tweaking existing fonts

vulpine's picture

Hey all,

I could use a program like FontLab and edit an already existing font.
Does that then become mine? Do i have worry about licencing?
What are the norms on this?
How much of a change in form will constitute to becoming a entirely new font?

Appreciate your comments.
Thanks!
- V

Nick Shinn's picture

If you licence the font legitimately, it will come with an End User Licence Agreement (EULA), which states what and what not you are allowed to do with it. EULAs vary from foundry to foundry. Read the EULA.

paul d hunt's picture

Does that then become mine?
No

Do i have worry about licencing?
Yes

How much of a change in form will constitute to becoming a entirely new font?
If you want a clear concience, start from scratch, idealy using your own design ideas.

dezcom's picture

Even if you don't have a conscience, why would you want to "nearly" duplicate someone else's font?
The troubling line is "How much of a change in form ...". This gives the impression that you are trying to see how much you can get away with. If you truly are a designer, you would want to create YOUR OWN design. Come up with your own concept for a typeface and do it from scratch. Is it a lot of work? Yes. Will you make a lot of money from it? No. One of the reasons is that there are thieves out in the world who would steal someone else's design, do minimal work, and call it their own.

ChrisL

canderson's picture

I'm not disagreeing with any of the other comments in the slightest. I would point out however, that there are free-as-in-beer as well as free-as-in-GPL fonts that you can use as a base font. For example, the license for the Vera family specifically allows modification. Keep in mind, that you would need to look at the license carefully to see if it will accomodate what you want to do. Really this discussion is relating to the possibility that you might want to distribute your work to other people.
I think that it's fairly obvious that it is sometimes easier to work off of an existing font, even if everything will be changed by the time the font is released. For example, it might be usefull to use a font like Vera Sans when making a font that looks much different. The type designer could print and test functional specimens while only parts of the typeface were complete.
The best way to do this is to have a base font that is completely your own, then you can be 100% sure that everything is legal. Personally,I would never work off of a font that wasn't kosher because you could never be sure that there wasn't some sort of hidden identifier somewhere.

Si_Daniels's picture

True - but even for the Vera fonts, true open source fonts or near open source fonts the questions will have the same answer...

Does that then become mine? No
Do i have worry about licencing? Yes

david h's picture

I could use a program like____ Word and edit an already existing____ novel.
Does that then become mine? Do i have worry about licencing?
What are the norms on this?
How much of a change in form will constitute to becoming a entirely new____ novel?

.'s picture

As I understand most EULAs - including my own - a typeface which is built from the code of another typeface is not distributable or resellable.

The discussion from a few days back - http://typophile.com/node/15838 - covers this issue in some detail.

And, good point David. What's to stop me from opening the text of Romeo and Juliet, changing the names of the two protagonists, and publishing my masterpiece: Ralph and Clarissa...

dezcom's picture

"...What’s to stop me from opening the text of Romeo and Juliet, changing the names of the two protagonists, and publishing my masterpiece: Ralph and Clarissa…"

Except Ralph and Clarissa hate eachother and Ralph's dad is a lawyer :-)

ChrisL

PS: Clarissa's dad is a hitman :-)

canderson's picture

Always steal from the best...(You can quote me as the one who said this)

http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sources/romeosources.html

This link is in response to Chester's post. Shakespeare, like many other great artists, based his work on the works of others. The truely great can do so without feeling a need to hide it.
Keep in mind, I'm not ignorant of contemporary licensing issues...
There is a fine line between a revivalist and a rip-off artist. Some of the 20th century's most successfull type designers have simply staken out a claim to old letterforms.
As previously mentioned, redraw everything you want people to use.

hrant's picture

> Some of the 20th century’s most successfull type designers
> have simply staken out a claim to old letterforms.

Indeed. They leverage death.

hhp

david h's picture

Carl,

vulpine said:" I could use a program like FontLab and edit an already existing font."

where do you see the revival? based his [vulpine] work on the works of others?

.'s picture

Standing on the shoulders and giants ant all that... Indeed, we are all beholden to our forebears, and by mining the past we can make contemporary design statements which lead us into the future.

But... You can't reuse someone else's font software code as a base for your own code. The data in font files is copyright protected. Drawing a new Bodoni or Baskerville is very different from opening an existing Bodoni or Baskerville font file, tweaking a couple of points here or there, and saving the file with a different name.

I should never have mentioned Shakespeare. That reference just muddied the waters.

PabloImpallari's picture

Open Source fonts, released under the SIL Open Font license, allows you to open the font, make edits, and save it as a new font under a new name.

But you can't say it's your font.
You must keep the credits of all the people involved in the original version, and add your name to the list.
Also, you must specify what you have modified in the FONLOG.txt file that must be distributed together with your new font.

What's your main motivation to edit and existing font?
Maybe you want to fix and error, or tweak the spacing or kerning.
Maybe you want to change a glyph that you don't like.
Maybe you want to add diacritics to support new languages.
Maybe adding ligatures.
Maybe you want to make it a little lighter (or bolder, or condensed or wider) to better suit your printing needs.

I see those kind of modifications with good intentions to be perfectly valid, as long as you keep the credits of the original designers. Keep in mind that this only applies to Open Source fonts, not commercial ones.

If you want to modify a commercial font, the right thing to do is to contact the original foundry/designer first. Some designers allows modifications to create custom branding fonts, some charge a little extra money to allowing the modifications, some others don't.
Always ask the original designers first.

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