TYPE DESIGN INFORMATION PAGE last updated on Wed Jan 23 02:15:40 EST 2019






The Bitstream--Linotype controversy [Adam Twardoch]

Adam Twardoch explains the agreement between Bitstream and Linotype when Bitstream created its collection in the 80s by digitizing typefaces from several sources: When Bitstream was launched in the early 1980s, many traditional font foundries such as Linotype and Monotype were not interested at all in digital font. Bitstream and URW++ were the first two digital font companies, and what they did (to large extent) was they digitized existing typefaces from the catalogs of Linotype, Monotype, Berthold, ITC, Bauer etc. They managed to sign agreement with some of the companies but not all Linotype was one of the prominent players that did not agree to license the typefaces to Bitstream. Originally, Bitstream was not really a competitor for Linotype. It was more that the entire digital technology was a competitor to Linotype since Linotype were still interested in selling people their old proprietary typesetting equipment, and were not very fond on DTP and personal computers. It is a fact, however, that Bitstream did not act ethically by digitizing the typefaces that they did not belong to them. At some point, Linotype realized that making digital fonts will bring them money and of course from that point on, Linotype and Bitstream were competing in the field of digital fonts, and Bitstream still did not have authorization to sell for example Humanist 777. For some typefaces, such as Optima or Palatino, Bitstream did not get authorization from Linotype but they got authorization directly from the designer (Hermann Zapf) so they named their version of Palatino Zapf Calligraphic and Zapf Humanist. Unfortunately, in case of Adrian Frutigers typefaces (Univers, Frutiger), Bitstream did not get authorization from the author and yet continued to distribute these. It was only in the late 1990s when this conflict was finally resolved and Bitstream and Linotype agreed on some licensing terms. The facts are that ethical standards change. Copying typeface designs was OK 20 or 30 years ago, just like copying software was. As for typeface designs, companies like Compugraphic, Monotype, Linotype, Letraset made knock-off versions of each others designs. But these were designs made for one particular technology: Letraset had dry transfer, Linotype had their properietary equipment, Monotype had their proprietary equipment etc. There simply was no Helvetica or Frutiger that could work with Compugraphic or Monotype machines, so the vendors made the knock-offs by huge popular demand. Changing the whole technology line only because one needs to use a particular typeface design was not an option: the typesetting equipment cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and, as I said, the typefaces were tied to a particular model. Copying the designs was piracy, but at least there was some reasonable explanation behind it. And most importantly: the alternative was simply not there. I repeat: there was no Helvetica or Frutiger for the Monotype equipment. So if somebody had Monotype equipment and needed to use Helvetica, he had to revert to a clone. This is why in the 1970s the international typographic association (ATypI, Association Typographique Internationale, http://www.atypi.org) established a Code Morale, a set of rules that under certain conditions allowed copying of typeface designs. Practically all typefoundries were members of ATypI at that time and they essentially institutionalized controlled piracy. With digital font formats, it is different. There is no rational or objective reason to copy somebody elses typeface designs. At last years conference in Prague, ATypI members (who nowadays are individual typographiers and designers as well as delegates from software companies like Microsoft, Adobe, Fontlab, from larger foundries like Linotype, Monotype, FontShop or Bitstream, and from smaller font companies like House Industries, Emigre and many others) retired the old Code Morale so the institutionalized piracy is no longer permitted. The reason for that is simple: all foundries offer fonts in formats that work on all systems and in all applications. So there are no more acceptable reasons to produce knock-offs or clones for newly released typefaces. If somebody needs Minion or TheSans, then he/she should get the original from the respective foundry. Practically all of the worlds fonts are available for sale through easy-to-use Internet webshops like MyFonts.com, Fonts.com or FontShop.com. In additional, many countries have local font distributors that sell fonts from practically all vendors. The vast change in technology has dramatically redefined the rules of play. Today, there is simply no more excuse for font cloning, because the originals simply are available.

The Bitstream--Linotype controversy
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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