Sunday, July 15, 2007

Why it is good you can not copyright fonts

    You know, I sometimes see postings talking about how it would be a really great idea to copyright typeface designs. This idea seems to be a meme amoung typeface designers. However, copyrighting fonts in the litigation-friendly environment of America, is a really bad idea.

    Why? Because, if it were possible to copyright bitmap fonts, there will suddenly pop up a large number of "intelectual property" companies that will come with with every way of rendering a circle at low bitmap resolutions, with various levels of roundness, and then put a copyright on each and every one of those circles as being "the letter O". These trolls will then threaten to sue anyone with a bitmap font that has an "o" that looks like one of their circles. It will very quickly become impossible to design a typeface without using a letter owned by some font-copyright troll. There are only so many ways you can represent an "o", "c", or even an "s" at low screen resolutions.

    This is why most countries do not allow the shapes of letters to be copyrighted. There is just too much room for abuse otherwise, especially in an over-abused legal system like the US' legal system. And, yes, for vector fonts, Adobe Systems, Inc. v. Southern Software, Inc. makes it so that you can't just rip off somone's vector font and sell it as your own. This is more than enough copyright protection for fonts.