save it with another name and use it as I want and redistribute it? :)

If I'm not wrong, in Europe (and certainly in France) I can claim at my Author's rights violation if I can prove that I made the artwork as first, of course.
I've no need to patent or protect anything.

riccard0's picture

So could I just open any font in FontLab, save it with another name and use it as I want and redistribute it? :)

No, because you would be copying the electronic format of the font, which is considered software. As BlueStreak already mentioned.
Anyway, this topic was already discussed over and over in countless long threads on the forum.

Synthview's picture

You're right it was a bad example.

But you see that evidently one font is the copy of the other.

aluminum's picture

Easy solution: come up with your own interpretation of both of these fonts. Bonus is that it'd be custom for your client.

You really don't want to use a DaFont face as your logo*

* unless you are multi-million-dollar budget hollywood film, then go for it (see: There Will Be Blood)

Synthview's picture

I would not like to focus on these fonts, i do not really care,
but rather on the arguments of the article defending the copy.

Of course I do not use dafont! It's my client who searched by himself on google I guess

riccard0's picture

You really don't want to use a DaFont face as your logo*

* unless you are multi-million-dollar budget hollywood film

Or a “Global Branding Consultancy” agency like Interbrand:
http://typophile.com/node/78050

BlueStreak's picture

Regarding the arguments of the article defending the copy, type designers have been copying the work of those preceding them since the beginning of type. The article points out that many well known fonts are clearly derivatives of other fonts. There are no laws prohibiting that. One of the most used (and best done) fonts is Gotham. Tobias Frere-Jones copied the work of others from architectural signs to create that font. He didn’t just sit down and sketch those shapes up from scratch. No one does. Everything with type is inspired by all of the type that’s been done before. This is all talking about copying the shapes (which are fair game) and the discussion is not about copying the digital algorithms, or the font software files (which is illegal).

It seems in the article that Stephen Coles questioned the ethics in copying those shapes nearly verbatim. The ethics are questionable in virtually recreating an exact copy of the shapes, but since the digital outlines are clearly not the same (and in fact better) there is nothing illegal about the copy, which is why daFonts is able to share the font.

I find Devroye’s arguments to be solid. Maybe Stephen Coles, or others directly involved with the article, will speak up and expand on this.

Nick Shinn's picture

He didn’t just sit down and sketch those shapes up from scratch. No one does.

Tobias didn't copy anything. He studied a genre, assimilated it, and produced an interpretation of the style, transposed from one medium to another. Duh.

Most of my types are drawn from scratch.

**

Little Days is a total knock-off.
It's not exonerated by the existence of other, "accepted" knock-offs, as Luc argues.

The acceptable "tolerance level" varies with the genre of type.
A subtle difference, globally applied in a face, can add new meaning and functionality in a much-populated, generic category.
However, Little Days brings nothing new to the table in mimicking a face with a quite distinctive personality, despite some cosmetic camouflage.

I will say that the tolerance level in the industry varies: certain large and powerful companies can get away with a lot more, without damaging their reputation, as can free-font plagiarists (not much reputation to be damaged), but the vast majority of foundries are straight shooters.

So I don't think it's a question of whether there is some benchmark level beyond which dubious behaviour will not be tolerated by "the industry" (even assuming unanimity were possible), but of what kind of companies a foundry wants to do business with (distributors are important!) and what kind of image it wants to have in the marketplace.

BlueStreak's picture

Mr. Shinn,

Your input is very respected and I agree with your points. Please allow me to restate that Tobias Frere-Jones assimilated and transposed the work of others from architectural signs to create Gotham. Even drawing from scratch entails deriving shapes from previous exposure. I'm not disputing your points, or trying to be facetious, but with type every designer derives elements from others, even if that is something as simple as the serif itself.

Again, your input is respected and valued by correctly making the point that there are ethical lines that some find crossing more objectionable than others.

Richard Fink's picture

Did somebody mention knock-offs?

As a former denizen of 7th Avenue (and both my parents spent their entire working lives there, too):

WELCOME TO MY WORLD!!

Food for thought:
1) THE PIRACY PARADOX: INNOVATION AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY IN FASHION DESIGN

2) SHOPPING FOR GUCCI ON CANAL STREET: REFLECTIONS ON STATUS CONSUMPTION, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, AND THE INCENTIVE THESIS

Knock offs are the lifeblood of an industry big enough to piss on the book publishing, film, and music, combined.

