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How are typesetting and copyright related?

Posted: Thu Dec 31, 2015 7:24 am
by Anna
Hi folks,

Am I allowed to imitate the typesetting of a book, picture or document to typeset my own material?

Posted: Thu Dec 31, 2015 9:06 am
by AndyJ
Hi Anna,
By 'imitate' I assume you mean copy in a facsimile way, rather than create a parody of the original. And by 'typesetting' I assume you mean the font used in the original, rather than the layout of the text. Copyright exists for any font or typeface, but it does not apply to users of the typeface (printers, publishers etc). This may appear contradictory, but in fact the protection exists to prevent other manufacturers from producing a copyright typeface belonging to someone else, and goes back to the old days of letterpress printing when individual pieces of type were used to make up the text to be printed. The only application of the law these days is in the software which is used to generate typefaces on the screen or as output to a printer.
However, if you mean that you want to copy the layout of the text, a bit more caution may be required, as this feature could be protected as a form of artistic work which would be infringed if a substantial amount was copied. Much will depend of how 'original' the original text pattern was, For example where the layout of the text is merely dictated by having to flow around other objects such as images or page margins, this may not be sufficient to indicate the creativity of the publisher, whereas something like a poem by ee cummings, which is deliberately structured in a particular way by the author, may well involve the necessary originality. However the exception for quotation could be sufficient to get round the problem of reproducing some of his poetry set out in this way. However to truly infringe, you would need to use the actual words of the original, which of course would probably amount to infringement of the literary element anyway. What is more, the protection for a typographical layout of a printed edition only lasts for 25 years from first publication. This would apply to the use of a house style used by a particular publisher, by which I mean a particular combination of font(s), capitalisation, indenting and line length/spacing and in combination with other objects such as illustrations, which was instantly identifiable. An example of this might be the style of the Ladybird books from previous decades, which have recently been parodied (with permission) in an adult series of books which uses the same house style.

I hope this answers your question.

Posted: Tue Jan 05, 2016 4:27 pm
by Anna
Hi Andy,

Allow me to clarify my question. Speaking of "typesetting", I mean layout, that is the arrangement of contents; and "imitation", I mean using the similar style to the original works (of course with different elements, fonts, themes, wordings and so on.).

I've read your replies to these earlier posts:

What I see from these posts is it'll be alright to use the similar typesetting of a book cover that cannot meet the standard of a artwork as long as it causes no passing off, right? So is it OK to copy the style of book covers or copyrighted documents? And what about posters? Will the condition be the same? Some posters can meet the requirement of copyright protection.

You mentioned font and typeface in your replay. I understand that font and typeface are different, and fonts(the software) are covered by copyright while typefaces (appearance and design of words) are not covered. According to this, can I use a font freely(in whatever ways I wish, e.g. subtitle, graphic design, printing, etc.) as long as I have a legal access to that font? And moreover, can I do whatever I want with the appearance of words typed from that font(such as modification)?

Thanks ahead!

Posted: Tue Jan 05, 2016 8:36 pm
by AndyJ

Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2016 9:37 am
by Anna
Hi Andy,

Thanks again for your kind reply. I'm much clearer about what to do with the layout.

However, concerning fonts, I still have questions. Could you please continue helping me?

Now, I have Adobe CC, Mac and Windows, and the fonts pre-installed in them can be used freely, according to what I understand from your reply. But what about other free fonts licensed under SIL Open Font License, GNU General Public License, Apache License, etc.? Can fonts licensed under these agreements be used in printed material and embedded in documents? My usage includes graphic design, book covers, logos, websites, e-posters, e-cards, subtitles, etc..

I've read their EULAs. SIL have this question in their FAQ:
GNU GPL mentioned font exception in their license:
I haven't studied Apache carefully.

These policies show that fonts licensed under SIL can be used in the ways I like without worry, while fonts under GUN GPL should be paid attention to the font exception. If there's one, then I can use that font freely as well. Am I right?

Or is there any restriction that I haven't known about those free fonts? I just want to make sure, lest I'd get into trouble.

Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:10 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Anna,

You are to be applauded for being so thorough in seeking out these details. I can see why you might be confused. Fonts (more precisely 'typefaces') are quite a tricky area as far as copyright is concerned. This stems in part from the different approaches of the USA where the look or design of a font isn't protected by copyright (but might be by a design patent), whereas in most European states the design can be protected by copyright (and also by registered design right which is the EU near-equivalent to the US design patent). The software behind font rendering is protectable with copyright in both jurisdictions, although the tests for originality differ somewhat.

