November 30, 2002

More on the Palatino story


These are comments and addenda on the Palatino story collected from various sources. Palatino was designed from 1948-1950 by Hermann Zapf and has become a hugely successful typeface. It is controversial, because it was copied by so many so often, and its designer was cheated out of a lot of income. First we start with a table of equivalences to get going.

Andover Autologic
Andover II Varityper
Atlas Castcraft (OPTI)
Book Antiqua Monotype a rip-off
CG Palacio Agfa/Compugraphic
Criteria Southern Software Inc (SSi)
Elegante Harris
KatzenDisplay Southern Software Inc (SSi)
Malibu Autologic
Marathon B&P Graphics
PA 10
Pagella GUST Aka TeXGyrePagella: extension of URW Palladio
Paladium Agfa/Compugraphic
Palatino Linotype official owners
Palatino Adobe
Palatino Agency Type Films of Chicago
Palatino SuperSpecial Type Films of Chicago
Palation Werk Berthold
PalazzoOriginal Softmaker faithful to the original
Palisade WSI
PalmSprings Corel
Paltus Antiqua
Parlament Scangraphic
Patina Alphatype
Paxim Scangraphic
Photo Palamino
Pontiac Wang
PT Padua
QTPalatine Qualitype
URWPalladio URW
Zapf Calligraphic 801 Bitstream not bad

Apostrophe's opinion

Apostrophe's opinion on some of the intellectual property issues. The expression "intellectual property" constitutes in itself a sort of oxymoron, since "property" usually means something tangible while "intellectual" doesn't. So when someone is warned against doing derivative work, it borders on the hilarious when you see the big picture. If derivative work were to be condemned, then every repetitious newspaper article or tabloid column would be a crime. Let's say that you wrote a short story. That story had a plot that you outlined for your own purposes and of course never published. The plot is visible intellectually through the story, but if someone were to write down the "intellectually visible" plot and publish it in an analysis, are they to be condemned for releasing someone else's intellectual property? Not in my books. Redundancy was never a sin. Maybe boring, perhaps sneaky, but not a sin. So when someone like Rich Webb posts subtle fireworks like "And the associated legal actions", he's just not in Kansas anymore, but in the brainwash booth instead.

Your question actually mentions small-time stuff like Arial and Geneva, but when you delve slightly deeper into the subject, you run into the sticky maze of Book Antiqua, the mother of all derivative work. People who usually warn others against derivative work claim to have the designer in mind. And that's the only exit there is. You simply can't justify warning others against derivative work without rationalizing it through the benefit of the original designer. But when you look at other aspects of the industry, this logic can put you at a loss. Check out some designers out there. Some of them sell a font on their own web site for, say, $50, and at the same time sell the same font through a distributor for the same price. Insert light bulb here.

If I sell you a pound of cucumbers for $1, I make the $1 from it. If I give the cucumbers to my cousin, then my cousin sells them to you for $1, I get only 5 cents from the transaction. Huh? Something must be self-explanatory there, because I've never seen it explained anywhere, and for the life of me I can't seem to understand it. All I see is a one-way reasoning that says: I planted the cucumbers, so I'm free to sell them however I like for whatever price I like, and it isn't anybody's business how my benefit gets affected. Well guess what? If I cop an attitude such as this one, I can't exactly blame anyone for planting the same kind of cucumbers and selling them for cheaper than I do. What's more, I can hardly blame anyone for buying my cucumbers then using their seeds to plant their own in order for them to avoid buying more cucumbers from me in the future. If planting then raising then harvesting a cucumber costs me $20, while if I were to buy it it would cost me $40, oh-hell-yes I'll plant it. And the manuals on how to plant cucumbers cannot be outlawed.

Unlike Monotype's work on Book Antiqua, most derivative work shows a lot of ingenuity. Take the beginner of this thread for an example. Andre, who perhaps has no idea what Fontographer and Fontlab are, was willing to spend hours condensing the characters of a font by crunching code. His only purpose in doing that was to have a font to use in a program he wrote, and that the font is not someone else's. Now that's what I think of as ingenious consideration. If he were to contact Microsoft or a typographer to have the font made for him, they would have probably done the same thing he did, but in faster ways, and charged him a fortune for it. In some people's view, that would be ethically acceptable and everything else would be corruption. I think it would be plain idiocy, waste, submission to someone's opportunistic logic, and ethics have nothing to do with it. Ethics work both ways, you know. Whenever they don't, one side of the story must be hypocritical. I'm all for the designers making money, but there's a difference between doing business as usual and laying the law for the hunt. Most derivative works have a utilitarian end. People don't add another engine to their lawnmowers if their lawnmowers were satisfactory to them. Besides, where is the line drawn? How many Garamonds are out there selling for $60 each? How many Palatinos are out there selling for $50 a shot? This is probably the biggest double-standard around. If Bitstream or Adobe or URW were to do derivative work, it's reproduction with improvement in mind, but if WSI or Brendel were to do derivative work, then it's highway robbery. Is this a double-standard or what? If people have objections to what Andre did, let someone speak with enough justification to their objections. A link to TypeRight and a shadow of legal canines are not enough. TypeRight members themselves do derivative work (check Bruton's custom-made fonts, and Ralph Smith's fonts), so either this logic is not supposed to have two ends or people are expected to bob their heads and pay the bill with no questions asked.



