22 posts

Is this illegal?


Jul 19, 2013 at 18:16

PokemonBlue56 said  
My brother has it on his laptop should he delete it or not?

Ask your heart, young padawan.

Jul 19, 2013 at 22:50

OK PokemonBlue, it is holiday time so no time for school. But still, here a comprehensive private lecture.

Before we start talking about copying, rip-off, cloning or whatever of a font we first must understand the difference between an artistic design, in this case the design of the shape of letters. Why does the Helvetica look different from the Times New Roman while an a is an a, and with digital type where different instructions can generate an output that is (almost but often hardly not noticeable) the same and the a of one font looks the same as the a from another font.

In the more civilized part of the world an artistic design is protected under copyright laws which are in principle identical and all based on the Convention of Berne. Under the Convention of Berne there is no need to file a copyright, a mere proof of first publication is sufficient. No-one may reproduce or use means to reproduce an artistic design without the permission of the copyright holder of that design, which, depending on the type of design and on national laws, can vary between 30 years after the design first published up to 100 years after the death of the designer.

In the USA the situation is different. The USA undersigned the Convention of Berne a only few years ago. But only long after an American judge ruled that a letter design is not an artistic design and thus can not be protected. An a is an a is an a. Right? A type designer in the USA has no copyright protection whatsoever. In the USA only the means of how to reproduce a type design are protected.

Now, what is a font in terms of digital type actually? It is a bit of software that tells tells text processing software how to render instructions to produce an output. Be it on screen or on paper. That means that as soon as those instructions are different, whatever the result, that piece of software is is unique. It also means that if those instructions are identical to those in another - earlier - version of that software but with differences only in the header of that software (naming and so) we speak of a clone. That is illegal. But as the world of digital type is ruled from the USA, any other way of rendering the same (optical) output is not illegal. And from a USA point of view perfectly OK.

See the differences in approach between the civilised part of the world and the rest? Over here it is not done nor legal to use any means of reproduction of a type design without the permission of the designer or his/her heirs. In the USA it is perfectly OK.

As Castcraft was a USA based company they where perfectly within the(ir) law to do what they did. They made their own font rendering software of an existing type design. Is that ethical? Depends on where you stand. To us no. But to the American Way Of Live philosophy? Yes! Yes! Yes!

Food for thought?

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