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Re: [ft] Free Fonts

From: Dave Crossland
Subject: Re: [ft] Free Fonts
Date: Tue, 2 Jun 2009 19:30:38 +0100

2009/6/2 Werner LEMBERG <address@hidden>:
>>> Interesting reading :-)
>> He's talking nonsense IMO,
> I don't think so.

Oh good - I do like a good debate on this topic :-)

The article starts:

    "Fonts are not copyrightable as "computer programs"
    ("font software") for the following two simple reasons:
    Firstly, fonts are no computer programs. Secondly,
    font designers are no computer programmers.

This is nonsense.

Rationally, it makes sense that fonts are indeed copyrightable as
"computer programs" for the following two simple reasons: Firstly,
fonts can include computer programs as inseparable parts. Secondly,
font designers are no computer programmers, but some font outline
formats are indeed programming languages and font editor applications
translate spatial input into programs expressed in those programming
languages. Just because CorelDRAW (as per page 2 of the article)
writes the program, doesn't mean it isn't a program. However, in the
UK the term of copyright for such programs is shorter than for
programs written by a human - 50 years. explains:

    *  Literary, Dramatic, Musical and Artistic works:  The life time
of the author plus a period of 70 years from the end of the year in
which the author dies.
    * Computer generated works: 50 years from the date of creation of
the work. A work is deemed to be computer generated where there is "no
human author".
    * Sound recordings: 50 years from the end of year in which it was
made or published.
    * Broadcasts: 50 years from the end of the year of broadcast.
    * Typographical arrangement of published editions : 25 years from
the year of first publication.

("Typographical arrangement of published editions" refers to layouts
made with DTP programs like Scribus, and not to typeface designs.)

But the law isn't rational, and the idea that font files are copyright
because they are programs is a misunderstanding of the SSI vs Adobe
ruling, which said that the spatial input is subject to copyright - so
that fonts in a purely data format, like SVG, are copyrightable,
because the spatial input involves 'some creativity.'

It makes rational sense to think of such data-fonts as "font software"
- where software is defined as bitstreams, as in the old
hardware/software distinction.

>> First, we ought to note that its common to perceive 'software' as
>> meaning only programs, not data.
> Well, I interpret the whole article as something about the font
> designs.  Of course, the font programs in the particular font files
> are protected by copyright.

The first 2 paragraphs of page 1, and the whole of page 2, tries to
assert that font files are not subject to copyright because they are
not programs. As above, this is nonsense.

>> But we really are talking here purely about vector outlines, not the
>> programmatic parts of fonts which are really secondary and only exist
>> to  support the outlines.
> Even less: If you say `vector outline' this already implicitly refers
> to a programmatic representation, be it second or third order Bezier
> curves (or whatever).  This article -- which is badly written, I
> concur -- covers IMHO the question whether scanning the fonts and
> cloning them is valid or not.

Second or third order Bezier curves (or whatever) can be expressed as
program or as data. PostScript or SVG, for example.

>> Now, as for the type designs themselves not being subject to
>> copyright, well, I am certainly unsure about that.  My reading of
>> the UK law is that they are subject to the normal copyright of all
>> artistic drawings.
> No.  There is the “Vienna Agreement for the Protection of Type Faces
> and their International Deposit” (in the German Wikipedia, the article
> `Rechtsschutz von Schriftzeichen'[1] is even considered a `good
> article' -- very interesting to read) which gives a protection of a
> maximum of 25 years, NOT 70 years!.  However, only Germany and France
> have signed it.

I read a machine translation of the article. It sounds like Germany is
like the USA in that the copyright office has decided that typeface
designs will not be recognized as artistic works there, since they
have a utility function, and therefore are subject to patents in the
USA and to "Vienna depositions" or whatever we call them in Germany.
The effect is the same.

The article also correctly notes that EU Design Rights have spread
this kind of registration across the EU, for up to 25 years, and for 3
years automatically without registration - but these are can not be
backdated, and the Microsoft case about Segoe has shown that you
cannot register a new design that is very similar to one already
existing from any country - Segoe is close to Frutiger which is Swiss
and the article says Switzerland, like the USA and Germany, has
disallowed type designs from artistic copyrights.

>> So, the type designs in the 1982 Linotype catalogue may or may not be
>> public domain;
> All designs published in this catalogue are no longer protected.

I do not believe this is the case worldwide, such as in the UK.


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