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« Free Fonts, Revealed and… Reviled?

I am writing this from the ATypI conference 2013 in Amsterdam. I hosted a panel on free fonts on the first opening day (Wednesday) of the pre-​conference two-​tracked discussion, and Victor Gaultney of SIL International did the same on Friday. The panels and discussions around them brought up a bunch of issues, and I wanted to share my thoughts. Note that this is something of a live post, and subject to clarifications and additions, though I think my main positions are pretty set.

Free Fonts Panel (photo)

Victor Gaultney of SIL International hosted a panel on free fonts at ATypI Amsterdam 2013. Left to right: Dave Crossland, David Lemon (Adobe fonts), David Kuettel (Google), Greg Veen (Typekit, Edge web fonts), Eben Sorkin.

Threat, or Menace?

I don’t think free fonts are evil. If anybody has that misperception about my thinking, it’s my own darn fault for entitling my panel “Free fonts: threat or menace?” I intended it as a joke, a bit of a deliberate incitement to get people talking/​thinking, and perhaps poking gentle fun at the not-​unusual anti-​free attitudes in the type design community. I got the “threat or menace” part from old comic books, in which crusading newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson is writing crazy anti-​Spider-​Man newspaper headlines, but apparently it goes back even further.

Of course free fonts are at least mostly a good thing for people who use fonts. Who doesn’t like free? For hobbyists and casual font users, they are certainly a good thing. For professional users who are passionate about quality, it is less clear, as if free fonts have a negative impact on average quality or continued availability of new, quality fonts, then it may not be all good for them.

Gratis vs Libre

There are two overlapping but distinct kinds of free fonts; it is worth distinguishing them.

Libre” fonts are those which post few if any restrictions on what the user or acquirer can do with them. They are generally “open source” and can be bundled with either commercial or open source software. Although it is allowed to charge for them, it is also allowed to redistribute them for free, so it is hard to sell them effectively. Most of the really high-​end free fonts made by professional type designers are released under libre licenses.

Free as in beer” or “gratis” fonts are those for which there is no charge. Many of them still have licensing restrictions on what one can do with them, such as only allowing non-​commercial use, or restricting modifications.

Most of the “free fonts” in the world are gratis rather than libre, but the biggest growth lately has been in libre fonts. Sites such as “dafont” feature many gratis fonts that are not libre, but also some libre fonts.

Sometimes a type designer or foundry will make some members of a larger family available gratis. Often they will be less useful styles, but whether it’s the regular and the bold or just the black italic, giving away some styles as a teaser for the rest of the family seems like a special case. This has worked well for some designers (e.g. Jos Buivenga /​ exljbris with his Museo families). Some have seen less result.

Quality vs Free Fonts

I am pretty harsh about font quality. Most of the fonts I have made have never shipped, because my conceptions of quality early on outstripped my ability to execute at that quality level. So I will be the first to say that there are plenty of commercial fonts that suck. Easily 30–40% of commercial fonts leave me thoroughly unimpressed. If you look at libre fonts, and use the Google Fonts collection as your baseline, maybe 65% of those fonts suck. If you just look at all free fonts on dafont, maybe 95% of those fonts stink.

Why is that?

Well, most of the people who are capable of making high quality fonts have some serious training, and/​or a fair bit of experience. The people who are at a stage of their career where they are interested in making stuff and willing and able to give it away are mostly younger people just starting out, or people just beginning to get really into type design. On average they have a lot less experience and skill.

Also, polishing a font until it is really good is a whole lot of extra work and a lot less fun than the earlier stages of the design process. Frankly, it’s the 80/​20 rule, only with type it is more like 90/​10 or 95/​5. Most of the quality improvement won’t be immediately/​consciously noticed by most potential users, especially in the new growth area of the web where would-​be end users are generally less typographically savvy.

I should be clear that when I say “quality” I am not talking about matters of mere taste. There are objective aspects of font quality. For example, in spacing a typical sans serif, if the cap H and N have straight sides, and the white space (sidebearings) allocated to the left and right sides of the cap H are significantly different values, and those in turn differ from the sidebearings of the cap N, then the font is simply badly made.

One of my perennial arguments with the folks at Google is about the fact that they didn’t have a very high quality bar at all, and let in an awful lot of fonts that I would say are simply crap or at least substandard, at an objective level. Some of the folks on the Google side of the fence say that they are simply giving their users free choice and that if one of the fonts I consider to be junk becomes popular, then that’s evidence that it was actually “good.” I don’t have much patience for this line of argument. I think that Google is abandoning what it ought to see as a responsibility to be a gatekeeper not of taste, but of quality. It is not hard to find the expertise to deal with these things.

