October 2008: President Bush on Monday signed into law legislation creating a copyright czar, a cabinet-level position on par with the nation's drug czar. Two weeks ago, the House sent the president the "Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act", a measure the Senate approved days before creating a cabinet-level copyright czar charged with implementing a nationwide plan to combat piracy and "report directly to the president and Congress regarding domestic international intellectual property enforcement programs." The White House successfully lobbied the Senate to remove language tasking the Department of Justice with suing copyright and trademark infringers on behalf of Hollywood, the recording industry, manufacturers and software makers. But the Bush administration also said it didn't want a copyright czar, a position on par with the nation's drug czar Congress created in 1982 to wage the war on drugs. Lawmakers, however, sent him the package anyway and the president signed. Right, another law that will instantly make millions of Americans criminals, while the real pirates have yet to be punished (Monotype for pirating Book Antiqua off Zapf's Palatino, and many other examples, too numerous to mention). Will the jails be large enough? The Fall of the American Empire continues and no one is speaking up. Reaction by the typophiles is swift and predictable:
- Thomas Phinney, Adobe: It would be nice to have copyright on the design, rather than only the more limited (and more difficult) design patent.
- Darrel Austin: Of course! The war on drugs has been such a success!
- Charles Ellertson: Be careful what you ask for. "Oh, that's just another Egyptian. XXXX holds the copyright for Egyptians." Well, it would cut down on the number of new fonts, and enrich the lawyers.
- Bill Troop: Charles raises an interesting point. You have to wonder, sometimes, if this industry deserves better copyright protection, and it did, whether it would be beneficial. The present design patent system is practically useless as the examiner seems to take the case as presented, regardless of merit. But had we a system such as the German one that found Segoe was virtually identical to Frutiger, then Myriad would probably also be considered identical to Frutiger. No less an authority than Frutiger himself considered it so. As for Burgess - - has a shred of independent evidence emerged to support the theory that this man, never hitherto associated with type - - was capable of designing TNR or any other typeface? Has a single page of a single book in Times printed before 1932 emerged? Where are the secret 'bonds' between the corporations that Mike Parker talks about? I retain my belief that Mike Parker has perpetrated a marvellous prank. There is not a single piece of verifiable evidence to support it as history. The Burgess case only illustrates how shallow a case we have to make for type copyright. [...] No company has been more active in seeking copyright protection than Adobe. But Adobe's record is so tarnished that I find myself unable to take much interest in font copyright. [...] Font Bureau never stoops to assert that its knockoffs are original, much less worthy of patent. But it makes a superb case, which happens to be largely true, that its knockoffs are substantial improvements, technically, aesthetically, and functionally. I have been thinking about Font Bureau's model for years, and the more I think about it, the better I think it is. Type cannot and should not be over-protected. The key, as in all else, is honesty.
- Chris Harvey: Font design copyrights will have the following results:
1) All existing activities will continue.
2) Countless students will be criminalized.
3) Font foundries will add more legal fees to their expenses and then to their prices.
4) Numerous design ideas will become off limits due to vague accusations of similarity.
5) The definition of inspiration and interpretation will be left to lawyers and judges.
6) Numerous existing fonts will become evidence in labyrinthine legal arguments, setting confusing and contradictory precedents.
It's a terrible idea, sure to be a nightmare for everyone. I understand and appreciate the hard work that goes into font design. I buy my fonts legally. But they are TOOLS afterall. They are not the creative end product. Restrictive EULA's are offensive enough. This would tip the balance into destructive chaos, with only lawyers reaping any benefits.
David and Goliath ⦿