This is topic Font copyright in forum Open Discussions About Writing at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

To visit this topic, use this URL:;f=1;t=007957

Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Did you know that Times New Roman is a proprietary font? I don't imagine they would file a suit for personal use, but do you use it for your self-publishing needs, or on your website? If you made a million using their font, they might want some recompense. What other proprietary fonts do you use without permission?

There are free for commercial use alternatives but they are hard to find and you really do need to get a release from their creator before using them: in case they've changed their mind.

So, who amongst us is breaching copyright in nearly everything they publish?


PS. You'd think that publishing houses and e-pub imprints like smashwords would have catch-all licenses, but can you be sure? And its not just fonts: what about images, clip-art etc?
Posted by Captain of my Sheep (Member # 10362) on :
Corporations have proprietary colors. Hehe.

I don't use any fonts I'm not supposed to use in my website because Google Fonts solves all my font issues.

Were I to self-publish something I'd do it in ebook form which removes the need to pick a font, I think. It'd be read on a Kindle or Nexus or iPad in which case the user picks the font.
I read everything in Volkorn, for example. You can pry Volkorn from my cold, dead hands.

The few times I fell in love with a font while reading an article, I found out I had expensive font taste: The font cost more than 100 bucks. Fonts can be the equivalent of a cheap Chinese car or a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. And unless you know what an ascender, descender, serifs, stem, terminals, spine and ligature is, you might not know the difference between one and the other.

I'd wager there are limited choices in fonts when it comes to books, maybe a 1% of the universe of fonts would be acceptable, possibly less than that.

As for images and clipart, there are tens of websites that offer images for free, no strings attached at all. It's hard to mine those website for the best stuff, though. You don't have to play with fire and risk legal problems unless you want to.
Posted by Robert Nowall (Member # 2764) on :
It'd be interesting to see if they've successfully asserted their proprietary rights. Anything in case law about fonts?
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Typeface and digital font file are separate items under copyright and patten law. Trademark type art is another aspect. A typeface is the alpha-numeric and other symbol shapes of a type glyph family. A digital font file is a software direction set for rendering a typeface for print or display.

For all intents and purposes, under U.S. copyright law, a typeface is immune from copyright protection, due to typefaces' utility outweighs their limited distinctive design characteristics, which are not subject to appreciable variation. A lower case A is still readable as an A. Typography and calligraphy, generally, are not copyrightable in themselves. Different country jurisdictions vary, however; some countries' intellectual property laws copyright protect typefaces to a degree, and are most aggressive for domestic designs.

British Commonwealth copyright law recognizes a typeface is only protected in its entirety and in its design sequence: A B C . . . a b c . . . 1 2 3, etc., as a typeface catalog offers the typeface for public use

Digital font files, though, may be copyrighted as software, from how files render typefaces. However, vector graphic digital font files, such as PostScript Type 1™, TrueType™, and OpenType™, which render type from vector software files, may be copyrighted or pattened or both. Digital font files may be pattened as "machine language." A type art logo of unique type design, print or digital, may also be trademarked.

Computer users purchase an included default font catalog and the fonts' personal use license along with the hardware and operating system. Also, wordprocessor softwares come with additional font files that are likewise default licensed for personal use. Commercial uses of proprietary digital font files, like publication to the public for gain, financial or otherwise, are subject to use-licensing requirements. Though few font file owners make a fuss about use of their files for publication purposes, they will litigate infringement of the file designs. Typeface copyright and patten litigation case law generally revolves around design and file label infringement, not actual use of a typeface. Use licenses come with the purchase of a digital font file.

"Times New Roman" was designed for the use of the Times of London as a "modern" newspaper typeface based upon, likewise, the Times' original "Times Roman," itself based upon a traditional "Roman" typeface design based upon Roman stone engravers' glyphs. The typeface is of an Old Style type foundry design that dimensionally compresses the space occupied by the type. Designed to be a compromise between compressed, readable, and aesthetically pleasing to the eye, the typeface is a Serial Old Style for newspaper publication's space-conscious limitations.