Interestingly, Adobe, having an increasing interest in there being decent quality libre fonts out there, is actually dedicating some in-​house resources (read: people’s time) to helping fix and improve some of those fonts. Kudos to them.

Money for Free Fonts?

Most of the solid quality libre fonts were actually commissioned works, or done in-​house by a big company. In either case, somebody with deep pockets had a need or desire for a new open source font, They expected to make money in some other way, and were willing to pay usual professional wages for the development of fonts that met their needs. But these well-​paid professional fonts are a minority of all libre fonts.

Google has offered a bounty on libre fonts, but according to Bruno Maag in the discussion here at ATypI, it amounts to some $2000 per font. He suggests a basic three-​member family takes about 400 hours to create, and that hence Google is paying $15 an hour for type design, and that isn’t a livable wage. Bruno’s angry outburst about this garnered applause from a significant chunk of the audience.

Of course, the audience here at ATypI in Amsterdam is an audience of middle-​class and better westerners, to whom $15/​hr is not a real living wage. But in much of the world that is a pretty decent wage, especially for a student or somebody in the earlier stages of their career.

But I expect there is no reason to think that Google or any other specific company will continue to pay for new libre font development at the same rate that new commercial fonts have been being made in the past. If the money to be made in creating libre (and other free fonts) is less than what we had before, it’s possible that the total amount of money will go down, and the impact of libre and gratis fonts on the demand for retail fonts matters.

Eben Sorkin has suggested that for popular libre fonts he has designed, people are starting to ask about paying for customizations, additions and modifications. He thinks he can make sufficient money off of this to make it worthwhile, and that this may be a viable model for everyone.

I am not entirely convinced this will be the reality for the “average” type designer from a wealthy country. Maybe. If not, the development of the bulk of libre fonts will tend to be more of an activity for people from less wealthy countries, and/​or done by less experienced type designers.

Some libre or gratis fonts can raise development money on Kickstarter or some similar crowdfunding source. This is challenging, and doesn’t work for all projects. It also requires a different skill set in terms of social connections and marketing to be successful. Unfortunately, many type designers don’t want to have to sell themselves, their story and their projects in that way. (Though arguably it is an important skill for traditional retail proprietary fonts as well!)

David Kuettel of Google responded to Bruno Maag’s outburst with a lengthy and partly evasive response, which basically amounted to “we want to see type designers get paid, and we haven’t worked out the model by which this happens. First we need to finish sorting out various technical and practical issues, and once we iron those out, we will be able to come up with a better model to pay for the fonts.”

I am not excited by this response that wants the type designers to do all their work up front and just trust that sooner or later a model will spontaneously break out that allows them to make money. In the future. With different fonts, as I don’t believe that for the existing libre fonts (that were made before that magical future), Google or anybody else is likely to start paying additional revenue that they don’t have to.

Although interest in using type is growing, growing even faster is the supply of people trying to design it. There are more and more serious college and university programs teaching type design. The loose anarcho-​syndicalist Crafting Type collective (which I am a member of) teaches three-​day type design workshops to beginners, which while not turning out master type designers certainly gets them past the level of the average gratis typeface, perhaps to the level of the average libre typeface. But (in my estimation) having so many people interested in trying to design type means that supply of type designers is outpacing demand, which is creating another source of downward pressure on prices/​wages.

Impact of Gratis & Libre on Commercial Fonts?

There are a number of different theories about the impact of more and more free fonts on the income made from retail font licensing.

(1) One theory is that free fonts will have little or no impact. For the most part they are of poor quality. The people who want to distinguish their work have always been willing to pay and always will be, because being different and distinctive and using quality fonts is of value to them. The people who would use the free fonts would never have bought retail font licenses anyway.

(2) Another theory is that free fonts increase the awareness of fonts in general and help stoke demand, and that as this new audience gets more sophisticated some of them will gradually get more and more interested in commercial alternatives to free fonts.

(3) Some folks believe that just like fonts bundled with apps, free fonts will decrease the total demand for retail fonts. Any demand they create will be outstripped by the demand they satisfy. Some users will not become sophisticated enough to prefer better typefaces, while others will simply choose from the higher-​quality free fonts they can find, which appear to only be a growing category.

