Le Monde Journal vs. Spectral Lawsuit

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  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,100
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    Yes, nick, but on the other hand... I know of about about lots of independent font producer that started new foundries thanks to Google fonts.. and so far I have never heard on any independent font producer that went broke because of it. Even our worst critics back in 2010 are now a days releasing fonts at GF.

    How can it be that giving fonts away for free doesn't put people out of business who sell fonts for a living?
    From a naive common-sense viewpoint, that would indeed be an obvious question to ask.
    However, a little thought does enable me to see a possible explanation.

    What one has to ask, first, is: who buys fonts? Or, more specifically, what is the composition of the market for fonts?
    And once you ask that question, it all becomes obvious.
    Joe Average, who wants to print stuff on a laser printer, and have it look good, with a choice of fonts... isn't going to buy fonts at full price from Monotype or whoever.
    No. What he will buy is one of these 1001 fonts disks from Softkey or whoever... or a copy of Corel Draw with nearly the whole Bitstream catalog.
    Those sources of fonts are what the free fonts from Google fonts is going to put out of business.
    On the other hand, someone who wants a new original typeface for a unique look for a multi-million dollar ad campaign... is not going to be swayed by Google Fonts at all.

    So while Google Fonts is a threat to certain commercial vendors of fonts, those vendors are at the extreme low end, far beneath where typeface designers operate.
  • Vasil Stanev
    Vasil Stanev Posts: 774
    edited February 2023
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    quote
    For me, type design has become more of a boutique work that accompanies my graphic design work. But it's not my sole occupation anymore. I have had several small clients that commissioned me to do tailor-made fonts for friends and family, just like you would commission a caricature/cartoon of your friend, or wedding couple, and so on. One gives personal artwork as a gift to the other person, so producing it with AI or buying a commercially available font that can be used by many more people goes against that logic. At least for boutique projects, type design is alive and well. :) But these are also very small-scale, ma-and-pa level jobs, and they are also few and far between.
    Recently I had a client ask me to convert his (script) company logo into a script font. I came with the idea to add his logo as a letter in the font, so every time he writes a business proposal to his partners, he can type it in his own font and add his logo in the flow of the line. I thought this was pretty neat. :)
    But it's very sad that type designers at a higher level have had a substancial chunk of their profits eaten away by giant companies. That's business, I guess...
    To get back on-topic, I think almost all design styles for fonts have been explored in the last 10-15 years. Which means that one's work is bound to look very similar to someone else's, and, out of nowhere, somebody will claim you saw their work somewhere, obtained it somehow and made a derivative. It might even be a source of revenue for some shady people that can't sell their fonts. I guess this will be only the first of many such court cases that we will hear of. And also, some AI might come into the mix, pushing the boundaries of legislation.
  • JoyceKetterer
    JoyceKetterer Posts: 794
    edited April 2023
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    @Dave Crossland Don't jinx it.  I think the appeal window is 30 days.
  • Manuel Fantoni
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    Font wars are always interesting...

    As for Spectral, its spacing looks too loose to me. Is there a practical reason for that? (For example: enhance on-screen readability for dyslexic people, etc.)
  • JoyceKetterer
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    I think that even font people have trouble distinguishing between the colloquial definition of "similar" and what I'll call "design plagiarism". 

    Because I wrote an expert statement in this case I also got to read most of the other statements (the ones that where written in English or translated for me — I remember there being a few only in French that I couldn't read).  That was my main take away. 

    Speaking as a non-designer, but one who has to have these conversations with my own designers and make business decisions... As I read the statements by the people on the offence (those who thought there was infringement) I got the feeling they were looking at minutia and a shared reference font and conflating that with having copied La Monde.

    We need to remember that to lay people nearly all fonts are similar.   Therefore, there needs to be a really high bar on the industry side, or we would cause a chilling effect and completely destroy creativity.  


