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LUC DEVROYE


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Der rechtliche Schutz von Fonts

This is the title of the German language article by legal experts Till Jaeger and Olaf Koglin which appeared in Die TeXnische Komödie 2/02, pages 35-46, 2002. It describes font protection in Germany and Europe. A summary:

  • Fonts can be protected as design (Geschmacksmuster).
  • If fonts are of artistic value and originality, they can be protected by copyright (Urheberrecht).
  • Font programs generated with Fontographer, Fontlab etc. are not protected by copyright. They say that this [generation by Fontographer, e.g.] is not enough for the European copyright, which only protects computer programs which are written by computer programmers, not computer programs generated automatically by computer programs such as Fontlab. The authors state that in the case of Fontlab it is not the "Urheber" [copyright seeker], but the "program Fontlab" that "creates" the font program. The user of Fontlab does not even see the source code or the object code of the generated font program, let alone writes the source code or object code. But in Europe, for a computer program to be protected by European copyright laws the computer program must be written either as source code or directly as object code by the computer programmer as a person, not by a machine (see also German copyright act, 69a Abs. 3 UrhG.) The legal experts state that it is the exception that font programs are written by computer programmers and hence that it is the exception that font programs are protected by European copyright acts. [Text above by Ulrich Stiehl, slightly edited.] When questioned whether hinting code in fonts make the font files into software, Tobias Hilbricht states: Font files (*.pfb, *.ttf etc.) are only protected as software, if the hinting has been done by original creative programming. Autohinting and little design changes using programs such as, e.g., Fontforge is not sufficient to make the resulting font a protectible software program. Mere inclusion of fonts either rasterized or in form of vectors makes the resulting documents not a program itself. Therefore this document is free of any software licensing issues if printed or distributed electronically.

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Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html