John Hudson's picture

BlueStreak: I may be incorrect, and if so I hope someone will correct me with source material. My understanding, based on U.S. law, is that a typeface (the design of the type) cannot be copyrighted. Only the name can be copyrighted. The only protections I know of regarding type in the U.S. is patent protection of the software used, i.e., the font.

US protection for typefaces:

Copyright - Protection for digital fonts as computer programs (automatic; optional registration).

Trademark - Protection of typeface name (claimable; optional registration).

Design Patent - Protection of typeface design (registration required; 14 year term).

Nick Shinn's picture

@Dan: I'm not disputing your points, or trying to be facetious, but with type every designer derives elements from others, even if that is something as simple as the serif itself.

But everybody in every discipline "derives elements from others".
It's impossible to work any other way.
Every discipline has its plagiarists and innovators.
So why call out type designers for being unoriginal?

BlueStreak's picture

I’m only calling out type design because that’s the topic. I agree that it’s obvious some in every endeavor are more original than others. In type it seems that everything has been fair game from the beginning. For the record I have a personal policy against plagiarism though I certainly have taken inspiration and elements from others. I’d rather be a poor original than a rich thief, and my income seems to be working out along those lines.

Regarding John Hudson’s input:
“US protection for typefaces:
Copyright - Protection for digital fonts as computer programs...”

Here’s where the semantic distinction of “font” and “typeface” become critically important:

“In 1992, the Copyright Office issued another policy statement reiterating its position that the computer programs used to create fonts were protected but the typefaces weren't.”

Source: http://www.howdesign.com/article/fontpiracy

butterick's picture

@BlueStreak

The problem here is that you're trying to mix two things that can't be mixed: objective questions of what the law protects and subjective questions of what is "original," "fair game," "plagiarism," etc. As applied to type design, these words have no intrinsic meaning.

Clearly it's true that the type industry thrives on reuse of ideas. Most of this reuse is legal; some is not. But every type designer has a different idea of the line that separates reasonable reuse from bad sportsmanship.

Complicating the problem is that when type designers explain their ideas of reasonable reuse, sometimes they don't apply those ideas in a principled or consistent way. That has more to do with the fallibility of human reasoning than the difficulty of the question.

If I had to define my test for reasonable reuse it would probably be:

1) Is the newer digital font necessarily derived from a specific older digital font?

2) Does the newer font address a functional or market need that the older font does not, other than making the older font available for free?

Specific examples:

Little Days & Memimas. 1) Little Days is necessarily derived from Memimas. 2) Little Days adds nothing to the world that Memimas hasn't already done, except to be available for free. Therefore, it may be legal, but it's not — to me — a reasonable reuse.

Gotham. 1) Gotham is derived from NYC signage. But not a specific font. So it's reasonable reuse. Some folks say they see a lot of similarity between Gotham and Proxima Nova. Maybe so. Often, good font ideas will emerge simultaneously without reference to each other. But Gotham has its own source material.

I have a font called Alix. 1) It's based heavily on old IBM selectric fonts, specifically Prestige and Light Italic. While there are digital versions of these fonts, Alix is not based on those. So it's reasonable reuse. But it would also pass criterion 2): In terms of design, the current digital versions of Prestige are seriously inaccurate. Also, very few monospaced fonts have true italic styles, including the current Prestiges. So it adds functional value to what's already out there.

butterick's picture

One other note. You might ask why anyone should care what type designers think about reasonable reuse of font ideas. You could fairly take the position that what the law does not prohibit, is permitted, and that in a free market, other considerations are irrelevant.

The answer is that type design is a very small world compared to most industries, even most design industries. Everyone involved professionally with type is in some sense an advocate for the whole industry. Most thoughtful type designers notice that in the long term, they have more to gain from good sportsmanship than from a slash-and-burn approach. One of the ways you earn respect for your own work is by showing that you respect others' work.

Synthview's picture

I’ve spoken with Luc Devroye and with Dafont’s webmaster.

Both do not consider a (in my mind) fundamental key point :
if the model is in public domain or not.
Gotham is a good example. It is the reinterpretation of some styles that are in public domain, or are part of a "vernacular" typography.
By the way I've read Tobias Frere-Jones saying his research to be based on 50s letterings, while I suppose it to be more about 30s; I even found some type faces dating 1910 in Europe.

