We could all agree, that it is very disappointing that the Library of Congress (Copyright Office) makes it an obstacle to register and protect our typefaces. However, besides a Design Patent, I am hoping we could all "Brainstorm" together a loophole in their own copyright laws, and find another way to legally copyright and protect our typefaces
According to the laws, typefaces "alone" cannot be registered for copyright protection. In addition, most Intellectual Properties have to be published in a tangible (physical) medium in-order to be copyrightable.
That said, has someone considered gathering all of their typeface designs, putting them into a book (Physical Catalog), and then, copyright the book?
Copyrighting the physical book should legally protect all of the contents inside, including the designs and images in the book, no?
BTW, I am new here and I am so excited I found this community (message board). Looking forward to many discussions and learning from everyone on here.
Let me know your thoughts on matter.
As George Thomas said, everything's already been tried. At this point, it would take an act of Congress to fix the current mess, and that's unlikely to happen.
"Generally, typefaces are not copyrightable"
I would think that "Generally" means that they are some rare exceptions. Question is, what are those exceptions?
Last year, I submitted 3 typefaces to the Copyright office, one was approved two were rejected
I noticed the two that were rejected were single stroke alphabet letters, like this example:
While the one that was approved was more of an outline of the alphabet letters, like this example:
Am not sure if I just got lucky with that approval, or if it's something to explore further.
The attorney subsequently argued that the code for sidebearings, kerning values, metrics, and other miscellaneous information was typed by hand like a writer might use already copyrighted writing software to write a book. They rejected this argument saying an author who copyrights a story is not copyrighting the underlying code but is copyrighting the story itself. We could not use that line of logic since a work of writing is copyrightable in the U.S., but type design is not.
It's conceivable that an entire working program could be created without typing a line of code. In fact, I remember a Mac app back in the '80s called V.I.P. (Visual Interactive Programing) that worked exactly this way. The "source" code for V.I.P. was entirely visual and looked like a flow chart. The only typing required was for entering values for text and numbers, just like a font editor.
Would software created with such an app not be copyrightable?
I dislike the term because I think it is pompous, and because it invites a kind of snobbish hierarchy as seen in way bureaucracies treat different kinds of things that people make as more or less worthy of protection. I’d rather talk about something like ‘maker ownership’, proceeding from the principle that if you make something, you own it: that making a thing is one of the basic ways in which property exists and, indeed, that seems to me less controversially owned than that which law establishes as property by deed, contract, or claim. When it comes to non-unique made things, especially in the age of digital reproduction, recognition of maker ownership is what enables makers to participate in and benefit from the value that is derived from the use or sale of what they have made. In that respect, there should be no hierarchy of ‘intellectual property’ such that some kinds of made things are protected and others are not, based on what bureaucrats consider worthy of protection. Rather, the making of the thing should be recognised to establish ownership and the generation of value by the use or sale of that thing should be something from which the maker can receive a benefit. The generation of value is in itself the indicator that the ownership is worthy of protection. Bureaucracies do not ever need to ask whether a made thing is worthy of protection due to its perceived level of creativity, which is always going to reflect the biases of a particular culture at a particular time. The only question is whether someone wants to have or use the thing. I have long said that as soon as someone chooses to use one typeface over another, that is indicative of the value of typeface design and establishes the grounds of protections that enable the maker of that typeface to grant rights to its use—including, of course, the grant of a libre license if that is what the maker wants to do).
Although it is also the case that some font software (digital fonts) registrations have been rejected, the US Copyright Office has continued to issue a significant number of copyright registrations for font software (digital fonts) in recent years.
I have communicated with several lawyers and type designers, as well as perusing granted copyright filings. My conclusion is that there a significant number of fonts out there, which have received US copyright registrations in 2019–22. One foundry I chatted with had submitted a number of applications, all of which were accepted.
It is not true that US copyright registration for font software is simply over and done with. Registrations have been accepted for elaborate display script faces, everyday functional sans serif typefaces, and many things in between.
