TYPE DESIGNERS: Typeface Copyright Law

BenBowsher's picture

Hi,
I'm new to typophile but I was curious whether there were any typeface designers out there who have opinions on the copyright law surrounding typefaces. The following are some questions I thought might propel the discussion:

Firstly, as you see it, do you feel well protected by the copyright law concerning typeface design?

What do you see as the main flaws of the way the law works to protect you as a designer?

Do you feel the main problem to be piracy or plagiarism?

Why do you feel so many people are willing to appropriate typefaces without the artist/designer's permission?

How do you feel would be the best way to resolve this ongoing problem? Does it come from a change in legislation, or an attempt to change people's attitudes...?

Thanks for your time guys and gals.

Frank ADEBIAYE's picture

Typeface copyright is a symptom, more than a solution in itself.

The big question is : it is possible to earn money from my work or not?

Piracy, plagiarism are bad terms, steal is a better one.

The best answer is to be more paid upfront.

BenBowsher's picture

Can you elaborate on;
'Typeface copyright is a symptom, more than a solution in itself.'?

It's an intriguing statement, but I'm not entirely sure I know exactly what is meant by it.

.00's picture

If you have a weak stomach, or lack a certain intestinal fortitude, this is not the business for you.

Remember, piracy can be viewed as a revenue stream.

Frank ADEBIAYE's picture

@BenBowsher: i mean the copyright system on fonts reveal the fear of piracy in first place ; to prevent, it's perhaps necessary but it could not be sufficient

@jmontalbano: yeah, sometime the best way to win is not to play, i make typefaces myself (www.vtf.fadebiaye.com) but i do not expect this hobby to be a way to earn money. i'm not sure it's actually a good thing to live exclusively out type design, i mean not as such but from an intellectual point of view. my typefaces are piracy-proff, there is no kerning, limited charset ; you cannot steal what donot exist...

BlueStreak's picture

Protecting digital fonts doesn't seem to be a tough chore, and the laws seem to exist to do so.

Protecting typeface designs through copyright though would seem to me to be very difficult due to the subjective nature of it, but could be done as they've done it with music. It never the less would be very, very subjective. With music, digital sampling was a new wrinkle for the courts and I guess it would be with typeface design too. Which of the many Garamond designs is an original work and which are too derivative? How far is too far with derivation? Where is the line to not cross?

There would be some interesting cases if typeface copyright law in the U.S. is tightened up. Here's an interesting and classic case of the subjective nature of musical copyright law being enforced:

George Harrison vs Bright Tunes Music Corp.
http://www.fairwagelawyers.com/most-famous-music-copyright-infringment.html

Nick Shinn's picture

I'm not interested in these issues.
Hinting and screen resolution also leave me cold.
Of course, I must take these into account for business reasons, but generally I follow the norm, without any opinion as to whether that is good or bad or in my best interests.
I have held strong opinions about such aspects of the type business in the past, and have spoken out, but it seemed pretty pointless, as the voice of one small foundry doesn't carry much weight, and there is little solidarity amongst foundries.

I don't think piracy and plagiarism, as far as they exist, have much affect on the digital type industry.
There has always been font piracy, plagiarism, free fonts, bundled fonts, &c, and there is a perception held by some (generally not in the font business) that this is bad and a serious issue and it's hard to make a living selling fonts. But the digital type industry is thriving despite these putative impediments, which have been around since day one. Fonts are not music.

BlueStreak's picture

>Fonts are not music.

Would you consider the drawing of typefaces an art or science? I agree fonts are not music, but do think drawing typefaces is an art similar to writing music, and that like the George Harrison case it's a fine line that separates inspiration from appropriation. The difference is that with drawing typefaces there is no law against appropriation, where in music there is.

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