I have the feeling that the presence of many versions of public domain designs (bodoni, didot, etc. etc) drives to the misleading idea type design relays on copying.
I would not harm Mr. Giambattista Bodoni if I "copy" his design, while I'll definitely harm Mr. José Manuel Urós and Mr. Joan Barjau who are supposed to be alive ;)

William Berkson's picture

Synthview, you seem to be overlooking that Tobias Frere-Jones's masterful execution of the "American vernacular signage" style is what gives Gotham its distinctive value, not the style itself. Here is H & F-J's history of the font, whose inspirations go back to the 30s, according to this account.

But the reason so many people love and use Gotham is that Frere-Jones is one awesome type designer. If you put the word "CHANGE" in bold caps in a lot of other similar fonts, the differences will be quite subtle between individual letters in the different fonts. But you'll also see the strength of Frere-Jones' creation—the one that helped elect a President.

Synthview's picture

Sorry William,
of course I appreciate a lot his designs! I was not criticizing at all his work! :)
Just explained the sources of its research before designing.
I had read his History page before, and I remember I've read 50s and not 30s as now. Probably I was mistaken. So everybody agrees its 30s :)

Nick Shinn's picture

But the reason so many people love and use Gotham is that Frere-Jones is one awesome type designer.

Sure, his reputation as a designer helps, but Gotham is also popular because it is a good "go-to" workhorse, i.e. solidly constructed and with very broad coverage in terms of styles and glyphs.

Also, H&FJ do a very thorough job of marketing their fonts.

All that is quite apart from the way the font looks.

As for electing the President, it could be argued that Gotham's patriotic cachet was sealed when Pentagram specified it for the 9/11 memorial. Certainly, it was an apt choice for a New York monument, but 9/11 carries a huge amount of semantic weight.

All these things connect in synergy and reinforce one another—and now MoMA.

BlueStreak's picture

First I’d like to say I think H&FJ are certainly typographic masters of a new generation. I think what’s important about Gotham in this discussion isn’t just Tobias Frere-Jones's masterful execution of the typeface, but of the font as well.

The topic here is perhaps specifically the font execution and not the appropriation of typefaces. I think Gotham is relevant to this discussion due to the masterful execution of the font, not the typeface. I think that Frere-Jone’s contribution is perhaps more the masterful execution of the digital form of the type rather than the face of the type, (the proportions of the Gotham face are exceptional as well of course, but that’s not the point). Considering the execution of the font as a significant reinterpretation leads back to the original issue; obviously the Little Days typeface is too similar Memimas to not have been directly derivative, but is the execution of the font a more masterful execution? I’ve never seen digital forms of either font, but shouldn’t that be a significant consideration? If the Little Days font is superior to the Memimas font, wouldn’t that make it worthy of being considered an original work? And I don’t buy the prejudice that just because a font is on daFonts that it’s inherently inferior to a font on the for sale market.

Part of my problem in this discussion is the prejudice that lesser foundries are given. A subjective line of ethics is drawn by those in the type industry. It seems to me that Adobe, Bitstream, Linotype, Monotype and other “respected” foundries get far less scrutiny of appropriating existing type than some of the lesser foundries. I’m not at all talking about Gotham and H&FJ in this category as much as the examples listed in Devroye’s article.

We’ve entered a new era of not just type designers, but font designers as well. Most of the time they are one and the same, but that is not a given. At times, maybe like this topic, they have to be considered independently. And maybe someone like West Wind Fonts will get the same subjective consideration that a Hoefler & Frere-Jones receives. Once again, I think the Devroye’s article makes a solid point.

butterick's picture

And maybe someone like West Wind Fonts will get the same subjective consideration that a Hoefler & Frere-Jones receives

A foundry whose work is primarily distinguished by the fact that it's free will never get — nor does it deserve — the same consideration as a foundry that preserves the craft and tradition of type design and charges customers accordingly.

Do free fonts have a right to exist? Sure. Are there nice free fonts? A few. But free fonts don't sustain the type industry in any meaningful way.

Nick Shinn's picture

It seems to me that Adobe, Bitstream, Linotype, Monotype and other “respected” foundries get far less scrutiny of appropriating existing type than some of the lesser foundries.

Adobe isn't a foundry. It's in the same category of font-producers as Microsoft and Apple.

Florian Hardwig's picture

is the execution of the font a more masterful execution?