  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,043
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    Similarity is a poor standard. If the case was argued on the basis of similarity, then it was poorly argued and probably should not have been undertaken in the first place. It is perfectly possible to produce a technically derivative font—i.e. one based on the actual outlines of another font—that is not similar in final appearance. Demonstrating such derivation should involve a forensic approach, not asking people to say whether they think the fonts look similar. 
  • JoyceKetterer
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    @John Hudson. I'm paraphrasing, for the most part.
  • Ramiro Espinoza
    Ramiro Espinoza Posts: 839
    edited April 2023
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    >>"the only foundry was Ale Paul"
    100% wrong.
  • PabloImpallari
    PabloImpallari Posts: 784
    edited April 2023
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    I meant to say: fully making a living out of the foundry sales
  • Ramiro Espinoza
    Ramiro Espinoza Posts: 839
    edited April 2023
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    >"I meant to say: fully making a living out of the foundry sales"
    :)
  • Stephen Coles
    Stephen Coles Posts: 1,001
    edited June 2023
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    Thanks for sharing, Jens! It's odd to see the type samples (which I assume, in part, influenced the judgment) are so mangled/stretched in this document. I'm assuming that’s just the fault of the court’s doc preparation process, and not how the evidence was presented.
  • Stephen Coles
    Stephen Coles Posts: 1,001
    edited June 2023
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    Other than the amount Google paid for Spectral (75,000 EUR), this is the most interesting part of the doc to me:


    There are excerpts from Jeremy Tankard and Paul Shaw in support of Porchez’s case, and Krys [sic] Sowersby and Thomas Phinney in support of the defendants, but no other reports are quoted. Are these full exhibits also published somewhere?
  • JoyceKetterer
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    I feel like there could be something wrong with the translation.  This doesn't read the an option that comes to the conclusion we know the court came to (it found in favor of Production Type and gave an unusually high monetary award by french standard).
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,043
    edited June 2023
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    The English wording is a little strange, but what I take this to be saying is that of the sixteen submissions made in support of the plaintiff (Porchez) only two provided ‘demonstration or example’, and the others were only assertions, i.e. statements of expert opinion without forensic support.

    The second paragraph is unclear as to whether the five submissions in support of the defendent (Production Type) came to ‘radically opposite conclusions’ to each other or to the submissions in support of the plaintiff. It also doesn’t indicate whether the submissions in support of the defendent included demonstration or example, or were themselves assertions.

    As I understand, the ruling is being appealed, and appeal courts tend to involve judges with more specific experience. I think under French code it is also possible to introduce additional evidence on appeal, so if he has any sense JFP will be bolstering the forensic side of his case with a lot more demonstration and example illustrating his claims. As I said all along, this case should not be about debating similarity of the two designs but about whether it is possible to demonstrate that the one design was derived from the outlines of the other. That would require a detailed forensic analysis not only of the ways in which the glyphs are similar but also of the ways in which they are different, and whether any traces of LMJ can be identified in the latter, e.g. in curve tension, relative positions of nodes and control handles, etc.

    It is a tall order, both in terms of conducting such an analysis and in presenting the findings in a clear and compelling way.
  • JoyceKetterer
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    John, in our own system I agree but I don't really understand French law.  I'm not sure that's their standard.  I know they do it differently from us and I want to be respectful of other systems.  This whole thing has always felt to me like it was a category error, right down to the claim of damages.  That said, I think one can always appeal regardless.  I wouldn't take the fact of an appeal as a signal that the case will be stronger the second time. My understanding is that JFP was taken to task by the court.
  • Florian Fecher
    Florian Fecher Posts: 5
    edited June 2023
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    Here's a PDF of the judgement in this case: https://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/23735822/tribunal-judicaire-de-paris-le-monde-journal-spectral.pdf

    I had DeepL translate it into English: 
    The document was uploaded by l’Informé, the medium @Nadine Chahine initially shared and that also published an article after the ruling back on March 31.
    linforme.com/tech-telecom/article/guerre-des-polices-google-l-emporte-contre-le-typographe-francais-qui-l-accusait-de-plagiat_529.html

    I feel like there could be something wrong with the translation.  This doesn't read the an option that comes to the conclusion we know the court came to (it found in favor of Production Type and gave an unusually high monetary award by french standard).
    The ruling contains the judgement but also an abstract of the trial, summarising arguments and submissions from both parties. I read the ‘opinion’ reffered to as the plaintiffs’ or quoted professionals’ position, not the court’s opinion.

