Knockoffs Hurt

Stephen Coles's picture

Here's an example of what I think is leading to the
devaluation of type design. Fonts are considered to
be free. The public is unaware of the skills and time
required to be a master of the craft. What do you
think? Is this problem as serious as it appears to me?
Have a look at the thread...

http://www.myfonts.com/FontForums/read.php?f=5&i=1054&t=1040

Stephen

Stephen Coles's picture

A good question, Joe. Probably the latter.

What probably hurts most is the lack of font sales
that should have gone to Marcus Burlile, the man
who designed Able. With the knockoffs more popular
than the original the designer has less incentive to
continue his excellent work.

Stephen

hrant's picture

Well, one time a designer "friend" of mine took one of my best-selling Armenian fonts (which he hadn't even paid for), sheared off the serifs, and started selling the "new" design... But you know what made me most angry? Not the plagiarism, nor my [probable] loss of sales. What really bugged me was that he didn't adjust the spacing.

hhp

Michael Surtees's picture

joe;

was it ever brought up with 3Com that another company basicly stole the design of a site that they had paid for?

~michael

hrant's picture

I think 3Com was indeed hurt, but indirectly.
The thing is, 3Com has a batallion of lawyers,
but the people hurt most by this (designers)
don't really have good means of protection.

What I found most interesting about Wes's post was
that the copying of the *design* (as opposed to the
code) doesn't even come into the picture...
Naivete is exactly it.

hhp

hrant's picture

Something interesting from the most
recent edition of Icograda's eNews:

"
We wanted to know what your reaction would be if you saw your work being plagiarised by one of your colleagues.

It seems that over a third of you would simply ignore the issue. That indeed is a striking result. About a third would try to resolve the problem by approaching the copycat directly and dealing with them personally. Just 28 percent would actually seek legal advice. It would be interesting to know if it is because you think it is no big deal or you have so little faith in the legal system. We might just look into that in one of our future polls.

Should you come across your idea and/or concept being plagiarised, how would you react to that?
Approach that designer and deal with it personally 33%
Seek legal advice 28%
Ignore it 37%
"

I'll note that Icograda is an international entity (and in practice, not just in name); I'm sure that suing people is much more common in the US for example than in China, and not necessarily because the legal system works "better"... BTW, I personally go for "approach that designer personally".

hhp

hrant's picture

In terms of "perceived value", it depends of course on your perspective! From the perspective of the *craft* of type design, piracy of Mantinia is much worse than piracy of Cholla, for example. From this perspective, sales -or even use- have no bearing. But of course that's not the only perspective.

So, from what perspective are any two fonts *exactly* and *always* the same? From that of people who want to bring into existence as many guilty people as possible, with no regard for true typographic merit. Like lawyers.

hhp

Joe Pemberton's picture

What hurts more? The lack of font sales that
should have gone to T-26? Or the fostering of
the idea that if you see a font you like, you
can just recreate it and distribute it as your own?

//joe

Joe Pemberton's picture

While it's not type design, I had to gasp when a
friend passed me a link to Oxona.com.
To my horror and amusement I found a pixel for
pixel rip-off of the design for 3Com that I
completed earlier this year. It's totally
blatant--everything from the grid to
the photography style is a copy. It's
as if they got their hands on the original
templates.

So, I'm sitting here, torn between feeling
flattered that they love my work, enraged by
their thievery and amused by their ignorant
stupidity.

Has anybody else had this happen?

//joe

Joe Pemberton's picture

Someone at 3Com passed along the URL to me... I'm
waiting to see if they sic the lawyers on 'em
before I send any scathing emails.

//joe

anonymous's picture

Joe,

I am wes and I wrote oxona.com. I would just like to straighten out the situation. I am only 17 and I started oxona just to learn about business. I have seen lots of bad sites but I liked the 3com layout. kudos for that design. I don't claim to be a graphics designer, I am more of a coder. I don't mean to create flame messages on newsgroups, and I assure you that I didn't steal ANY code or images. I wrote every line on oxona.com. I don't know how you even found my site. I don't advertise and i don't even do any business. I am too busy in school as a computer science major at georgia tech. Again I apologize and I don't want to cause any issues. I don't think that I broke any laws. If I have then please contact me and I'll be happy to cooperate.

wes

Joe Pemberton's picture

For those of you listening in, I've taken this
offline... essentially it's 3Com's issue, not
mine. (In terms of the legal muck.)

But the lingering question is: does this
really hurt 3Com? I don't know... but it's a great
example of the general naivete about the
creative problem solving designers do, as well as the
level of effort involved.

Stephen asks: "Is this problem as serious as it
appears to me?" Yeah, I think so. I'm inclined to
think that a little education could go a long
way.

//joe

anonymous's picture

Just to get back to the original subject of copying/pirating of type designs. This isn't just a current trend, but has been a problem for hundreds of years. There are many examples, from the copying of the Romain du Roi, to electrotyping in the 1800s, to all the American knock-offs of European faces in the first half of the 20th century.

Stephen originally used the phrase "devaluation of type design." I guess this is one way to look at it, but then again, did type design ever have much (perceived) value to 99.99% of people to begin with?