However in this instance, you have nothing to worry about. The GNU GPL and the SIL OFL do allow you to do exactly what you want, namely to use the fonts which came with these kinds of EULAs in any way you wish.

There is a snag with the main GNU GPL in that software released under it shouldn't, ordinarily, be mixed with copyright protected material as this compromises the GPL. However sometimes a GPL font needs to be embedded in a document which itself is made up of literary or artistic copyright material, so a mechanism is required to resolve the issue. The mechanism is called the 'font exception' or +FE. This wikipedia article explains it very well so I won't repeat it all here. The +FE doesn't affect your ability to use the fonts supplied under it, any more than it would to fonts supplied without it. The +FE is intended to protect the integrity of the open software concept.

You also mentioned the Apache licences (there are 3 versions). These are generally compatible with the GNU GPL, but since the Apache licence, unlike the SIL OFL, isn't really intended for use with fonts, they don't specifically mention font software, and they don't have an exception like +FE.

Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2016 4:22 am
by Anna
Hi Andy,

Thanks again. It's always great to have someone who is nice to answer your detailed questions patiently. I felt more assured from your confirmatory reply. I think I know more about what to do with fonts licensed under these agreements.

But I still have difficulty understanding requirements of fonts under multiple licenses. Here's this particular font, Liberation fonts ( ... stribution ). Wikipedia says it's licensed under SIL Open Font License and GPL v2 with some exceptions. What does "some exceptions" mean? Is there any aspect that is not covered by font exception? Can I use this font freely?

Since there's SIL, can the potential risk brought by GNU GPL's inadequate assurance (according to my own understanding) be neglected? Which licenses have the final say? I also noticed a passage from wikipedia, "Due to licensing concerns with fonts released under a GPL license, some projects looked for alternatives to the Liberation fonts. Starting with Apache OpenOffice 3.4 Liberation Fonts were replaced with the Chrome OS Fonts – also known as Croscore fonts: Arimo (sans), Cousine (monospace), and Tinos (serif) – which are newer versions of the same designs but made available by Ascender Corporation under the Apache License 2.0. As of July 18, 2012, Liberation Fonts 2.00.0 and above are a fork of the Chrome OS Fonts released under the SIL Open Font License, and no longer include the Liberation Sans Narrow fonts."

Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2016 11:06 am
by AndyJ
Hi again Anna,

The only time the OFL or GNU GPL run into problems is when you want to embed the font concerned in a document. Embedding is different to just 'using' a font to produce a piece of text on a printer. If you supply someone with a document in some electronic form (say in a Microsoft Word .doc, or OpenOffice* .odt) and you want the recipient to see it exactly as you produced it, the font characteristics need to be embedded in the document in case the recipient doesn't have that particular font on his/her computer.

The open software licence generally permits software to be freely reproduced and modified but with the provision that someone who modifies it may only release their modified version free of any copyright restrictions. Where the software which 'draws' (either as a bit map or using vector graphics) a font is used in the context of a document which contains copyright text, the open source principle is theoretically being breached because the user is not releasing their document without any copyright restraints. This means that where a font is embedded (and you as a user won't always know if this has been done) then the user may breach the open software licence, unless the +FE exception has been applied by the owner of the rights in the font. This is a real technicality and no user, as far as I am aware, has ever been taken to court over this kind of licence breach, nor is it likely to happen. The problem is mainly one for the big companies who release the licensed fonts, and who are understandably keen to avoid any litigation.

Proponents of open software licensing tend to be purists which is why there are several different open software licences, each finely tuned to meet a particular need of its proponents. The Apache Open Software licence is described as a permissive licence as it contains slightly more restrictions on how any derived software may be exploited.

So to summarise, interesting though all of this licensing is, you as a user do not need to worry the copyright implications of using any fonts which you have acquired legally, irrespective of the specific open software licence which comes with it. If you want, you can even use FontForge to create your own fonts, based on more established font designs.

*OpenOffice was originally developed by Sun Microsystems as a free alternative to Microsoft's Office software. When Sun was bought by Oracle in 2010 there was much concern within the development community (who were not employees of either Sun or Oracle) that the new owner was trying to depart from the true open software licence model. As a consequence, some distributions of Linux (notably Ubuntu) stopped bundling OpenOffice and started using Libre Office instead because of these concerns.

Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2016 4:12 pm
by Anna
Hi Andy

Thank you for your thorough explanations. They're great help to me.