Copying Kanji using Handwriting

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Copying Kanji using Handwriting

Post by keith_12345 »

I have been copying Kanji from here, in pen: ... roke_count
Is this copyright infringement of the font or typeface? Or is the font or typeface a standard non-stylistic representation of the Japanese letters that is therefore public domain?Please bear in mind that this is Japanese Kanji, not English letters, so the laws may be a bit different.
I'm in England.
Last edited by keith_12345 on Mon Jan 06, 2020 8:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Copying Kanji using Handwriting

Post by AndyJ »

Hi keith,

This subject illustrates (sorry about the pun) the principle which is at the heart of copyright: the distinction between the idea and the expression of the idea. The former is not protected but the latter can be, provded that the work exhibits sufficient originality and reflects to some degree the personal creative choices of its author.

So here the kanji characters (much like letters and whole words in Western languages) are ideas or facts. However if an artist or typeface designer creates unique and stylised versions of the characters (and Japanese and Chinese calligraphy is a recognised artform), then these will be protected as artistic works. So if you start from the basic 'stick' strokes of kanji characters you will not infringe any copyright, just as you would be fine with writing a note in English using a pen or ball-point to form the letters which in turn form the words. Indeed the fact that kanji characters are called ideograms reinforces the concept of being the expression of an idea or concept. 著作権法に関するヘルプ*

And just as stringing together a large collection of words in English can create a literary work which is possibly protected by copyright, so stringing together a quantity of kanji characters could conceivably infringe the copyright of a Japanese work of literature. However if you don't actually speak Japanese, this is unlikely to be an issue while you study the writing.

If you want to study the ancient art of calligraphy involving kanji characters then you can make copies of existing works you find provided this is for your own personal private study and research. You can even publish the copies that you have made provided this is not for commercial purposes and you acknowledge the source material. (see section 29 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988).

Looking at typefaces more generally, the law of copyright with respect to them is fairly specific and complicated. By and large it is perfectly OK to use any typeface in the course of normal printing irrespective of whether it is protected by copyright (see section 54 of the CDPA) but it is not permissible to make printing materials which copy the particular design of a copyright-protected typeface. However since these days virtually all printing is done using software fonts rather than pieces of metal type or typewriters etc, this distinction has become somewhat blurred. Suffice it to say that, if you decided to create a word-processing program similar to Microsoft Word, you would not be able to include the vast majority of software fonts without first obtaining the necessary licences. However, you or I as users of your hypothetical program, or indeed Microsoft Word, can happily do so without infringing any copyright.

Incidentally, copyright in the design of a typeface normally lasts for the same period as copyright in any other artistic work (the lifetime of the author plus 70 years), but copyright in the materials used to reproduce the typeface (ie pieces of metal type, or software fonts for instance) only lasts for 25 years from the date the materials are first put on the market. (section 55 CDPA)

I hope this answers your question.

*according to Google translate this means 'Help with copyright law'.
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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Re: Copying Kanji using Handwriting

Post by ATMOSBOB »

Japanese typefaces or font sets are a special case. I don't know all the details but apparently the copyrights belong to the Japanese Government and they charge a very high fee for their use. The guy who fixes my Macs also fixes for a Japanese typesetter locally. He told me that each set costs her £2,000 compared to about £50 for a latin set from Monotype.
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