Back in the day of hot and cold lead type foundaries -- hot lead for linotype and cast-per-use galleys, cold lead for reusable type case glyphs -- type styles were categorized by use: book, serial, serif, sanserif, and ornamental. Book typefaces have elegant bowls, proportionate stroke widths, descenders and ascenders, serifs, etc., and generally use a third or so more space than serial typefaces, which as well entail elegant features, only less kerning between glyphs and glyphs compressed laterally.

Typewriter technology introduced two new categories: monospaced and proportionate spaced; typewriters up though the 1966 IBM Selectric used monospaced typefaces. Book and serial publication, typeset text, has always been proportionate, a few exceptions when monospaced has been preferable.

Old Style serif prevailed and Old Style sanserif perished early in the age of traditional typography for the elegance, readability, and luxurious kerning that please the eye, based upon the Golden Ratio's proportions. Serifs prevailed because, like engraved clay, stone, metal, and wood, sharp lead corners are fragile and subject to break and wear when shaped and in use.

However, the Digital Age reinvigorated sanserif typefaces due to perceptions of line distortion caused by cathode ray tube monitors' curved faces. Eyestrain was a consideration, less so since the introduction of flat screen monitors.

Ornamental typefaces include any non-content type art typefaces that do not contentedly fit in the other categories.

No case law exists on unlicensed publication use. A colophon page of a book describes typefaces used in a book; sometimes a serial publication will describe its typefaces used. Though both practices are less common than pre-Digital Age.

That's the type skinny. For more detailed information, look around: keywords like "Intellectual property protection of typefaces," "Type design," "Typography," etc.

Clip art and images generally are subject to copyright protection, automatic anymore, since the recent Berne Convention copyright acts were adopted. Open user licensing, though, may allow unlicensed uses. A best advised practice, however, is to use original content in every circumstance. Clip art screams unimaginative, uncreative amateur.

Edited to add: Proscriptively, digital font file use licensing accompanies personal purchase and uses. Likewise proscriptively, commercial uses require additional use licensing for publication to the public for purposes of gain.

Prescriptively, however, the only legally attachable value is the cost for the use license in the first place. As much as a few hundred dollars for a standard default font catalog, and as much as a few hundred for each specialty single file fonts, for commercial individual user or group users. Adobe's Jansen, for example, is an Old Style book typeface, based on a seventeenth century Dutch type design named Janson for designer Anton Janson that is itself not subject to copyright. Jansen is only legitimately available from Adobe by digital font file and any attendant use licensing.

In other words, the cost of recovery litigation doesn't justify the returns. A demand letter might be sent -- pay the commercial license fee or else -- though only a court action can enforce payment. Neither a demand letter or litigation is worth the trouble. Major publishers, though, earnestly protect their professional and public reputations by acquiring suitable use licenses.

Major publishers acquire commercially licensed softwares and digital font files that include the licenses. With many software companies now licensing "cloud" software uses, the font files are part of those licenses too -- personal or commercial.

[ July 01, 2015, 03:46 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by Reziac (Member # 9345) on :
Also, you can exactly reproduce the font itself (so long as you don't simply copy-and-paste the internal definitions in a font editor) and use, sell, or give that away -- so long as it was made from scratch and you name it something else, you're good. That's why functionally-identical fonts have different names from Microsoft, Adobe, and Corel. The shape of the letters cannot be copyrighted, just the internal implementation. And the font name can be trademarked. The fact that it does the same job and looks the same in print is irrelevant.

I vaguely recall that there is case law on this, but it would date back to B.I. (Before Internet).
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Barely B.I., if B.I., post ARPAnet, the first World Wide Web proposal brief was published in 1989.

United States Code of Federal Regulations, Ch 37, Sec. 202.1(e); Eltra Corp. vs. Ringer, 1988, is the date of U.S. final affirmation of typefaces' public domain status.

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2