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Legal issues around creating type.

I’m still a little unsure about the entire process of creating type but i’m curious, If someone wanted to produce a set of type, could they use a font say off of a website like as long as they paid for it? Could you make type without consulting the font’s creator if they have it for free download up on the web somewhere?

I know it’s rough question and maybe i’m just not sure how to really ask it but any input would be much appreciated, Thanks!

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You may not be aware of it -but that question is a hot potato question for a long time. Some reading:

Usually, we conceive an idea, sketch it out, scan it and import it the design into Ikarus, Fonto etc. and redefine the design, glyph points, ink traps etc. It’s a slow process if you want to create quality.

Taking an existing Font and just modifying it a bit and issuing it - I wouldn’t.

By the same token, while someone owns the rights (or did at some point) all the type faces out there, you buy a face in order to be able to set it and design with it.

I see no problem with making hard versions of faces for the application of your own work, whether it is in lead or wood.

Where this becomes an issue is when you try to have more type made than you could/would use yourself, and then sell some of it.

Then you are basically distributing the ability to use something that you don’t own the rights to do so. Essentially, this is the same as software piracy.
If you’re making money off it, it’s even worse. You follow?

So, to recap and be perfectly clear- I don’t see how anyone could argue that laser cutting or having a bunch of type 3-d printed that you OWN THE RIGHTS TO COMMERCIALLY USE AND DESIGN WITH, specifically, would be outside of the usage rights, provided you used these objects and the intellectual property rights associated with them for your own commercial use.*

*I’m not a lawyer nor will I claim to be one- this is armchair advice for sure- but I’m calling it how I see it.

I’ll agree with what’s been said. If you purchased the outlines, then I don’t see how making a set of wood type differs much from making a photopolymer plate of your design that incorporates the typeface. The issue is when you attempt to sell the font itself in another form. I’d say that’s definitely against any EULA and I wouldn’t go there without explicit permission from the creator.

Don’t forget you don’t buy the font, you buy a license to use the font and in the agreement you’ll find all the information of what you can do with it, and how. Typefaces are protected by copyright as well.

Typography can not be copyrighted in the United States. See the Compendium II: Copyright Office Practices 202.2(j).

What is copyrighted, and licensed, is the digital file that contains the instructions on how to draw the typeface. You can look up “Adobe Systems, Inc. v. Southern Software Inc.” The basic outcome of the case was that the program (font file) was able to be protected by copyright even if the output of the program (typography) was not.

Philipmat1, thank you for sharing! That is certainly illuminating!

In most cases you cannot modify a font without permission of the owner. This is primarily important if you are even thinking of reissuing the font for sale. An absolute no no. Some foundries, Adobe (which actually doesn’t exist anymore except for selling decade old fonts), are a bit more lenient regarding modification. But, fonts are modified automatically by the medium they are used in, laser and ink jet printers, various mobile devices, so it is somewhat a mute point.

In the US, you have not been able to copyright a font since the 19th century (with the exception noted previously concerning Adobe, which really came to nothing).