Copyrighting Fonts: Source Code Software

Hi Yall,

We are interested in copyrighting our Font software, by submitting the Source Code. 

I've glanced through some post, and read about extracting the Source Code using Software (such as, FontLab 6+, Glyphs, FontLab, etc)

Can someone please post a tutorial, including any tweaking that may be necessary, if applicable.

For now, we just want some kind of protection, until we can properly submit them for a Patent Design.


  • George ThomasGeorge Thomas Posts: 633
    In the United States, copyright is useless. A Design Patent can be done, but do you really want to spend several thousand dollars that you won't get any return on?
    The best thing is to quit worrying about protection which won't stop collectors anyway. Focus on making more fonts.
  • graffitiwritinggraffitiwriting Posts: 5
    edited March 9
    Hi George. thanks for the advise.

    Patent Designs cost about $1k, give or take, if you Do it yourself, and submit them under a Micro Entity Status within the USPTO guidelines.

    We definately want to protect our hardwork.

    As frequently mentioned here. We want to learn how to pull out the Font source codes, by using Software.

    All further comments are welcome

  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,748
    The legal state of copyright for fonts as software in the USA is a bit complicated at the moment.

    I cover it a bit in this article from a couple years ago:
    Scroll down about halfway through to get to “Kinds of Legal Protection for Fonts”

    See also this thread:

    The standard method used at Adobe for OpenType fonts, at least back in the late 90s and early 2000s, was to convert the font with TTX (from FontTools) or the like, and then use that output as the basis of the filing. But I gather the Copyright Office has been telling people that drawing glyph outlines in a font editor does not count, and has been asking people to attest that they coded the fonts by hand—by which I assume they mean whether the designer typed in the code as text. But that is not what they literally ask.

    As John Hudson and others have pointed out, the underlying problem is that (1) the US Copyright Office treats software as a form of literature (!); combined with (2) fonts are a form of software.

    But the effects are absurd. This makes about as little sense as saying a written text is protected by copyright if it was authored by typing or handwriting, but not if it was created by voice dictation.
  • In the United States, copyright is useless.
    I wouldn’t go that far. It’s definitely a bit fraught right now, but I’ve heard anecdotally that some copyright registrations are still getting through the U.S. Copyright Office.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,970
    If you want the source code from a Glyphs file all you have to do it change the file’s extension to .txt.
  • Igor FreibergerIgor Freiberger Posts: 253
    edited March 10
    As John Hudson and others have pointed out, the underlying problem is that (1) the US Copyright Office treats software as a form of literature (!); combined with (2) fonts are a form of software.

    In Law, the Intellectual Property (IP) is an area split in two very distinct segments, Industrial property and Copyright. While Copyright is a long-time protection (usually lasting the creator's life plus 70 years after his/her death) aimed to artistic works, Industrial Property is a short-time protection (usually, 10 years) for utilities and is made through trademarks, patents, use models, and their variations. This is a centuries-old, well-established division.

    Software is clearly part of Industrial Property since it is a utility, a tool to achieve results, and not an artistic work. But when computers emerged, it was not so clear. For some, software was like a special kind of "writing" to "artistically" make hardware achieve results. And it was then part of the hardware, not a standalone product that can be added to different devices. Although this is strange, the idea appealed to software developers because with Copyright they would get a far more robust, long-time, and personal protection than with a patent. And there was also has a very important additional reason: there is objective responsibility for the correct working of a patented product, but not for an artistic creation! So there was a movement to classify software as a new kind of copyrighted creation.

    The idea was also adopted by WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization. So the WIPO recommendation for national laws was to change their rules to embrace software into Copyright protection. Since 90s, several countries changed their laws to treat software this way. In Brazil, for example, we have a law for Industrial Property, a law for Copyright and a third one specific for software —but adopting most of the Copyright model. It became a world-wide trend and caused the problem we see today: Law treats software as totally different thing that actually is. It became a law fiction among several others and, of course, it collides with reality.

    But in many countries who followed the WIPO models, fonts can be protected twice. As a software with its source code and also as draw which, although not comparable to an artistic draw or painting, is also a visual creative effort. The level of protection varies, but it's usually quite relevant. This allows different protection for OpenType codes (software) and the "look and feel" of letters (draw). This scenario is not the case of the USA, where IP does not follow the WIPO models. American criteria for IP are older and not always very clear, making font protection debatable. So, in the largest market for typography, we can hardly protect our work, but in Europe, South America, and many countries of Asia and Africa the protection is available.

