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.

20 comments

  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 myfonts.com, 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;

    (c) 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 FontFont.com.

  8. Adam Twardoch

    Erik,

    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,
    Adam

  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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