Linotype got back in touch with me in regards to the copyright copy type brief. I've discontinued the brief, but some of the answers are particularly useful for the context publication.
"Copyright will only in very few cases (exceptional artistic quality of a typeface – my favorite example is “Zapfino”) protect the typeface design as such. My feeling is that typeface designs should be protected in many more cases because even typefaces for daily use can display great creativity even if the differences lie in the small details." Is an interesting quote that suggests her mind is on a similar to mine in regards to type ebing an art form. This quote will be useful in terms of teh 'reasons why type is art' book.
Please allow me to introduce myself as European Legal Counsel of Linotype GmbH, a subsidiary of Monotype Imaging. Linotype and Monotype Imaging hold one of the worldwide largest font software portfolios. The answers I give below, however, are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the company.
Firstly, as you see it, do you feel well protected by the copyright law concerning
Copyright will only in very few cases (exceptional artistic quality of a typeface – my favorite example is “Zapfino”) protect the typeface design as such. My feeling is that typeface designs should be protected in many more cases because even typefaces for daily use can display great creativity even if the differences lie in the small details. However, I believe it is unlikely that a “copyright policy” that has evolved in many jurisdictions (most of Europe and USA, for instance) which denies copyrightability to (most) typefaces over the past 5 decades is likely to change in the near future. Israel set a different example and just last year accepted that typefaces could enjoy copyright protection, but the legal framework in Europe and the US seems to be well established.
Therefore, we work on the basis that the typefaces are not protected and rely on the protection that is available to us, namely design patents, trademark and the copyright in the font software.
What do you see as the main flaws of the way the law works to protect you as a designer?
The main “flaw” – if one can call it that – is that only very few people can judge the creativity of a typeface and, therefore, courts and the legislative have decided that a typeface will usually not be protectable by copyright.
Do you see the main problem as plagiarism or piracy?
Plagiarism in typefaces is very hard to enforce due to the lack of copyright protection explained above and the difficulty to enforce design patents in court. From my perspective, though, trademarks indirectly help to protect designs which are established in the market. For that reason and because we mainly deal in licensing rights to font software we consider piracy the greater problem.
Why do you feel so many people are willing to appropriate typefaces without the
I believe one must distinguish the Customer/Designer and the Designer/Designer relationships. With regard to the first relationship: As in the record industry or other creative business, many people do not understand or recognize the substantial efforts that are necessary to create intellectual property. This leads to the customer’s impression that such IP (in our case font software) is overprized and they look for “alternative ways” to acquire it.
In creative arts, it is very common that one artist bases his/her work on existing works. The copyrights laws recognizes this with citation rights. In the typeface Designer/Designer relationship I believe the problem lies in the fact that the creative scope is somewhat more limited that in some other artistic fields (which admittedly is one of the reasons that the legislators and courts have such a hard time to recognize copyright protection for typeface designs). This is supported by statements by (very renown) designers like Erik Spiekermann who openly admits that his design approach is to look at existing typefaces, close his eyes and “re-invent” that typeface with improvements.
How do you feel would be the best way to resolve this ongoing problem? Does it come from a
change in legislation, or an attempt to change people's attitudes...?
I believe a change in legislation is rather unlikely and therefore we concentrate our business efforts to (a) change people’s attitudes by explaining the value of typefaces (marketing) and (b) using the existing legal framework to address infringements and thus discourage further infringements.
I hope this helps your project.
Dr. Jan Kaestner, Solicitor
European Legal Counsel
A Monotype Imaging Company
61352 Bad Homburg
Phone +49 6172 484 410
Fax +49 6172 484 5410
Geschäftsführer/Managing Director: Frank Wildenberg
Sitz Bad Homburg, HRB 10375, Amtsgericht Bad Homburg - Commercial Register of the Bad Homburg Local Court, HRB 10375
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