    By the way, you can export the font as vsj file (json format) simply using Save As in FontLab 7+. In Preferences, you can opt for an indented or a compact, no breaks formatting.

  • graffitiwritinggraffitiwriting Posts: 5
    edited March 10
    Per my initial request. Any youtube links for doing the Source code extraction will be really helpful.

    In the past, Ive read (I forgot where),  that 1D typefaces will certainly be rejected by the Copyright office, however, that 2D and 3D typefaces have a better chance of approval.  Any truth to this?

  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,748
    Urm, there is no such thing as a 1D typeface. At least, not unless it is a very unusual representation of Morse code or some such? What do you even mean by that?

    All the major font formats are 2D. Of course, one can make something that looks three-dimensional in a 2D format.

    Personally, if I were submitting a copyright application, as I use FontLab, I would likely use the FontLab VFJ format, which is a human-readable JSON representation of a FontLab data file (VFC being the equivalent binary format). Not saying they would accept the copyright registration—that’s another question.
  • jeremy tribbyjeremy tribby Posts: 215
    if the distinction between made-in-GUI vs. coded-by-hand actually matters, the existence of this thread may be self-defeating 
  • graffitiwritinggraffitiwriting Posts: 5
    edited March 11
    Urm, there is no such thing as a 1D typeface. What do you even mean by that?
    1D- This is being typed with 1D



    If I recall properly, it had something to do with the number of Points in a design.

    For example

    1D letter L, has only 3 points. The top point, middle and ending point.

    2D letter L, has 6 points.

    3D letter L, has about 9 or 10 points.

    It also stated, when submitting your registration, to input in the NOTES TO COPYRIGHT OFFICE section, the following below.

    "I am not claiming rights to any of the underlying public utilites, but only in the  artistic points of the design itself"

    Supposedly, the more points in a design, the easier it'll qualify as, an Artistic Work.

    I dont really know, but it was something like that 🤷

    Personally, I am very well rounded with copyright laws, and this was one of the better articles that i have read on the subject. Hopefully, I can find it, and I'll repost it here

  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,748
    1D letter L, has only 3 points. The top point, middle and ending point.

    Nope, if it has a right angle, it is still two-dimensional. A one-dimensional object has only length. You can’t draw a meaningful L in one dimension.

    Stroke-based vs outline-based is an important distinction in type design, but not the same as 1D vs 2D.
  • Yeah, I think you may be correct.

    As I stated, I was just trying to recall what the article stated, and Ill try finding it and posting it.

  • Linus RomerLinus Romer Posts: 185
    I think the statement by @graffitiwriting about his 1D letter L was correct. It is one-dimensional but we usually represent it embedded in a two-dimensional plane. Here is a quote from
    • Point (0-dimensional), a single coordinate in a Cartesian coordinate system.
    • Line or Polyline (1-dimensional), usually represented as an ordered list of points sampled from a continuous line, whereupon the software is expected to interpolate the intervening shape of the line as straight or curved line segments.
    • Polygon (2-dimensional), usually represented as a line that closes at its endpoints, representing the boundary of a two-dimensional region. The software is expected to use this boundary to partition 2-dimensional space into an interior and exterior.
    • Surface (3-dimensional), represented using a variety of strategies, such as a polyhedron consisting of connected polygon faces. The software is expected to use this surface to partition 3-dimensional space into an interior and exterior.

  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,379
    I may not have been the math whiz in high school, but I've got a pretty solid grasp on this font point thing. Every single point in a font, no matter how simple or complex the design, is represented by x,y coordinates. 

    Even if you've got a font made up of nothing but straight vertical lines or even if it's just those lines hugging the left side of the character space, each point along those lines still has its own set of x,y coordinates.

    It doesn't really matter how you store or organize those coordinates behind the scenes. When it comes down to it, they're the numbers that tell your computer how to plot those lines perfectly on its two-dimensional grid.
  • @Linus Romer The 1D font is not one dimensional since the line segments have non-zero thickness. In addition, even if the line segments had zero thickness, some glyphs have corner points at which line segments have different directions (other than forward vs. backward), which is something that can only be expressed in more than one dimension.

    Line segments in computer graphics (what your quoted text is referring to) can be represented by a pair of points, and an abstract line segment so defined is one dimensional. But that is the extent to which you can describe something as one dimensional. A polyline might be comprised of two or more one-dimensional line segments, but the polyline itself requires description in at least two dimensions. And if you want a line or polyline to be visible, it must have thickness, which means more than one dimension.
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