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Dead Designers, Typographers & Foundry's

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Fabien Barral's picture
Joined: 13 May 2010 - 4:06pm
Dead Designers, Typographers & Foundry's

When can I copy and sell an expired Typographer's or a current Foundry's type collection if it goes out of business? I am actually being serious when I ask this with sarcasm infused.

I have noticed that roughly in the last 10 years that with the evolution of the internet and software programs, that so many past font specimens have been converted into "updated" versions of typefaces. I realize from previous threads and the comments provided that this takes skill and is really some sort of talent to pull off effectively. That is nice.

Anyway, more to the point, does the quote "Bad Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal" strongly apply to this instance or do those who copy the fonts, consider this art? Seriously, I would be fascinated to know. I don't fully understand the logistics and protocol behind this, but I would like to be educated. I am not questioning, I am trying to garner a more knowledgeable approach of how this works and what steps are taken to proceed in doing this. It actually intrigued me to know this because it seems almost as if there are specimen hounds seeking and searching the corners of public domain foundry's and typographers for type to convert.

From my interpretation, to copy a type specimen from a now defunct Foundry, such as Cincinnati Type, the specimen in question has to be public domain. However, let's say I was the son of the original founder of Cincinnati Type, could I collect royalties after the fact now that the a public domain font from said defunct foundry has been created and is profiting from it? Is it fine to profit from a converted public domain specimen. I am assuming it must be with how popular it is to do so. This is just a question, I am not the son of anyone related to a public domain foundry now, but it would be good to know.

Many of you have about 35-45 years left on the earth and time isn't going backward, I however, have much more time left to exist, and this made me ponder, when you all die can I then convert your fonts and improve them in whatever format that becomes available 50 years or less from now? Actually, I'm not asking you if I can, I want you to know I will, but what I'd like to know is how long after your gone I have to wait. I understand pdf specimens are ripped and extracted currently and that is illegal, what I want to know is when it becomes LEGAL to do this.

Would your fonts be considered public domain once you expire or is there a grace period? If there is a grace period, I will have to train my son or daughter in converting font specimens so they can start a foundry and profit from type collections. Kidding, well sort of, actually not really, not if there's money and a profit involved and I have a head start.

Nonetheless, at what point does something become public domain? Is there a certain amount of time that has to pass? Do your EULA's expire when you expire? I am very keen and serious to know how this would play out. It would be enticing to know if it would be legal to convert a typographers/foundry's work once they are deceased or the foundry has gone out of business. Is it odd to think there will be specimen hounds for your own work? I'd like to get a head start 50 years in advance so that when the time comes, I will have done my research and I can be the first to convert the work that is available.

I know, I know, most of you think you are going to live forever and this will never apply to your work, that is awesome. Please know though, you are the ones whose work I will do first, their will probably be less obstacles and issues.

I would imagine small designers, not a conglomerate like Linotype/Monotype would be much easier to digitally improve/convert their work to whatever new method is established in the future because of technicality and less hoops, but at what point could I then begin selling said designers type who is no longer around? Like I said, I am being genuine in knowing and if any clarity is required, I would be more than excited and challenged to provide it. What got me thinking about all this was how I so many graphic resources, antique as well as present and I realized I could do whatever I wanted to with the antique resources because they were under public domain, however much of the more recent work will eventually be public domain and I wanted to grasp a better understanding of when and how that line is drawn.

Arno Kathollnig's picture
Joined: 4 Jan 2007 - 3:30am
Simon Daniels's picture
Joined: 11 Apr 2002 - 6:37pm

See - http://emigre.com/Editorial.php?sect=2

More important than rights around the design are rights around the name. Not just the original trademark name but also any rights around the designer's name - He's been dead for a while, but issuing a font "Elvis Presley Hand" may raise objections from his estate.