Rip-off explained

MyFonts obvi­ously have no qual­ity con­trol what­so­ever. Or they would have noticed that the type­face they pub­lished under the name Silk­stone was not only a bla­tant imi­ta­tion of my ITC Offic­ina, but that even the data is bad.

The copy­right field in the font infor­ma­tion shows no credit, but the per­pe­tra­tor didn’t even bother to delete the date which shows when the orig­i­nal ver­sion was released, in this case 2003. (There have been var­i­ous updates and new ver­sions of Offic­ina since its orig­i­nal release in 1989)

In order to either hide the source at least a lit­tle bit, a few let­ters were changed, e.g. the dot on the i was made square and the serif removed. But the j is the give-away: surely those changes should have also been applied to it as well? The same applied to the n and m. A lit­tle manip­u­la­tion here, none there.

And, finally, this is how it was done: the com­plete font was extrap­o­lated auto­mat­i­cally, prob­a­bly to make it look dif­fer­ent. The result is a thin­ner and smaller let­ter (the red out­line), with bad data where the auto­matic pro­ce­dure would have required man­ual inter­ven­tion to make it good. Obvi­ously too much trou­ble for some­one who’d rather pre­tend to be orig­i­nal than to actu­ally do orig­i­nal work.


  1. Wow! clearly MyFonts needs to have a bet­ter sys­tem in place to check whether the fonts design­ers sub­mit are authen­tic or not.

  2. MarcusB

    Well, if you try to buy the FSI fonts via, you’ll get this message:

    MyFonts is not yet autho­rized to sell this font directly.
    You may be able to find this font at the fol­low­ing web site:
    Font­Font Online Shop

  3. Sadly this issue is not lim­ited to MyFonts. Copy­right law, at least in the United States, does not cover type­faces. In essence, I could trade a font in illus­tra­tor and sell it as my own. This clearly need to be addressed, as it is anti­quated. Were the per­son being stolen from not as famous and influ­en­tial as your­self, I fear the rip-off type­face would still be sold.

    Per US Law on mate­r­ial not sub­ject to law Title 37 sec­tion 202.1e:

    § 202.1 Mate­r­ial not sub­ject to copy­right.
    The fol­low­ing are exam­ples of works not sub­ject to copy­right and appli­ca­tions for reg­is­tra­tion of such works can­not be entertained:

    (a) Words and short phrases such as names, titles, and slo­gans; famil­iar sym­bols or designs; mere vari­a­tions of typo­graphic orna­men­ta­tion, let­ter­ing or col­or­ing; mere list­ing of ingre­di­ents or contents;

    (b) Ideas, plans, meth­ods, sys­tems, or devices, as dis­tin­guished from the par­tic­u­lar man­ner in which they are expressed or described in a writing;

    © Blank forms, such as time cards, graph paper, account books, diaries, bank checks, score­cards, address books, report forms, order forms and the like, which are designed for record­ing infor­ma­tion and do not in them­selves con­vey information;

    (d) Works con­sist­ing entirely of infor­ma­tion that is com­mon prop­erty con­tain­ing no orig­i­nal author­ship, such as, for exam­ple: Stan­dard cal­en­dars, height and weight charts, tape mea­sures and rulers, sched­ules of sport­ing events, and lists or tables taken from pub­lic doc­u­ments or other com­mon sources.

    (e) Type­face as typeface.

    [24 FR 4956, June 18, 1959, as amended at 38 FR 3045, Feb. 1, 1973; 57 FR 6202, Feb. 21, 1992]

  4. Thanks for this, Zach. I know the legal aspects, and also the dif­fer­ence between US and Euro­pean law (the Vienna Agree­ment, etc). Adobe got fonts pro­tected as soft­ware, but if some­one retraces a font in another appli­ca­tion, the data would be dif­fer­ent and there­fore not be pro­tected.
    But pro­tect­ing type­faces has never been about the law, always about pub­lic recog­ni­tion. That is why it is so impor­tant that I make this known, although the finan­cial dam­age is neg­li­gi­ble. The dis­trib­u­tors (and that includes FontShop) have a respon­si­bil­ity to check the fonts they are sell­ing, even though the Small Print prob­a­bly gets them out of hav­ing to do more than a super­fi­cial check for copy­righted names. I know MyFonts don’t delib­er­ately spread ille­gal copies and it takes peo­ple who can iden­tify thou­sands of fonts to even find some of the rip-offs. But it is impor­tant to now and again set a prece­dent. That’s why I made such a fuss. I didn’t even find it, as I don’t trawl the sites for copies, but was alerted via Twit­ter by some­body who found it.

  5. Bob Jolley

    Luck­ily, they saw that this was a ripoff and pulled it before any copies were sold. I wish other ven­dors were so quick to act!

  6. Bob Jolley

    Either way, they took it down. I’m happy they responded quickly.

  7. Jonathan:

    Erik, why do you allow MyFonts to sell FSI’s Font­Fonts, includ­ing your own?