Personally, I actually buy all three of these theories to some degree. I think there is a core demand (1) that will never go away. But I think the portion of that demand that is truly immutable is a small part of the total market for fonts. I do think that making free fonts available will increase awareness of fonts (2), but I am politely skeptical that any resulting increase in paid font licensing will surpass the decrease due to free fonts substituting for paid fonts (3).

Of course, even if I am right about that mix, that doesn’t say what happens to the total money being spent on fonts. Some people will commission libre fonts, or Google may continue to pay a bounty on the ones they want to see made. My guess is that the total amount of money going into the pockets of type designers is more likely to decrease than increase, but I can’t swear that’s what will happen. But even if the total amount of money going to type designers goes up, I am pretty sure that more people will be doing it and the average $/​hr compensation will go down. Mind you, even if so, these economic shifts will not happen overnight.


I actually hope that some of my projections and guesses are wrong, because of course I would like to see more money ending up in the pockets of type designers. But even if my predictions and guesses are all correct, I don’t see free fonts as bad, exactly. Having more fonts available for free to the average user is still a good thing for the end user. The percentage of new fonts that are of what I think of as high quality may go down (compared to the old proprietary world), but the total numbers of all kinds will only increase. Existing quality fonts won’t go away, even if the average quality of new fonts is lower.

While the changes may be “bad” for many first-​world type designers, including people I know personally, I don’t see anything horribly wrong with there being more work for people who have less money, and to whom $15/​hr is a good wage. Although I like the idea of everybody in the developing world having the same level of affluence that professionals do in the west, realistically this doesn’t happen overnight. Wages in developing countries increase over time. The changes I foresee in type design economics are part of that shift, even at wages that we would consider potentially exploitive here in the USA. I don’t like the idea of type designers making only $15/​hr, and I fear that it won’t get the level of quality and care that I would like to see, but at least that’s not a sweatshop wage. If we were talking $5/​hr it would be different.

For those of us (mostly first-​world type designers) for whom the coming shift is not a Good Thing, it may be a saddening change. But I think change is inevitable, and all the players involved are going to do what makes sense for them at the time. A company like Adobe making a couple of open source typefaces is not due to some huge change in their corporate ideology or thinking: it just became beneficial to them to create a few open source fonts due to their other business interests. Similarly other type designers are going to do what is right for them (as well as they can judge). If that makes for more free fonts and lower income levels for the average pre-​existing type designer, that’s not some evil conspiracy, just change and life.

[Revised twice on 13 October 2013, first to add more on font quality, second to discuss free fonts as a promo for bigger families. Revised 14 October 2013 to clarify wording on free and libre some more, and clarify sweatshop wage position. Later revisions for grammar. Revised again 16 August 2015 to clarify a couple of sentences about economics and wages.]

20 commentsto “Free Fonts, Revealed and… Reviled?”

  • October 13, 2013
    Octavio wrote

    As we would say in spanish, I cannot even change a comma out of its place. Beautiful post. My vision about this is that I can see less and less people being able to live out of their sales in type design. In a country like Spain for example I think there is only one person who lives out of it and we are talking of the 13th economical power in the world (wow, we were the 9th 5 years ago :S). Despite all the benefits of free fonts, I do not see them helping this situation but damaging it. My advise for all graphic designers: Learn competent type design; my advise for all type designers: learn competent graphic design. Kudos Thomas.

  • October 13, 2013
    Ben Weiner wrote

    In the Latin-​writing world where wages are high, new type designs are always essentially an indulgence.

    Elsewhere they may set new standards in available font software for a given writing system by stepping over technical weaknesses in existing font data or with improved aesthetics, increased legibility, or extended coverage. The designers who do this, and the market that sponsors it, are participating in a contribution to the sum of human happiness. And as you say they are getting paid. As the perceived value of what they do increases they will probably get paid more.

    Free fonts developed under programmes like Google’s help get things moving. I did see evidence of this happening a few years ago, but perhaps that was not the start of a trend?

  • October 13, 2013
    Matthew Skala wrote

    A student or somebody in the early stages of their career,” outside of the industrialized West, for whom $15/​hr is an acceptable wage, is not going to be someone with the training and experience necessary to create fonts that meet your standards of “high quality.”

    However, I don’t think evaluating the bounty on free fonts as a per-​hour living wage is the right way to analyse it. Nobody creates free fonts for money, and creating fonts or any artistic work is a lousy way to support oneself financially. The people who do it, do it for other reasons of their own… and I think the offer of money is intended to encourage them to make free something they would otherwise have created and kept to themselves, not to encourage them to create something they would otherwise not have created.

