Okay, I just came across a unique situation which I'd like to share and get some opinions on.
I recently had someone contact me about a potential commission for recreating and expanding a recent font whose creator seems to have vanished in the wind. The font in question is Spaceman
, created back in 2005 by Faktor I. The guy apparently tried to contact the original designer/foundry, but they seem to have absolutely vanished; and even the website
is currently one of those "buy this domain" specials now (my own investigation shows the site hasn't been live since 2012
.) The copy the potential client (PC) sent me had no contact information other than that.
I told him I was hesitant to "revive" a modern font, but that I would see what I could do. I then went down the rabbit hole and downloaded a copy from another site (the PC said he got his from DaFont) and the metadata has an entirely different domain on it (designsalon.de, which redirects to ds03.de
.) The designer's name matches that of the owner of the site, and while the font in question isn't listed in the body of work, I suspect this is the guy who did it. I pointed the PC in the direction of this guy and told him this would likely be the guy to ask.
Now, granted, I don't think the PC was trying to rip off anyone or do anything nefarious; I just don't think there was enough due diligence involved. But it does make me wonder: what do you do about abandonware (as this font appeared to be at first)? Personally, if it's a font from a century ago, no problem with revival. I don't even have an issue with reviving something from the 70s back before computers (I've done it before, though in that case I put the completed font out for free, as I felt it wasn't my best work.) But a font that's less than 20 years old? Really not comfortable with that, especially if I can track down the creator. But what if you can't? There are tons of fonts on DaFont and other sites made back in the early 2000s whose creators seem to have vanished in the wind and some of them cry out for updating for some reasons or another. Personal updating? Yeah. "Fan updating", where a free copy gets put out there? Arguably okay, IMO. But to put the work into it to create something out of whole cloth, to the point that you can make a reasonable point to sell it yourself? What do you do then?
I know my stance on it, as ambivalent as it is, but I'm curious to see what others thing. I know I've heard the same old "Anything less than fifty years old is taboo" from other designers, but that was meant for known
fonts with ostensibly someone watching over it. But what do you do about a font like Ashley
, a font from 1991 where there's zero info at all?
Note that I'm also talking about the ethics here; as far as I know, the law (at least here in the US) is somewhat murky, as while the letter forms aren't copyrightable, the program (the font itself) is, so someone in theory owns it, but then we get into the abandonware argument again and, well...you get the picture.