As you asked – have a look yourself. 3 random glyphs, from Little Days (v1.0; top) and Memimas (v3.3; below). While Memimas’ outlines sure aren’t impeccable, it should become clear that Little Days is inferior. Like MB wrote before, the freebie doesn’t add anything.

BlueStreak's picture

"But free fonts don't sustain the type industry in any meaningful way."

Butterick, I sincerely appreciate the points you have made. While "meaningful" could be debated, I think free fonts do offer some contribution to the type industry; that is to say I think there are more positives than negatives regarding free fonts.

"While Memimas’ outlines sure aren’t impeccable, it should become clear that Little Days is inferior."

Asked, answered, and agreed. That does seem to counter Devroye’s view that they are at least equally executed. Thanks for the detailed glyph view and taking the time to offer input.

"Adobe isn't a foundry."

You are correct. I added them based on the article's mention of “Cronos (Adobe's knockoff of Today).”

Richard Fink's picture

Butterick>One of the ways you earn respect for your own work is by showing that you respect others' work.

Yes, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

(BTW - bought your book. Like it very much.)

Nick Shinn's picture

…imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…

The corollary being that imperfect imitation is no flattery at all, but mockery and cheap caricature.

jonathanhughes's picture

Why isn't Adobe a foundry? They have their own type designers and they sell that type. Isn't that all you need to be a foundry?

Nick Shinn's picture

Why isn't Adobe a foundry?

It's a software company.
Fonts account for a tiny part of its almost $4 billion annual revenue.

apetickler's picture

So what would we think if the free font were an unequivocal improvement on the non-free one?

Synthview's picture

> So what would we think if the free font were an unequivocal improvement on the non-free one?
Following European law, every time you’re artwork is a "derivative work" of another artwork which is not in public domain, you must have a written agreement of its author.
To be in Public domain, a work must be
1. released with a PD licence;
2. 70 years must have been passed till the original-artwork-author's death (not the artwork's release).

Generally speaking, I think reusing someone else's work without his permission is taking undue advantage.
Would you like to see your work to be taken by others, modified (even if improved) and resold? I don't think so.

fontdesigner2's picture

I feel that if you don't change the design hardly at all, it's copying. There's a copyright law that applies to works of art (but not fonts in the U.S. unfortunately) that states that if an artist doesn't change the work quite a bit it's copying. If I take a print of the Mona Lisa and paint a mustache on her, that's copying (and since it's a painting it's illegal for me to call it my own original work - this kind of thing is legal when done to fonts in America unfortunately). However if I paint lots of stuff all around her and cover a lot of the background and paint the mustache, I can probably prove to a jury that it's an original creation owned by me.

So if it REALLY looks like another font, it's copying, and though it may be legal in the U.S., I find it unethical.

However, if the original font is rough looking in places and messed up in some places and you trace it but clean it up and make it look much better, maybe you should sell it under a different name, (if it's a marked improvement) as long as you admit what you've done and what font you traced if anyone asks you if you designed it. Because you didn't really design it, you copied and traced it. But then again maybe not - I'm on the fence about it.

apetickler's picture

Synthview, the law is one thing, but I'm more interested in knowing what people actually think about the issue. If a work is based on something else but also is truly unique, is it not a legitimate creation? To answer your question, I would be happy if something I did inspired someone else. If I depended on my work for income and the new work made it obsolete, that would be disappointing. But I would rather accept that I would have to make something new and hope for a little additional recognition than worry that some day something I worked on really hard and truly believed in might be illegal because it draws on a preexisting work.

fontdesigner2, do you mean to imply that Marcel Duchamp's LHOOQ is not a real work of art?

fontdesigner2's picture

I don't know anything about Marcel Duchamp. All I know is that it's obvious when someone has copied someone else, and whether or not that is ethical I am not sure. I'm on the fence about it.

Here is an article that I'm reading right now on this very same topic:
http://www.emigre.com/Editorial.php?sect=2

apetickler's picture

LHOOQ:

Here, it's obvious that Duchamp didn't intend for anyone to believe that he painted the Mona Lisa, and personally, I think that's the important distinction. If a creative work has tremendous and distinctive value but is based heavily on something else, we lose something if the derivative work isn't allowed to exist, but as a matter of honesty, it's important for people to acknowledge those who inspired them.