    (My French is good but legal parlance is a fierce hurdle race. I used DeepL to help me during my second run and I think it’s decent for the most part.)
  • Jens Kutilek
    Jens Kutilek Posts: 344
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    The document was uploaded by l’Informé, the medium @Nadine Chahine initially shared and that also published an article after the ruling back on March 31.
    linforme.com/tech-telecom/article/guerre-des-polices-google-l-emporte-contre-le-typographe-francais-qui-l-accusait-de-plagiat_529.html

    Thank you, Florian, for providing the source. I wasn't aware that this wasn't an official source of the document.
  • Florian Fecher
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    Learnt that French intellectual property law includes a copyright for original graphic and typographic works. That’s what this back and fourth along the lines of ›contours de l’originalité‹ (15.–29.) is about, in order to establish the author’s rights. The protection status is confirmed and the claim of plagiarism is subsequently argued on the basis of similarities. It appears to be a weak case.

    I think under French code it is also possible to introduce additional evidence on appeal, so if he has any sense JFP will be bolstering the forensic side of his case with a lot more demonstration and example illustrating his claims. As I said all along, this case should not be about debating similarity of the two designs but about whether it is possible to demonstrate that the one design was derived from the outlines of the other. That would require a detailed forensic analysis not only of the ways in which the glyphs are similar but also of the ways in which they are different, and whether any traces of LMJ can be identified in the latter, e.g. in curve tension, relative positions of nodes and control handles, etc.

    It is a tall order, both in terms of conducting such an analysis and in presenting the findings in a clear and compelling way.
    Spectral is not a derivate of Le Monde Journal in my view but even if I thought it was, I would deem the chance to find substantive technical evidence to be low. There are hints of allegations in this regard, it seems:
    30. “Mr. Porchez and ZeAssociates argue that […] the use of software facilitates the manipulation of fonts and the defendants do not provide evidence of a creative process at the origin of the typeface Spectral.“

    31. “In response, Production Systems argues that […] the constraints of typography mean that corresponding points and curve tensions are commonplace.”
    We only get to see excerpts from the exhibits submitted but indeed, nothing suggests a forensic analysis has been conducted. I read the following passage from the judgement in that vein. Furthermore, the court mentions proof of Spectral’s design process:
    57. “The plaintiffs have not provided evidence of a wrongful imitation. [The similarities are] not of a kind to provide the defendants with a competitive advantage. Nor do they demonstrate that Mr. Levée would have exploited files he had access to during his work on the adaptation of […] Le Monde Courrier between 2005 and 2010. […] The documents submitted to the judicial proceedings by Production Type allow for the finding that the font was subject of Mr. Levée’s and his teams’ own work.”
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,043
    edited June 2023
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    Spectral is not a derivate of Le Monde Journal in my view
    I don’t have a definite view on that question—which is why I declined to make a submission in the case—, and I don’t think I could form such a view without undertaking a forensic analysis (studying philosophy at university left me with a high epistemological threshhold; never sure if this is a virtue or a handicap). I do see things in even a non-systematic perusal of Spectral to cause concern: i.e. patterns of possible relationship to LMJ, which collectively seem more suggestive of derivation than any individual glyph shape or detail similarity would be. I don’t consider that enough to determine that Spectral is a derivative of LMJ, but I also don’t think there are grounds to dismiss the possibility out-of-hand. Thankfully, uncertainty isn’t a state that causes me anxiety.😁