How legal / legit is this?

CreeDo's picture

So I've more or less finished my 2nd font ever, "Sanford". It's a regular visitor on the whatthefont forums, but even though it gets ID'd nobody can ever provide a link to buy/download it. It's been digitized but here's no standard font file for it anywhere online.

Basically only two companies seem tied to it: Gerber makes some sort of cutter (vinyl? fabric?) and the font (under the name Marker Acct) comes with the cutter software. Another company (Silver Graphics) apparently had something to do with it, but I never saw a page where one could buy it. Maybe they made it for Gerber. They apparently went under, their website hadn't been updated in 10 years, but someone claimed they were coming back. I can't find evidence of this, there are several companies by that name if you Google it. Who knows?

So if I got my hands on an old PDF with outlines of the letters, imported it into fontlab and saved a TTF/OTF file, am I breaking the law? I'm aware American font laws are notoriously lax here anyway. What if I've added various glyphs? ---> EG @ & €?

If that's not legal, would manually retracing the glyphs make it legal? To be honest that seems silly, it's reinventing the wheel... the PDF's characters are perfect. It seems disingenuous to nudge a few nodes here and there and pretend I've now made a new font.

Lastly, legal questions aside, does anyone have an objection to it ethically?
I feel the font is basically abandonware. Someone might technically hold the rights to it, but they don't sell it. Nobody's gonna buy a multi-thousand dollar machine just to get it. Nobody can name the original creator, and of course whoever made the font for Gerber copied someone else, it's at least 40-50 years old. If you think it's ok to release it, would your stance change if I sold it vs. making it free?

Ray Larabie's picture

Assume that whomever still retains the copyright could someday enforce it. Don't put yourself in a situation where the font ends up on hundreds of free font sites and you have no way to take it down. If you were to distribute it from your own site with a copyright notice that explained that the font can only be distributed from that site, at least you'd be able to easily comply with a C&D letter by taking it down from your site. You don't want to be in a position where you have to request font removal from hundreds of free font sites: trust me.

That also allows you to ensure the documentation stays with the font. Many free font sites remove the license agreement from the zip or distribute unzipped fonts.

BlueStreak's picture

My understanding is that extracting font outlines from a PDF is clearly illegal, but that's perhaps only true if the font has registered protection such as a copyright as software or design patent. It would seem though that you have a case that this font isn't protected (probably never was) and is abandoned property or unclaimed work which would make extracting the outlines OK as fair use of works in the public domain. I think Ray Larabie has given some great advice to assume that is not the case and proceed with caution.

oldnick's picture

am I breaking the law?

Technically, probably not: the beziers themselves are simply data, which is not copyright-protected--or, so it would seem in the wake of several other discussions in these fora on the subject. However, there is, indeed, an ethical problem if you claim the work as your own and/or profit from it. But, if you intend it to be freeware and the abandonment issues you raised are true, then you can probably sleep well at night, and the cheap bastards who never bought a font in their sorry lives--and never will--will thank you and sing your praises...and ask you for free technical support if the font doesn't perform to their expectations.

CreeDo's picture

I would have noted the font's origins and tried to stress I didn't make the glyphs... But of course once it spreads online, that sort of useless gesture becomes moot. A million sites will provide just the TTF file.

Also it's come to my attention since that the Silver Graphics font does exist as a standard TTF and really was sold at some point, maybe as part of a package CD. Maybe they got a gerber cutter and saw the font software, and their eyes turned into dollar signs.

I'm thinking I'll keep my version to myself and maybe share with a friend or two who won't redistribute it (naive I know), while the silver graphics version is off limits.

Thanks for your input everyone.

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