    MyFonts doesn’t sell any Font­Fonts, it only dis­plays them. All sales links go to

  8. Adam Twardoch


    I do appre­ci­ate your post. It cer­tainly reminds MyFonts that there is a prob­lem, and I think is a valid point in the dis­cus­sion of the duties of a font pub­lisher and of a font distributor.

    Every­body at MyFonts cares about design­ers’ rights. Your voice is a good reminder that stip­u­lates us to think of what we could do. The cur­rent pol­icy at MyFonts is that we rely on the design­ers, pub­lish­ers or users to spot prob­lem­atic cases — because there are just so many fonts that they no longer fit into one person’s eyes or brains.

    BTW: I don’t think other major dis­trib­u­tors of goods (other goods, not fonts) check for poten­tial intel­lec­tual prop­erty infringe­ments before­hand. This is not a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, just a descrip­tion of the cur­rent situation.

    Ama­zon does not check whether a book or a soft­ware prod­uct infringes some­body else’s copy­right before they put up an item for sale. But if there is a com­plaint, they react.

    Apple on their App Store (for Mac or iOS apps) also does not check whether an app does not infringe on some­one else’s right — but if they receive a com­plaint, they react.

    MyFonts pro­ceeds sim­i­larly. When a designer signs up with MyFonts, the designer assures MyFonts that the fonts are orig­i­nal art­work. But of course some peo­ple take con­trac­tual mat­ters lightly, so they cheat.

    There­fore, if MyFonts receives a com­plaint about a par­tic­u­lar font infring­ing on copy­right — regard­less of the for­mal inter­pre­ta­tion of copy­right — MyFonts reacts.

    And MyFonts does react QUICKLY. I think peo­ple such as Stephen Coles or Nick Sher­man or oth­ers who have alerted MyFonts about such cases before (and for­tu­nately, this does not really hap­pen often) can tes­tify to that.

    MyFonts removes the font from sale, and asks the designer of the poten­tially infring­ing font to show evi­dence that the font is truly his/her orig­i­nal art­work. MyFonts cer­tainly does not assume that “there is no copy­right pro­tec­tion for type­face designs in the U.S., so we don’t care”.

    But doing man­ual pre-checks for every font is not viable. I agree, how­ever, that there could be auto­mated pro­ce­dures to do more qual­ity assur­ance (in tech­ni­cal terms, so things like empty copy­right strings would be flagged), and per­haps also some auto­matic analy­sis of pos­si­ble similarities.

    This is becom­ing more and more viable and pos­si­ble to real­ize. So we at MyFonts will try to do some­thing about it. It is on our list of priorities.

    All the best,

  9. Adam Twardoch

    A short follow-up: if we at MyFonts had a big review board and bureau­cratic pro­ce­dures, it would take us much longer to actu­ally put up fonts on sale, and per­haps this would elim­i­nate some of the cases that slip through, but at the same time, if some­thing slipped through, I feel that the same pro­ce­dures would make such cases stay on sale for a long time before they are actu­ally taken down. Because if there’s a debate as to whether to put some­thing up, there’d also be a debate on whether to take some­thing down.

    We try to be quick and non-bureaucratic on both ends. We put fonts online quickly, but we’re also very quick to take them down if there’s a com­plaint. And then we review the com­plaint more thor­oughly, and make a final decision.

    I hope you’ll agree that while it may not be a per­fect solu­tion, it’s still a work­able one. :)

    Again, many thanks for rais­ing this — it is impor­tant. Among oth­ers, it’s impor­tant for one rea­son: it shows to those who are think­ing about rip­ping off some­body else’s work that their plan is short-legged. Their doings are being scru­ti­nized by the pub­lic eye, and will, sooner or later, be caught. And from my expe­ri­ence I can say that it’s “sooner” more often than “later”. So, again, many thanks — also to all those tire­less rip-off-spotters out there who have been help­ing in this.

  10. Thanks, Adam, much appre­ci­ated. I know that no-one can pos­si­bly check all the new fonts, except the pub­lic. And they do.

  11. Unfor­tu­nately, these things hap­pen all the time these days… We are liv­ing in a rip-off area. Too much MTV, Hol­ly­wood and rap music… Well, don’t expect any­one to be orig­i­nal or to feel shame for anything.

  12. Wow! A great dis­cus­sion. I think Erik’s com­ments “MyFonts obvi­ously have no qual­ity con­trol” and Adam’s fol­low­ing rejoin­der clearly shows the clash of two ideals of type-vending. Erik’s com­ments were sparked by his ideal of a clas­si­cal type foundry, where the type­faces one sold rep­re­sented what they were. But *MyFonts* see them­selves as a ven­dor, (like *Ama­zon*, as Adam noted…or like the crowd­sourc­ing sites who offer design ser­vices but no guar­an­tee of orig­i­nal­ity). But in this ever-changing econ­omy, and this Jaus-faced propo­si­tion we have in our hands, namely, the inter­net, ven­dors do need to be more cau­tious and take more respon­si­bil­ity. I am glad Adam responded, which shows they at least care about rep­u­ta­tion. This is a good start.

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