In the case that the creator of the original work is still alive, the question of royalties is messier.

riccard0's picture

All I know is that it's obvious when someone has copied someone else

How lucky you are!

fontdesigner2's picture

apetickler - Okay, now I know who Duchamp is, and I kinda get the point of why he did this. I get that he wasn't trying to call the Mona Lisa his own and guess it's sort of clever but, that's what you call a textbook copyright violation. Ethical, I guess so, but only on account of the fact that he wasn't mass producing and selling prints of these. From what I'm reading here I think he only made one copy and hung it up in museums/exhibitions. So that's the main difference between what he did and what a lot of font copiers out there are doing.

BTW that's really weird that I gave that Mona Lisa mustache example off the top of my head. I was creating that scenario out of my imagination and had no idea anyone ever did it before. Hats off to you for knowing so much about art. I never really got into all that Dada stuff; it's not my cup of tea, and this is an example of why it's not my cup of tea. Painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa and calling it art is preposterous in my opinion. It requires no talent whatsoever. And I would argue that if anyone likes it, what they really like about it is the Mona Lisa, and not the mustache. Kind of like when people tell me they like that song where puff daddy raps over Led Zeppelin. It's the Zepp that makes them think they like it, not Puff.

riccard0 - I am lucky to not be blind, aren't I?

kentlew's picture

> that's what you call a textbook copyright violation

Ryan — Just to be precise, with regard to your terminology, let me point out that *copyright* is a strictly legal precept. As such, it is subject to various laws, statutes, and jurisdictions, and it has evolved over time.

The legal concept of copyright did not exist in the 1500s. Modern copyright laws do not (and I don’t believe ever have) actually pertain to a painting created in the Renaissance.

Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q. — despite whatever else one may wish to think about it — is not actually “a textbook copyright violation.”

Now, perhaps you meant to assert that Duchamp’s action was an obvious example of *plagiarism.*

I’ll let you and Patrick (apetickler) debate that particular point, if you want.

Richard Fink's picture

kentlew>Modern copyright laws do not (and I don’t believe ever have) actually pertain to a painting created in the Renaissance.

Copyright has been claimed for photographic reproductions of Renaissance paintings.

The case that, so far, seems to have clinched the notion that photographs of public domain material - no matter how costly or time consuming to produce - are not protectable is Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel

fontdesigner2's picture

kentlew - Copyright is not a precept. It is a law enforced by the government. Try ripping off Microsoft sometime and telling the judge that copyright is merely a vague archaic precept. And I did not say that Duchamp plagiarized. I said that what he did was clever and ethical but what he did is not the same as what font copiers do. I never even wanted to use him as an example for this topic because it's a bad example to use for this topic about font copying. Please reread what I said and what apetickler said.

Mr. Fink - I'm confused by what you said. I think what you're saying is that it's not legal to mass produce prints of another artist's work and profit from it even if they are dead (because even though they are dead someone probably owns the rights and they would most likely have a problem with this and take you to court unless they are really nice), right?

kentlew's picture

Ryan — Hey, I agree that Duchamp is a bad example in this thread. And I agree that the original Little Days example in this thread seems to be a rip-off. Anyone who’s been on this forum for a while and knows me knows that I am not defending the copying of another’s work.

I was just correcting your quoted statement about Duchamp being a textbook case of copyright violation, because it is patently false.

I think you must have misunderstood me: Precept (n.) — a general rule intended to regulate behavior or thought. syn. see Law.

Yes, copyright is about legality. We’re saying the same thing in this regard.

I said nothing about ‘merely,’ ‘archaic,’ or ‘vague.’ But it is complicated. It often has little to do with what one might think is right or wrong, as it turns out.

And Duchamp just happens not to be a textbook example. That’s all.

Richard Fink's picture

fontdesigner2>I think what you're saying is that....

No, that's not what I'm saying. (And what I say is irrelevant. What a District Court says in a published opinion is relevant. Follow the link to the WP article and read it.)
In short, Bridgeman Art Library claimed that the photographs it had taken of its private collection of public domain artworks resulted in new works which were protectable under copyright. The court said no, they aren't. They are freely copyable and distributable by anybody. (As long as you buy a copy and are not shoplifting them out of the museum's souvenir shop, of course. ;)
The decision rests on the principle that "slavish copying" of unprotected material is unprotected regardless of the change in the means of expression. (Oil paintings on canvas versus photographs of same.)

fontdesigner2's picture

kentlew - Maybe I shouldn't have said "textbook case of copyright violation". But, what he did was pretty close to it. If he would have started producing prints and selling them, don't you think he could have been sued for that? Or are you telling me the Mona Lisa is totally public domain? Anyone can print postcards of it and sell them? If so, what a bad example I chose for this topic on font copying and my mistake. "I said nothing about ‘merely,’ ‘archaic,’ or ‘vague.’" True. But I felt that you were speaking of copyright law like it was merely vague and archaic so I used those words. My impression was that you were claiming that copyright law is not so much a clear law but a guideline that is often and easily bent.

