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Adam Twardoch


Adam Twardoch
Last Active
  • Re: Font or Font Software

    The tldr version: font EULAs don't state what the reality IS. They state what YOU WANT IT TO BE. Other parties can disagree and dispute, then you go to court and some person rules. But most likely, this won't happen, so you as a font vendor have the power of using the EULA reality distortion field most of the time. 

    But, looking at 99% of today's EULAs, it's evident to me that font vendors don't WANT their works to be protected even adequately. The sole reliance on the software scheme is extremely short-sighted and weak. It can completely fold any minute. 

    Well, it actually already has: in 1997, a Polish court ruled that fonts are NOT software programs. This was actually the wish of a Polish font distributor because in 1994 the Polish copyright reform had an abolishment clause for illegal software use, and the accused was using that defense, while the distributor managed to get damages because the court decided that fonts did not fall under the abolishment clause because they were not software programs.

    Anybody could dig up that line of reasoning (remember that in this case it was the "font-friendly" side that was claiming fonts are not software) and basically make the whole "fonts are programs" line collapse. But it seems that most font vendors have happily abandoned other means of protection. Why? I have no idea. 
  • Re: Font or Font Software


    This is an excellent question. I've found it pitiful that most font vendors worldwide, including those from Europe or South America, have blindly drafted their EULAs purely around the limitations of U.S. copyright law. It's ridiculous that they seem to have completely abandoned the potential protection of their own domestic legal systems, and by doing so they have weakened the value of their intellectual property. 

    Why weakened? Because many countries don't have any specific exclusion of typeface protection as visual works, like the U.S. has. If a legal case emerges in some country, judges will most likely want to consult with experts in the field, and the experts will possibly look at what the consensus is in the creative community itself. 

    It looks like the typeface vendors have silently and passively accepted the "reality" that typeface designs aren't subject to copyright protection as visual works. Well, they may mention that this is only "in U.S. copyright" in some informal discussions — but this is not reflected in the legal reality they *project*. 

    And yes, that *projection* of legal values by a given community is what matters. Courts of law in the UK, France, Poland, Argentina or Thailand don't have magical knowledge of a variety of specific topics. When it comes to deciding what the manifestation of individuality, creativity and originality is in a given segment of the creative industry, courts will look at what position the authors themselves represent. 

    Typeface authors have for some reason, as a whole, abandoned ship.

    I haven't heard the phrase "typeface author" in a long time, there is very little mention of authorship.

    The EULAs practically never underline the claim (or ambition) that the digital fonts, while *also* claiming to be software programs (especially for the purpose of jurisdictions where that scheme is the only available protection scheme), also claim that they are copyrightable visual works. 

    So right now, if a judge sampled various EULAs from various foundries worldwide, that judge would most certainly be under the impression that the typeface authors themselves don't think their creations are copyrightable visual works — because they only talk about "font software". 

    "If the majority of these people doesn't want copyright protection, well, I won't be the one who'll try to change their minds," the judge would say. 

    This is pitiful for another reason: if a user accepts a EULA, the user accepts (at least to some extent) a certain legal reality that the EULA defines. If my EULA said my typeface is a work of art, then even if the general copyright (in the U.S.) does not agree, those who accepted the EULA would still be bound by such commitment.

    Just like the font EULA can prohibit you from doing various things that the general copyright permits, it could include phrases like acknowledgement that the font software is digital expression of a typeface which in itself is a visual work that is protected under copyright in many jurisdictions. 

    This would have the effect that those who agreed to the EULA might be in breach if they imitate the design, but it would also have educational effects, lobbying effects, and would actually strengthen protectio in many countries.

    But the majority of typeface authors seems not to see enough value in their rights so they would do something about it. They seem to passively acknowledge that whatever some person in the U.S. Copyright Office "ruled" some 40+ years ago (!) is true forever and valid globally. 

    I mean even when German foundries sell to German users, they use this American "font software only" template. Actually, in Germany the situation is slightly differrent because of the country's 1981 special law dedicated to typeface protection. But there are tons on protection schemes not available under U.S. law but available under EU law which European font makers seem to have been happily ignoring. The 1996 EU database directive, anyone? 

    The thing is — if type designers as authors send out such a strong signal that they themselves don't care much about the legal protection of their own work, why should others (users, courts) care? 