That said, I strongly suspect that fewer submissions have been made, after word spread back in 2018 and onwards that applications were being questioned and rejected.
Typeface designs are explicitly prohibited in the US, as we all know, so the alternative is to copyright the underlying code to the fonts.
The word I've received through direct correspondence with the copyright office is that they will reject any font code written by already copyrighted software. In addition, they told the attorney I was working with that it might be possible to copyright portions of the code that were manually entered, but, again, any code written by already copyrighted font creation software would not enjoy copyright protection.
However, as you and others have noted, some fonts do make it through, but I seriously doubt substantial portions of those fonts' code were typed in by hand. I also doubt the copyright office would know the difference anyway. The entire process seems random and arbitrary, with no rhyme or reason.
I am quite troubled by the notion that the code is “written by copyrighted software” because somebody used a font editor to visually author that code. This seems absurd to me. It is bizarre that it would matter for copyright purposes whether one draws in the Glyph window of FontLab or edits the textual code representation of that same glyph in the Source window, when they are two different views of the same thing, synonymous and linked, such that editing either one changes the other. Further, they are deterministic, for any given representation in one, there is only one way they can be represented in the other.
(Well, ok, the Source window also cares about the order of contours, which in FontLab is represented visually in a different place than the Glyph window, namely the Element window. But still, it is a direct correspondence between a combination of visual representations, and the code view.)
I would be shocked if all the fonts which have been granted copyright registrations since 2018 were primarily or even substantially authored by typing text.
Is there any way to edit the Software Generated codes, so that it doesn't run into a rejection with the Copyright Office?
Through Trial & Error, I plan on continuously submitting our Typeface applications, and appealing all rejections, and hopefully, I will figure out why they get accepted & rejected.
Below, are the Copyright Registration numbers that were approved.
Below, I have Copy & Pasted the details in their rejection letter-
Copyright does not protect familiar symbols or designs; basic geometric shapes; words and short phrases such as names, titles, and slogans; or mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering or coloring. See 37 C.F.R. §202.1. Further, copyright does not extend to any idea, concept, system, or process which may be embodied in a work. 17 U.S.C. §102(b).
For more information on copyright, please visit our website at www.copyright.gov.
Honestly, I am surprised two out of four were granted, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by anything the copyright office does these days.
As long as other software code is being granted copyright protection, I honestly don’t understand how an exception for font software could be explained. Software developers use code editors that assist to some degree, but I don’t think anyone’s questioning the validity of non-font software.
Should book authors have their work rejected because they accepted some text suggestions from Google Docs? If their book is written by speech-to-text software is it no longer their original creation?
Legally, the only copyrighted works that are free for commercial use, are if-
1. The Author grants such permission, or
2. The work is Public Domain (meaning the "copyright expired")
The difference between a copyrighted work, vs a non-copyrighted work.
If Copyrighted- It's easier to file a lawsuit, and you're eligible for Statutory Damages, Attorney Fees, and Court Cost.
In otherwords- The Infringer can be forced to pay Statutory Damages (of up to $150k for each offense), all your attorney fees and and all of your Court cost.
If not Copyrighted- It's more challenging to file a lawsuit, and you're eligible for Actual Damages only.
In otherwords- The Infringer can be forced to pay Actual Damages only (If John Doe only made $100 from your stolen fonts, you can only sue John Doe for those profits, the $100.)
In addition, from my personal experience.
If Copyrighted- Most attorneys will sue on your behalf on a Contingency basis (meaning, you will have no upfront cost, and the attorney will take his cut from the lawsuit, afterwards)
If not Copyrighted- Most attorneys will still sue on your behalf, but you'll have to pay for the lawsuit and everything, upfront .
You get a lot of benefits when you register your works with a governing body (copyright, patent, etc) , so at any cost, please register & protect your works.
You will thank me later!
[I’m not a lawyer, and this does not constitute legal advice.]
Which is of course an issue, but pretty much unrelated to and independent of copyright.