The proposed moral code of ATypI is nothing new at all (in fact, it was deprecated in 2004 without replacement), but I was wondering what you all thought if it, as it applies to your own designs and to others (and some distinctions not really discussed in it which might or might not be important to you).
Here's the relevant passage:
(2) Members consider it to be incompatible with their professional ethics to make a
reproduction of another member’s typeface, whether identical or slightly modified,
irrespective of the medium, technique, form or size used, unless the owner of the
typeface has given his written agreement on terms granting a license.
(3) If, after a minimum period of fifteen years of the typeface first being offered for sale,
the owner refuses to grant a license, members may copy the typeface provided that the
unlicensed copy is sold under a name which is in no way connected with the original
name. The manufacturer of a copy made under these circumstances must not
contravene trade mark rights, industrial property rights, copyrights, laws against
unfair competition etc., or private agreements.
So, the reading I have is that by this rule, after a typeface is fifteen years old, it's OK to copy it between ATypI members (provided that that's kosher by the design patent or copyright laws, as they may or may not apply in your jurisdiction). Of course, the fifteen-year rule is a mere industry agreement, since the law in many cases provides no protection (and this term is just set by the Code morale).
I think type cloning isn't altogether illegitimate; for example, it has been a boon to the open-source community that something such as the URW35 exists. I do recognize obvious reasons why somebody would be against cloning in some circumstances (contemporary and unique fonts, for example), though.
To you, are there distinctions not being drawn here which you think are valuable in your idea of design community ethics? For example:
- Does the amount of existing clones matter? Surely, nobody would mind another clone of Times at this point (except for the fact that it would be quite boring). Sabon has also been cloned a number of times, but its clones are less prevalent. Is a Sabon clone as acceptable as a Times clone? And is the person who creates the first clone doing something more unethical, in your view, than the person who creates a clone after there are already a number on the market?
- Does it matter if the original typeface designer is alive? Robert Slimbach's Minion is over fifteen years old. It had a design patent, but it has expired. In the US, at least, I could draw my own version of Minion, and as long as I didn't use any of the original outlines, I could release that. But is that OK to do while Slimbach is still around? ATypI seems to say yes.
- Does it matter what you're doing with the clone? Is it better to release a clone under the OFL than it is to try to profit off of somebody else's design?
The reason I ask is because I'm not really sure where people stand on this issue, and where designers particularly think the lines should be drawn between other designers, as opposed to where corporate entities think the lines should be drawn (as reflected probably in the ATypI proposal).