    The offer isn’t just $15/​hr: it’s $15/​hr *on top of* whatever other reasons you may already have for creating fonts. Not everyone has any such incentives, and that’s okay, they are free to not create fonts. The point is it’s an observed fact some people *do* create fonts without getting paid, and someone thinks it makes sense to pay those people, even if only a small amount.

  • October 13, 2013
    Thomas Phinney wrote

    Nobody creates free fonts for money” is demonstrably untrue. Indeed, almost all the very best free fonts were created by full-​time professional type designers who were paid their usual rates for their work.

    and creating fonts or any artistic work is a lousy way to support oneself financially.”

    First, fonts are a craft, rather than an artistic work. Second, there are scores of professional type designers out there who do make a living at it, whether good or bad. What’s your point: that because it isn’t a great way to make a living now, we shouldn’t care if the amount of money in it goes down, or the $/​hr goes down dramatically? I don’t see a logical argument there.

    The people who do it, do it for other reasons of their own…”

    For the people who are any good at it, they are good at it precisely because they have made it a full-​time job. I could be a far better type designer than I am if I did that as well. First-​rate design is a job, and should be paid as such. If you don’t care if the work is any good, that’s a different matter. The fact that there are objective quality standards for some things in type is precisely one of the reasons it is a craft and not an art.

    and I think the offer of money is intended to encourage them to make free something they would otherwise have created and kept to themselves, not to encourage them to create something they would otherwise not have created.”

    I think the historical record shows that a lot of people leapt on Google’s offers and made fonts they wouldn’t have made, or spent a lot more time getting them done more quickly.

    The offer isn’t just $15/​​hr: it’s $15/​​hr *on top of* whatever other reasons you may already have for creating fonts.”

    You could say the same thing about any work or career anybody has. Yes, creating fonts is more fun than pumping gas. But in strict point of fact, much of the work that separates really well made fonts from crap is incredibly painstaking drudgery. Carefully defining anchor attachment points and spending weeks doing kerning are no fun. That’s part of why a lot of free fonts are crap, because that extra work is mostly no fun at all. Money is a good incentive for it. Or being crazy and obsessive. Plus, having the knowledge and training.

    Not everyone has any such incentives, and that’s okay, they are free to not create fonts. The point is it’s an observed fact some people *do* create fonts without getting paid, and someone thinks it makes sense to pay those people, even if only a small amount.”

    All true. But the quantity of such work is changing, and paying for free fonts changes the entire incentive structure. My post was about what the effects of all these changes might be. I haven’t seen you say anything that suggests my conclusions are incorrect.

  • October 13, 2013
    Saad Abulhab wrote

    In most parts of the non-​western world, paying for a font is a “strange” idea. Just as an example, I remember reading many attacks on a well-​known Arabic type designer from Yemen because he decided to charge for his fonts. Strangely, some argued that charging for Arabic, the script of the Quran, is anti Islamic! Google willingness to pay $2000/​font can work well for the designers and the script in cultures where paying for fonts is not a highly acceptable practice.

  • October 13, 2013
    John Hudson wrote

    The companies and other entities that leverage fonts — free or otherwise — to add value to their products, services and brands understand what they’re worth. When they put a dollar figure on that value, it is always significant, so I’m amazed that anyone still thinks creating fonts is an artsy indulgence, ‘a lousy way to support oneself financially’, and something one does as a glorified hobby.

    It’s a good article, Thomas, although I disagree with the dichotomy of the conclusion. There’s a lot of ground between an evil conspiracy and ‘change and life’ (even ignoring the implication that the latter must be passively accepted). Peoples’ livelihoods aren’t steamrollered by some kind of historically inevitable change: they’re steamrollered by other peoples’ financial interests and activities, and the latter doesn’t require conspiracy, except in the sense that everything that happens in a corporate boardroom is a form of conspiracy. Font makers who accept that their work isn’t worth money while blithely watching massive corporations exploiting the value of that work are suffering from false consciousness.

    I’m still giving Google the benefit of the doubt, just because I have a pretty good idea of the internal situation there, and of how small the budget for Google Fonts has been to date. They set out to get the biggest collection of fonts for the money they had, to build their webfont service into a viable entity that wouldn’t get axed like so many other Google services (even popular ones like Google Reader).

    I think type folk have tended to assume that what Google has done to date constitutes some kind of grand strategy with regard to font development and payment; whereas, I think it was more ad hoc and situational. How it plays out, though, is anybody’s guess.

