Copyrighting Font Software

Does anyone have any experience in how to submit font software for copyright purposes? Apparently they reject the actual OTF/TTF font formats and are requesting a XML format? Does this sound right? And how do you go about converting to XML? I would have thought if you are copyrighting the actual font software, that the OTF should have been accebtible? Anyone have any advice they can give?
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  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,069
    NOT LEGAL ADVICE

    Software copyright is widely based on the concept that source code is a literary work. Basically, that is how copyright registrars decided to handle this thing that was new and unfamiliar to them: by pretending it was something old and familiar. So while the actual value in software is in the experience of using it, copyright associates the intellectual property value with the code used to write the software. So, in the case of fonts, while we all know that the value resides in the compiled binary that can be used as a font, copyright registrars—depending on jurisdiction—may be looking for something that they recognise as source code. In terms of something that actually is source code, I think that .ufo, .vfj. or .glyphs would be likely acceptable formats, because they are all human-readable. Binary source formats such as .vfb would presumably not be.

    You can reverse engineer an XML representation of a compiled binary font file using TTX, and that would be another approach if you wanted something that more directly represented the compiled font, rather than actual source code.
  • RichardWRichardW Posts: 42
    TTX will convert a font to XML, and then the XML to another font, but the two fonts will in general not be identical.

    There may be some merit in the source code that disappears on compilation, but I presume that that IP is not what the OP is trying to protect.
  • edited April 6
    NicholasB said:
    Does anyone have any experience in how to submit font software for copyright purposes? Apparently they reject the actual OTF/TTF font formats and are requesting a XML format? Does this sound right? And how do you go about converting to XML? I would have thought if you are copyrighting the actual font software, that the OTF should have been accebtible? Anyone have any advice they can give?
    My understanding: the file as a whole has a copyright (in the same way that a database does), and some of the larger non-contour components may have a copyright (hinting code for example), but the letterforms do not (just as the facts or assertions contained in a database are not copyrightable, despite the whole sometimes/often having a new copyright).

    Just because you have a copy right doesn't mean it'll do any work for you. It is very expensive and complicated to litigate things like this, and the respondent to your complaint may not even have the resources to settle or make you whole at the end of it.
  • THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. My understanding is that the courts have generally ruled that, while a letter shape by itself is not copyrightable under US law, the computer instructions that define the shape are. That is where the popular notion comes from that it is legal to print a font, scan it, and convert the scanned result to vectors (the modern equivalent of how the big foundries were "inspired" by designs from competing foundries in the era of lead type). So copyrighting the embodyment of your design does give you a modicum of protection against straight copycats. Considering the fact that most pirates are lazy and that it is damn near impossible to protect against a determined adversary, that may be all you need.

    Apparently, some European countries allow copyrighting actual letter shapes under an assortment of old and new laws. Depending on who or what you are defending against, you may want to look into that. To the best of my knowledge, those laws have so far only been tested against clear piracy cases.
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