The New Yorker recently posted an article about the class-action lawsuit filed in November by attorneys Matthew Butterick and Joseph Saveri against the AI image generators Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and DreamUp. The legal matter at hand has nothing to do with typography, per se, but some of you will recognize the name of Matthew Butterick, who began his career as a typographer and type designer, and was part of Font Bureau in its early days.
Here is the link: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/infinite-scroll/is-ai-art-stealing-from-artists
I am interested to know if any of you believe that there is a potential link here to AI-generated type design, if not from a legal standpoint (that's a lost cause in U.S. law), then from a practical one.
The US copyright office accepted registrations for fonts for about 25 years (~ 1992–2018) , before recently beginning to reject most of them, asking for a form of authorship that makes no sense at a technical level. It seems very much unresolved.
Tom, while I am sympathetic with your feeling about this, I’m afraid that you are engaging in wishful thinking. When the U.S. Copyright Office published its revised Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, in 2021, it went to some length to specifically exclude typefaces (see §313.3[D]), though it did suggest a right to register some part of the work as a computer program, as it had earlier. However, as you point out, the revised requirement to separate the original authorship portion of a font from the preexisting code of the design program instructions is very near impossible (see §723), at least at this time.
Perhaps more to the point is to ask whether it would be possible to defend in court what would be, at best, a very limited copyright registration—or whether those registrations filed before 2019 were ever defensible. I don’t know of any case law in which those registrations were defended successfully, or ever defended at all. Or have I missed something?
U.S. Copyright law is, and always has been, centered on the idea of authorship. The growth of regulations around that central notion has always been focussed on establishing de minimis standards of what authorship means. Unfortunately, what looks like a big thing to those of us professionally involved in type design is often subliminal to those outside the field. The Supreme Court has always been averse to ruling in cases in which only groups of experts are able to discern one thing from another. I highly recommend reading all of Chapter 300 of the Compendium to get a better idea of the standards for what is copyrightable in the U.S. (I am aware that many of these things are viewed differently in other countries.)
I’m not an attorney or a legal scholar, but I’m very much involved in multiple aspects of publishing, so I’ve made it my business to have a good understanding of copyright law, both to avoid legal problems and to protect myself from legal bullying.
I’m not saying I’m sure about what is or is not viable with today’s copyright guidance, or what would prevail in court, but I’m with Thomas in thinking that it seems “very much unresolved.”
This decision was a very big part of the basis of people in the font business thinking that their fonts were protectable by copyright.
That said, I don't think it's true that copyright of font software is settled either way. If this Zazzle/Laatz case goes to court I think she has a good chance of winning.
Double that said, I've long believed that at the point where you're explaining fonts to a judge you've already lost (regardless of the purpose of the explanation). Metaphorically lost, of course, not literally. Or perhaps spiritually lost.
Am I right in remembering that patent protection is a bit like trademark, in that one is obliged to defend it (unlike copyright, which persists whether actively defended or not)?
- the Source code window displays the JSON code of the current glyph
- changes made in the drawing interface are instantly reflected in the Source code view
- changes made in the Source code view are displayed in the drawing interface whenever you hit the “apply” button at the top of the window
Additionally you can decide whether to save files in the FontLab binary format or the functionally equivalent VFJ JSON format (which uses the same code mentioned above), import/export fonts as VFJ, etc. You can also do things like copy/paste the Source (VFJ) text for a glyph into a text message or email text, and then somebody at the other end can drop it into a glyph. It is rather cool.
We’ve also used VFJ as an inter-tool source format, in preference to UFO, when converting FontLab data to VOLT, and wrote some scripts to operate directly on VFJ sources rather than to run internally in FontLab. I’d like to do more of the latter, and build out a complete VFJ toolkit.