Rich Webb

[Rich Webb's opinion on the matter, quoted in its entirety.] Part of the answer goes back to how, in the U.S., the *name* of a type family could be protected but the *shape* of any individual letterform could not be. I think this was based on the (perhaps mistaken) idea that "there are only so many ways to draw an 'a'" and was more-or-less workable back in the days of metal type. If type foundry B wanted to produce a version of a typeface owned by foundry A, B would have to collect type samples, draw the faces (with slight differences for each point size), and cut new metal punches. Not an easy job even with tools like pantographs.

The end result was a newly created typeface that may have been quite similar to the copied face but one that required some measure of skill and thought along the way to production, and one that would necessarily have some differences in the details of the implementation.

Fast forward to the era of digital type. Some of the rules haven't changed. Type foundries (and individuals) can still start with a printed copy of any typeface and draw/scan/digitize it, add hinting and kerning information, and sell it (or give it away) under a new name. Even given the shapes of the various letter forms to start with there is quite a lot of skill required to turn those shapes into a quality digital font, especially a text face.

However, U.S. courts have decided that what can not be done is to start with the digital form of the font e.g. the .ttf file, just "change a few things," and declare it to be a new font. That is not to say that you can't modify a font file for your own use so that, for example, the upper case I and lower case l are distinguishable or adding a slash to the zero character. However, just moving a few anchor points or even converting the font through a font editor and stretching it a few percent still leaves the font as substantially somebody else's work.

No different, really, than using a hex editor to change all instances of "Microsoft Word" to "AcmeInc Editor" in the executable and then reselling it. However, creating a new word processor from scratch, even one that looks like and acts like MS Word, is a lot more defendable. It's not a perfect analogy (cf. Lotus v Borland) but you can get the idea.

Rich Webb Norfolk, VA

The bottom line

Well, WSI, SSI, Brendel, Softmaker, and others get harassed for selling rip-offs. Yet, Bitstream, URW, Agfa and Monotype go free (even though all of them sell Palatino rip-offs). Why can some steal Zapf's design and sell them, and why are others not allowed to sell them, let alone give them away for free on a web site? Do you have to belong to some club? How does one become member of such a club?

To complicate matters, there are differences between the various versions of Palatino, all pointed out in the text below. [Click on the images to get enlarged versions.]

The original Palatino

The original Palatino was designed by Hermann Zapf, while he was working at the Stempel AG in Frankfurt. The original font can be recognized by the missing foot serifs of p and q and by the long ascenders (b, d, f, h, k, l). The picture was photographed from "Das Druckwerk" by Prof. G. Barthel, 1963, page 39. [Text and photograph by Ulrich Stiehl.]

Linotype Palatino for hot-metal slug-composition

This version has been adapted for the Linotype slug composition machines. It can be recognized by the symmetrical foot serif of p and the asymmetrical foot serif of q. The picture was photographed from "Das Druckwerk", page 162. [Text and photograph by Ulrich Stiehl.]

The original Palatino for photocomposing machines

The original Palatino for photocomposing machines (Diatype and Diatronic, produced by the Berthold AG) was widely used in Germany until the early nineties. It was a high-quality font, identical in design with the original Palatino for hot-metal hand typesetting. The picture was photographed from "Berthold Types" (1985), volume 2, page 1106. [Text and photograph by Ulrich Stiehl.]

Present-day Linotype Palatino

Present-day versions of Palatino for imagesetters and laser printers, for instance "Linotype Palatino" for PC, Mac etc., can be recognized by the symmetrical foot serifs of p and q and the reduced ascenders. Today only the italic p and q are without serifs. Hermann Zapf considers the new "Linotype Palatino" (1998) as the definitive version of his typeface, which was first released in 1950 by the Stempel AG.

[Linotype Palatino] departs tremendously from the original Palatino. For instance, E and F did not have serifs at the middle cross bars originally, p and q did not have foot serifs, the serif of k was much more elegant, the y too etc. etc., and what is more: The x-height was smaller (= the ascenders longer) making for a much more elegant typeface (similar to Bembo).

When Berthold went broke, the original Palatino seems to have vanished from the type face market. At least, I do not know any company that still offers it. [Text by Ulrich Stiehl.]

URW Palladio

URW Palladio is a free font donated by URW to the ghostscript project. It is almost identical to the digital version of Linotype Palatino, but there are differences: the upper serifs are straight, not sloped, and the characters are a bit narrower. Also, as far as I can tell, no URW Palladio weight carries any of the nice old style figures. Especially the OsF number "1", with its characteristic roof, is worth taking a closer look at (in the Palatino fonts with old style figures, of course).

Zapf Calligraphic 801

Not to be outdone, Bitstream enters the fray with Zapf Calligraphic 801.


And how about that shameless copy by Monotype, Book Antiqua? We know that Zapf was quite upset by this. Even more upsetting is that Monotype never even thought about withdrawing that face and offer apologies to Zapf. Since Monotype is now Agfa, how about a withdrawal by Agfa-Monotype? The current Agfa "director of words and letters", Allan Haley, is a fantastic person, and should be in a position to make this grand gesture of respect towards Hermann Zapf.

Copyright © 2002 Luc Devroye
School of Computer Science
McGill University
Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6