Typeface copyright infringement can restrict technical advances

Letters to the Editor should be sent to Design Week, 50 Poland Street, London W1V 4AX. Fax: 0171-970 4197. e-mail Design-week@centaur.co.uk

I am surprised and disappointed that Hugh Pearman “felt no scruples” about taking a copy of Albertus from a friend (Private View DW 16 January). Fonts are software and, as such, it is illegal to copy them and sell or give them to a third party. It makes no difference whether they are licensed individually or come as part of a software product.

The fact that Berthold Wolpe was paid a flat fee for the design back in the 1930s is no excuse – royalty agreements were not commonplace then (in the type world) and presumably Wolpe was satisfied with the deal at the time. I suspect that many of today’s type designers would be happy to receive a design fee, rather than depend on royalties from sales.

Albertus is a successful typeface, ensuring the initial investment has been returned. Many other type designs are less successful and never recoup their original costs. However, even a well-known face such as Albertus requires continual investment if it is to be available on the latest typesetting systems.

Originally cut for hot-metal setting, it was re-worked in the 1960s for photo-typesetting, in the 1970s for digital typesetting and in the 1980s for PostScript. Recently a TrueType Enhanced Screen Quality (ESQ) version has been made for use in multimedia and screen-based products. Many of these processes are labour-intensive, requiring considerable investment.

If companies such as Monotype are to continue developing their typeface libraries and adapting them to new technologies, it is essential that current products are not abused in the marketplace, but properly licensed.

Robin Nicholas

Head of Typography

Monotype Typography

Redhill, Surrey RH1 5DZ

It’s a fair cop – Hugh Pearman

Latest articles