  • October 13, 2013
    Theo wrote

    Great read, it gives me a deeper look and the willing to learn more about type. At least learn to distinguish between quality and non quality fonts. As you said: “de gustibus non est disputandum”. Thank you.

  • October 13, 2013
    Mamoun Sakkal wrote

    Thank you Thomas for an excellent and informative article.

    I was asked to provide an Arabic font to Google a few years ago, but declined mainly because I did not think it would be fair to me or to other type designers to accept such a low fee. I make a living producing Arabic typefaces, and could not see the logic in providing what would amount to free work to one of the largest companies in the world.

    Saad, I see that you completely ignored Thomas’s main point about quality and the value of the expertise necessary to produce typefaces of excellent quality. Higher and more adequate fees will help produce better typefaces no matter where the designers live. Establishing low fees standards, simply because the designers are in less developed countries, will not help in producing good quality typefaces. It will not help attract the most talented to practice this trade, and will not help those who want to practice it to devote the time necessary to produce their best work.

    Google and other companies that make millions and billions selling products and services strive to provide their customers with the best products and services possible. This should also apply to procuring typefaces.

  • October 14, 2013
    Thomas Phinney wrote

    I agree wholeheartedly that there is plenty of middle ground between conspiracy and “change and life.” People and companies are responsible for their choices and the impacts of those choices. I myself have flirted with the idea of making a libre font family, if the money were right. I think there’s a strong enough tide here that it probably isn’t going away, even if we were to convince Google to pay lots more, so I am uncertain that complaining to people that they need to behave differently is worth the effort. I end up being more interested in analyzing the changes that are happening.

    I agree that the relevant folks at Google were just trying to get the best collection of libre fonts they could with the budget they had. Of course, everything happening is occurring from people and companies doing what makes the most sense for/​to them.

  • October 14, 2013
    Saad Abulhab wrote

    Mamoun, I actually agree completely with “Thomas’s main point about quality and the value of the expertise necessary to produce typefaces of excellent quality”. I certainly agree with you and John that many make living producing typefaces and Google prices are not acceptable. However, I do not see the commissioned web fonts by Google as those typical identity fonts commissioned by large corporation. Google is providing these fonts for free and they are not bundled with any software package being sold on the market through them. They are simply different type of products. I think Thomas was right when he pointed out that free fonts, after all, may have no future impact on commissioned font prices by big corporations or the overall market. Microsoft is still selling Windows despite Linux!

    The fact is that fonts are basically products and their production should be governed by the market like other products. Cheaper labor was the key factor behind the wide availability of many otherwise “forbidden” products and, at the same time, the the key factor behind the new prosperity levels we see in many poorer countries. I do not see why would it be a bad idea to produce fonts cheaper when this can benefit both the font markets and many designers, particularly for scripts like Arabic. We already commission software design and development in cheaper markets,why not fonts?

  • October 15, 2013
    Saad Abulhab wrote

    I think a central point here is how to determine a quality of a font and how is this related to pricing. Thomas thinks a popular font does not mean it is of high *quality*. That is possible. However, assuming we can identify quantitative measures for quality, a font price tag play minor role here. Good Kerning and spacing, crisp quality of curves, balance of black/​white, and hinting can all be quantitative measures. Ensuring such quality measures can be time consuming and therefore *sometimes* expensive. The fact is many fonts with high price tags are not necessarily good or quality fonts, particularly in a custom font situation where disruptive client input and feedback can actually ruin the final product. I said sometimes because the term “expensive” is relative. A visit to a Cuban doctor can cost a fraction of that of a visit to an American doctor, but a patient can *actually* be treated, not just over-​tested! Besides, a font price tag is font-​dependent and project-​specific. Sometimes excessive requirements and details can make a font project artificially expensive.
    On the other hand, a font overall *value* as a *product* is a completely different quality issue. Beauty, design, concept uniqueness, coherence, and rhythm cannot be measured qualitatively. Like a musical piece and or a song, a font can be a popular hit, and many hits were introduced by inexperienced low-​priced first timers! Font popularity and usage is very important factor and if a font is being used then it is valuable, regardless. A popular minimally-​kerned font can surely be valuable quality font.
    In conclusion, a quantitative quality measures of a font product are only partial measures of its overall quality, as a product.