While it would be nice if everyone who uses fonts on the computer became "educated" about type - so that they would then use it properly and pay for it properly - this seems pretty unlikely. I think on the whole most people wouldn't be interested enough or care enough to be "educated." And I'm not lamenting this fact because it makes perfect sense at this point in time.

Maybe the big thing is to really start to try to go after designers/art directors who steal type and use it to make money by designing things with it (and who all know very well that they should be paying for their type & don't need to be "educated").

One last thing about valuing or devaluing type. I think it has a lot to do with the type in question. To be honest, I don't think I could get too worked up about the piracy of most T-26 faces. I would say that the amount of time and effort that goes into the average T-26 face is much less than a high quality font done by more 'traditional' designers. Just because T-26 released something (and overcharges for it) doesn't mean that it necessarily carries a certain amount a value (intrinsically). All fonts are not created equal. The T-26 library is heavy on the ephemeral and slapdash. While there are of course exceptions, it seems like they do very well in adhering to a "quantity of quality" model.

That said, obviously I realize that the (copyright) law is the copyright law.

anonymous's picture

May be I am missing something about ^^WHAT IS DESIGN ABOUT?^^ Is it comunication? That's what I was taught. If not,Then what? In my opinion, The value of any typeface is not the time and effort that is put into it but what is ^^gotten out of it by the "end-user^^ and the viewer (the public). A T-26 font may be the best choice to comunicate a particular idea to a partcular group at a particular point in history.These are not "museum pieces, are they? Does not ther value lie in their use?

anonymous's picture

To Anonymous' point:

Yes, but it is not the ONLY value of design, and specifically not the only value of TYPE DESIGN.

Your opinion, taken alone and as stated, ignores the rights of the artist to receive compensation and to determine who can and who cannot use her/his work. In my business, I design typefaces as well as offering other graphic design services and creating watercolor paintings. If I create, for example, a multiple-use piece for a client, I expect to be justly compensated for it. If someone else comes along afterward and uses that same piece again (my work) without my permission, I should have legal recourse to receive compensation for that use of my piece (as well as punitive recourse for the unauthorized use of my work). This goes for my fonts as well as my design and watercolor work.

Remember, before metal type, there was only hand-lettering (inscriptional, illuminated, calligraphic, etc.), and the artist earned and deserved her/his just compensation. In a nutshell, the invention of metal type simply made the lettering profession more prolific and convenient. The invention of digital type had the same effect, only exponentially more so. However, none of these advancements should negate the obligation of compensation to the originator of the work, nor the obligation to seek permission for use. The ways of achieving this have developed over the years into licensing and other contractual agreements, but the obligation is there nonetheless. It is sadly true that the law has much catching up to do in protecting the full rights of artists and designers, but the obligation to do so remains.

The notion of "perceived value" is more or less irrelevent as well. If a person doesn't perceive a value of a work, then she/he certainly has no obligation to utilize it. This is true whether the work is artistic (museum or otherwise), illustrative, photographic, literary, sculptural, typographic, or any other creative endeavor. Specifically in the case of type fonts, there are more than enough bundled fonts (which is actually a contracted form of compensation, pre-arranged by the designer) and fonts that are distributed freely by their designers out there to satisfy those who perceive no value to type design. Let those who do value the craft reap the benefits of new innovations, and let them give just compensation for it.

I didn't get into design to simply communicate, or to simply share my creations with the world, and I make no apologies for that. I also have the real-world concerns of putting food on the table and paying my rent, among many others.

The moment the world tells me others have an open right to my work without just compensation and without seeking my permission, and that I have no legal recourse to enforce anything otherwise, that is the moment I find a new profession. It would simply no longer be worth my effort.

anonymous's picture

Why do everone post font collections on newsgroups, the one is alt.binaries?. Why do agency or designers pull fonts down for FREE. They do not care if it high quality or low quality . font. They do not care how long it took in a makeing. Or craft involved in a makeing. Once it released, it be FREE fro teh takeing. So type, they say, makes no value, really. When someday foundries or type designers get together and the leaders figure out solution, value of type will goe spiral downward. This is the problem. A solusion. tHE OTHER discussion about t-26 does not ean mkuch. They are sharing boat with Bitstream and ADobe. But people do not necessary tell people to copy thier fonts, if theY bad or good or not.

anonymous's picture

I recentl was pointed to this site from a colleague and would like to comment on the kid who ripped off 'Joe's' website. Joe, people are talking about this at my 'shop' and I don't have anything to do with font design per se. It's quite interesting. You and your partner, Jared, are certainly top-echelon programmers and the exposure, I'd bet, is helping rather than hurting. It points out to 3COM how lucky they are to have someone of your magnitude. Now for this Wes kid. He's 17 at Georgia Tech? Does someone have a contact for him. I'd bet tthere are some trade journals that would love to explore the issues surrounding Wes and other 'hackers' like him who are trying to legitimize themselves with corporate jobs. Looking foward to continued updates. And what a wonderful job on this site.

holiday wishes,

David Beeler
web programmer

Syndicate content Syndicate content