Using literature in a type specimen

Josh NychukJosh Nychuk Posts: 25
edited August 2017 in Type Business
I'm wondering what legal precautions (if any) should be taken into account for using published text or words (books, articles, hell even tweets) in a type specimen that you intend to:

1. distribute for free to market your typeface or font?
2. sell as say a LE poster or booklet?

Assuming you could always approach the author/publisher for permission, but in situations where you can't reach them, is citing the author and publication enough?

Thanks so much.


  • Use only an excerpt and it's Fair Use. AFAIK. But I'm not a lawyer. Thank my lucky stars.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 1,086
    edited August 2017
    The safest thing to do, of course, would be to use only literature that is in the public domain. Really old literature that is thoroughly free of controversy in its content as well.

    Oh, say, something like

    Neque porro quisqam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipsci velit, sed quia nonnumquam eiusmodi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur?
    - Cicero, De Finibus


    Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilinia, patentia nostra? Quam diu etiam furor iste tuus nos eluded? Quem ad finem sese effrenata iactabit audacia? Nihilne te nocturnum praesidium Palati, nihil urbis vigilae, nihil timor populi, nihil concursos bonorum omnium, nihil hic munitissimus habendi senatus locus, nihil horum ora voltusque moverunt?
    - Cicero, Against Catiline
  • Yes there is a list of books in public domain on Wikipedia. I've seen type designers use recent works and articles in specimens. I'm assuming they approached the author and received permission.
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 0
    edited August 2017
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  • Johannes NeumeierJohannes Neumeier Posts: 356
    edited August 2017
    Use only an excerpt and it's Fair Use.
    Fair Use and using something for commercial gain are not quite the same, though, are they. It's not just the length of what you quote, but the motivation, that matters most for fair use - like research, education, commentary, news, etc.

    Or by way of example, it wouldn't be Fair Use for L'Oreal to advertise with quote's from George Martin's Song of Fire and Ice, describing the Lannister's fair hair, even if they only use just one phrase.
  • Can't beat Jules Verne.
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  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 1,086
    @John Savard interesting that you suggest "Cicero, Against Catiline".
    Not too interesting; the two passages that I suggested had been used a lot. The first one was the original from which the infamous "lorem ipsum" space-filling text was taken; the second one was used in Caslon's type specimen sheet. The lack of originality was, in fact, intended as the humorous point of my posting.
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