    So, thank you, Artem, for raising this issue. You should be using triple protection: typeface as visual work, font as database and font as software program. In case the software program scheme fails (and you're right to recognize that it's whacky), you still have the database scheme. 
  • Re: Are foundry initials an inherent part of a type family name?

    Generally, it is a matter of trademark law. One entity can introduce a product under a certain name, and either claims or registers a trademark.

    If another entity introduces a different product under the same or similar name (in the same product class), and the first entity feels that this can lead to confusion among the consumers (they may search for one but find the other, be mislead as to the second product's origin etc.), the fist entity can enter a dispute with the second entity.

    The dispute can have a form of arbitration (be it inside a major distributor that offers both products, or in front of some panel of peers, or within a trade organization both entities are members of), or happen in court. 

    In the process of the dispute, the first entity needs to demonstrate that the word or phrase they claim a trademark on is unique and can be uniquely attributed to their product within its class. If it's generic (like the words Serif or Sans in case of fonts) or had been used by other competitors without protest, then the trademark claim is void, and a trademark registration can be anulled. The first entity also needs to demonstrate that there is indeed potential for consumer confusion. 

    It really is up to the first entity whether to open a dispute with the second. There are no absolute rules. It’s like with offense: you can only potentially offend a person if that person feels offended. 
  • Re: [OTVar] Contrast Axis (ctst)

    I agree with Frank that the amount of contrast is an integral part of a typeface design.

    If a value of 0 (no visible contrast) is the default, as Adam suggests, will we have to design monolinear versions of all typefaces? Will it be reasonable to assume that any typeface should be able to change its contrast completely from conventional to reverse? When is a typeface not itself anymore? ;)

    I don't think I said 0 should be "default". Have I said this? I thought I said 0 should be "perceived no contrast". 

    I also said that it might be useful if the scale is calibrated so that the generally perceived (decent natural contrast for text use) — if there is contrast — should be somewhere in the range 25-33. 

    So that different designs are coarsely comparable. But of course if you  design a variable font where there is always contrast, just slightly more or less, then if it has a ctst axis, it could vary between, say, 18 and 47. Another could vary between -5 and 5, and another between 80 and 92. 

    I also said that positive values should be associated with contrast that is the traditional contrast for a given writing system. Most writing systems, if they have contrast, have some sort of "natural" or "traditional" contrast direction. It doesn't matter if it's not  vertical or more horizontal, it can also be up to the designer's interpretation. 

    All writing systems have "reverse contrast" — with "reverse" meaning "opposite axis to what you would traditionally expect". Hebrew has a traditionally more vertical contrast, and Latin has traditionally a more horizontal contrast.

    And if you, as a designer, think that your contrast is "naturally correct" and don't wish to treat it as "reverse", then you can still use the positive numbers. So for Greek or Arabic, designers would have some leeway — some could decide that their "vertical-contrast" Greek is "natural" or "traditional" and use positive numbers there but perhaps also go into horizontal contrast using negative numbers — but others could just increase contrast horizontally with positive numbers and not care about the negative bales at all. 

    No witches and no stakes here. I'd treat the negative value space largely as "reverse — whatever you as a designer think it is and as long as you choose to use that concept". In my view, the vast majority will only use the positive space. 

    As far as trying to come up with a slightly universalized scale — this is also a convention, and a tool for the designers who don't have a clear opinion that they want to do it differently. Everyone is always free to break the rules consciously — and then accept the consequences. 

  • Re: Units per em

    For TrueType-flavored fonts you can safely specify any UPM between 16 and 16384, and the only place you need to do it is the head table. 

    For CFF-flavored fonts, it's more complicated: in addition to the head.unitsPerEm field, you need to change the /FontMatrix parameter inside the CFF table. The problem is that various PS/PDF creation apps as well as readers often ignore or misinterpret the /FontMatrix parameter. Some always assume it's [0.001 0 0 0.001 0 0] (which is the correct setting for UPM=1000 bit is not for other UPM sizes). 

    Unfortunately, when some environments correct these problems, new environments introduce this problem anew, see e.g.

    So basically, non-1000 OTFs are always broken "somewhere". One possible reason for it is that the not in any way mention CFF.FontMatrix, and the specification for CFF is, well, really weird. It's written from the perspective of CFF being a standalone font asset living inside a PDF, rather than a table inside an OpenType font. So many software developers fail to see the link — they try to implement in good faith what's in the spec, but in reality, handling fonts requires much more knowledge that is largely undocumented.