Mr. Fisk - Do you know if the work that was copied in that case was public domain, or was it owned by someone? The company "Off the Wall Images" must not have really owned the rights but only claimed to, and Corel didn't know this. Kentlew seems to be claiming Renaissance works are public domain, so if that's true, why would there even be a case here? This is a lot of reading. I'll get back to it (and you) later.

fontdesigner2's picture

Mr. Fisk - I have more questions for you about this case.

Was it legal for just anyone to sell a copy (print of a photograph) of these works? If so, why? Because the works were a certain age? Anyone was aloud to go into the place and photograph those works and sell them? Distributable in this case means legally salable right?

kentlew's picture

> My impression was that you were claiming that copyright law is not so much a clear law but a guideline that is often and easily bent.

No, what I was claiming is that it is a very complex body of laws, bound by time and place, the applications of which may be specific but are not always intuitive.

Incidentally, Duchamp did not actually copy the Mona Lisa. He purchased a readily available reproduction (a print or postcard, essentially), drew the mustache & goatee on it, added the saucy caption, and hung it in a gallery.

This really is a bad example. But if you want textbook examples, then I recommend you find a textbook on copyright law. Nolo Press publishes some very useful and accessible guides.

> If he would have started producing prints and selling them, don't you think he could have been sued for that?

Do you mean in 1919? For copyright violation? No, I don’t think so. To make a more informed decision, one would have to research the specific copyright laws in France in the early 1900s.

But this Duchamp example is a red herring I think we should drop it now. It’s just a distraction from the primary point of discussion: the copying of fonts or typeface designs.

Richard Fink's picture

I agree with Kent that dropping this is a fine idea.

BTW - I'm no relation to Mr. Fisk.

Just to answer your questions:

>Was it legal for just anyone to sell a copy (print of a photograph) of these works?
yes.

>If so, why?
Because the photos were no more than faithful reproductions, in another medium, of the originals. Copyright is intended to protect expression, and there was no new expression. (I'm just summing up simply what the court said.)

>Because the works were a certain age?
Yes, that had a bearing. The works were no longer under copyright.

>Anyone was aloud to go into the place and photograph those works and sell them?
No, photographs by the public were not allowed. The photos and digital versions were created by the Bridgeman Art Library and redistributed by Corel.

>Distributable in this case means legally salable right?
Yes.

Now, I doubt if you're any less baffled. And that's one of the problems with copyright law - it never, ever contemplated a world where the cost and ease of copying was near zero and the tools to do so available to everybody. Plus, there are few "bright lines", legally. Most works contain copyrightable elements and non-copyrightable elements and until someone makes a claim and a court or jury decides which is which and what's what, it's hard to know where you stand. A strange form of "property" it is.

Adios.

fontdesigner2's picture

kentlew -
"very complex body of laws, bound by time and place, the applications of which may be specific but are not always intuitive." There you go again. That sounds to me like a vague guideline that is easily and often bent. BTW I have studied copyright law in college, but maybe you do know more about it than me.

Anyway, dropping our little personal discussion sounds great. Let's keep the topic on discussion from now on.

Fink - Sorry I called you Fisk. Thanks for your answers, and I am less "baffled" now by the way. I have actually learned a great deal about something that I never thought I needed to know about.

If you want to drop this discussion that's fine with me. I don't know what you do for a living but I have recently become a semi-professional font designer for a living and this topic is very important to me (Otherwise, I wouldn't have started reading it and contributing to it in the first place). I'm very interested in learning what it is that I can do to protect my fonts from being stolen and would like to help other fonts designers with this issue in any way that I can as well.

You are very knowledgeable in general copyright law and I find your contributions to be beneficial and have enjoyed our discourse. If you no longer wish to communicate with me simply do so. I am not forcing you to.

BTW I looked at the Mona Lisa today and I've changed my mind about it. It's actually a painting of a very ugly woman. I like the one with the mustache better and now I guess I'm a hypocrite. Actually if you look closely the original one already has a mustache.

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