  • October 17, 2013
    vernon adams wrote

    Wakey wakey people!
    An explanation of how technology cycles metamorphosise capitalism. Next phase = information goods, the rise of “Non Hierarchy”, unlimited supply via sharing,”The Free wipes out the Paid For”,’skating on the edge of chaos’ and Non-​market forms of production.

    A snippet: “Every single one of us on earth could own every itunes track that has ever been created, now. It would be called ‘sharing’ because you don’t even own them, Apple ‘owns’ them, but we ‘could’ all collectively ‘own’ them, for nothing.”

  • October 26, 2013
    Alex C. wrote

    > I myself have flirted with the idea of making a libre font family…

    How about releasing Cristoforo as Libre software, Mr. Phinney?

  • October 26, 2013
    Thomas Phinney wrote


    Well, I think that would be unfair to the backers who paid for it, under the belief that it would be at least as expensive to acquire later on. Otherwise, I might be tempted to do so. (I actually made a “Dark Symbols” font libre under the OFL during the early stages of the Cristoforo project, though.)

    If I did a libre family, it would probably be a jumbo sans serif family with extensive language support and a wide range of weights and widths. But I have a bunch of other projects to do first!

  • October 26, 2013
    Thomas Phinney wrote

    Vern, I have no doubt it will be interesting to see how the economics of information goods play out over time.

    I didn’t finish watching that video, because I couldn’t get past the inconsistent analogies and utter lack of understanding of real biological evolution that cropped up in just the first minute or so. That doesn’t mean his conclusions are wrong, but the argument he’s using to get there has some problems.

  • October 30, 2013
    Alex C. wrote

    Tim Krieder’s piece for the New York Times is interesting reading:

  • October 30, 2013
    Alex C. wrote

    Since Cristoforo has been financed by Kickstarter sponsors, who owns the intellectual property associated with it? I understand that the outlines themselves cannot be copyrighted, but the font software is. So, who owns it?

  • October 30, 2013
    Thomas Phinney wrote

    > Since Cristoforo has been financed by Kickstarter sponsors, who owns the intellectual property associated with it? I understand that the outlines themselves cannot be copyrighted, but the font software is. So, who owns it?

    I do. Backers get a license to the software, as stated in the rewards section. For example, “Get the final versions of both Cristoforo, Cristoforo Italic and Cristoforo Symbols with a full commercial use license.”

    I am not sure I have ever seen a Kickstarter project that ended up with the backers owning IP, unless a reward is a physical object with implicit repro rights or something.

    Generally the backers get a license for the IP. Sometimes that is a very generous license, as they are funding development for something that will have a libre, open source license. Even then, the license may be liberal, but the actual IP is owned by the creator. Very very rarely somebody will do a project whose intent is to put IP into the public domain.

    > I understand that the outlines themselves cannot be copyrighted, but the font software is

    Certainly the font software is. But if you read Judge Whyte’s decision in the summary judgment on the Adobe v SSI case, it certainly seems that the outlines are an integral and protected part of the font software.

    The evidence presented shows that there is some creativity in designing the font software programs. While the glyph dictates to a certain extent what points the editor must choose, it does not dictate every point that must be chosen. Adobe has shown that font editors make creative choices as to what points to select based on the image in front of them on the computer screen. The code is determined directly from the selection of the points. Thus, any copying of the points is copying of literal expression, that is, in essence, copying of the computer code itself.”

  • November 3, 2013
    Alex C. wrote

    Thanks for the heads up. So, Kickstarter is somewhere between selling a product and selling shares in a venture. Cool.

    Mr. Justice Whyte’s decision refers to the case where the *Postscript* outlines were infringed/​copied, right down to the control points. I meant “outlines” as in an outline drawn/​printed on paper, i.e., the basic shape of the character. Those are non-​copyrightable (thankfully or not, depending on POV), even if the same shape is the result, if the instructions used are different (which are copyrightable)! IP Law on fonts is surely a mess! Cue Book Antiqua etc…

  • November 3, 2013
    Thomas Phinney wrote

    > So, Kickstarter is somewhere between selling a product and selling shares in a venture.

    No. It’s just selling a product. Now, it is advance sales, usually at a discount, with various other complications (like needing to hit a goal or the product doesn’t happen). But there is no element of selling shares, normally.

    > I meant “outlines” as in an outline drawn/​printed on paper, i.e., the basic shape of the character.

    Ah. Fair enough, but that’s not normally what is meant in this domain by “outlines.” Next time, say “shapes” instead.

    Although the shapes are not protected by copyright in the USA, they can be protected by design patent. That is not usually a financially sensible protection to use, however.



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