Fonts and Kindle

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Fonts and Kindle

Post by fabben »

I would like clarification of fonts and Kindle books. I read an article discussing fixed fomat kindle books versus reflowable books (the standard).

If you use a non-kindle font then for a reflowable ebook you have to also supply the font as well as the book. Whereas with a fixed format book each page is effectively a JPEG, in which case the font forms part of the image.

The article stated that there is no infringement of copyright if the font forms part of the image whereas if you supply the font then you are effectively distributing the font and copyright laws come into effect.

My gut instinct would be to say that the above statement is not true. However I do produce PDF's all the time, and although I haven't sold any yet, I would have never have given the fonts inside those PDF's a second thought.
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Post by AndyJ »

Hi fabben,
There are two separate aspects to the protection of fonts (or as the UK legislation describes them) typefaces: physical type used in letterpress printing or typewriters etc and software fonts. Clearly your question relates to the latter, but for the sake of clarity it is worth briefly looking at the protection of the former too, because it does have some implications for the design of software fonts.
Physical Type. In the UK the design of typefaces is protected under both the Registered Designs Act (RDA) 1949 (section 1(3)), and the Copyright Designs and Patents Act (CDPA) 1988. The RDA only applies to the physical object (a piece of type) and not the impressions (or text) which the conventional printing process produces. There is no protection for typefaces under the UK law for unregistered designs but there is under the EU Unregistered Community Design Right (when it lasts for 3 years from initial publication). EU Registered Community Design Right is largely similarly the the UK RDA protection. In the USA and many other countries worldwide, there is no copyright protection for physical typefaces, although in the US their Design Patent framework would allow the registration of the design of a typeface.
The CDPA protection covers typefaces as artistic works, but the actual protection is severely limited by sections 54 and 55 of the CDPA:
54 Use of typeface in ordinary course of printing.
(1) It is not an infringement of copyright in an artistic work consisting of the design of a typeface—
  • (a) to use the typeface in the ordinary course of typing, composing text, typesetting or printing,
    (b) to possess an article for the purpose of such use, or
    (c) to do anything in relation to material produced by such use;
and this is so notwithstanding that an article is used which is an infringing copy of the work.
(2) However, the following provisions of this Part apply in relation to persons making, importing or dealing with articles specifically designed or adapted for producing material in a particular typeface, or possessing such articles for the purpose of dealing with them, as if the production of material as mentioned in subsection (1) did infringe copyright in the artistic work consisting of the design of the typeface—
section 24 (secondary infringement: making, importing, possessing or dealing with article for making infringing copy),
sections 99 and 100 (order for delivery up and right of seizure),
section 107(2) (offence of making or possessing such an article), and
section 108 (order for delivery up in criminal proceedings).
(3) The references in subsection (2) to “dealing with” an article are to selling, letting for hire, or offering or exposing for sale or hire, exhibiting in public, or distributing.

55 Articles for producing material in particular typeface.
(1) This section applies to the copyright in an artistic work consisting of the design of a typeface where articles specifically designed or adapted for producing material in that typeface have been marketed by or with the licence of the copyright owner.
(2) After the period of 25 years from the end of the calendar year in which the first such articles are marketed, the work may be copied by making further such articles, or doing anything for the purpose of making such articles, and anything may be done in relation to articles so made, without infringing copyright in the work.
(3) In subsection (1) “marketed” means sold, let for hire or offered or exposed for sale or hire, in the United Kingdom or elsewhere.
So to put it simply in respect of physical type, it does not infringe copyright or registered design right to use a font or typeface to produce text.

Software Fonts.
Here the problem is slightly different. Here it is not so much the appearance of the typeface which is protected (indeed in the case of many soft fonts, they appear identical to their printed versions) but the software which produces the appearance on the screen or output via a printer connected to a computer etc. This is usually done through either raster or vector rendering techniques, although other methods are also possible. Thus an old font which was no longer protected by copyright in its physical appearance, could, if rendered by using a proprietary computer graphics technique, be protected anew because of the copyright in the soft font. But not all soft fonts are protected, and even if they are, that does not affect the use of the fonts assuming that the software used to produce the output is licensed. So for instance products from Microsoft or Adobe etc come with a licence to use the embedded fonts in any way the user wants, so long as the overall product is being used within the terms of the End User Licensing Agreement (EULA). Thus if you copied someone else's installation DVD of a software product for use on one of your devices without a licence that would infringe the EULA, and so, amongst other things, using the soft fonts within the program would also infringe, although it is highly unlikely that the software maker would just seek to litigate over the use of fonts, if there was evidence of a more general, possibly criminal, infringement of their software.
Turning to the issue of ereaders and ebooks generally, the various different methods used to encode the text and to render it on the screen are one of the main ways in which vendors can lock in their customers/subscribers to their own proprietary system and try to prevent pirating, by making it difficult to transfer content from one platform to a different one. I suspect that the font problem you have encountered is there for exactly that purpose, and it seems likely that trying to circumvent the embedded fonts may well invalidate the EULA, even if it isn't technically an infringement of copyright in the software.
There are several places where you can obtain a wide range of open source soft fonts, many of which have a very similar appearance to well known TrueType or Bitstream fonts, such SIL, Ubuntu and Open Soft Unicode.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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