User:Tepples/font laundering

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A typeface is a set of glyphs that represent a writing system in a particular style of lettering. A font is a machine-readable representation of a typeface, such as an outline-based TrueType file, a set of glyph bitmaps, or even a film negative in an old phototypesetting machine. Copyright law treats an outline font as a computer program whose output is glyph bitmaps.[1] The typeface itself may be subject to a design patent or English or Irish typeface copyright. As of 2014, exclusive rights in a typeface itself expire in 25 years or sooner in most countries, which is far sooner than the ordinary copyright in an outline font. So once these exclusive rights expire, the goal is to create your own outline font that represents the same typeface by "laundering" it through an uncopyrightable intermediate representation.

Foundries, or publishers of scalable digital fonts, anticipate such laundering and use clickwrap agreements to add substantial use restrictions beyond copyright. But even these agreements have loopholes to allow their fonts to actually be used in a product. Here's how to work around one major foundry's EULA (no legal advice; run it past your own lawyer first):

  1. Illustrate a pangram from a collection of pangrams.
  2. Set the caption in a suitable typeface. Prefer one more than 25 years old to avoid subsisting exclusive rights.
  3. Render the caption as a bitmap. A 64px setting with grayscale antialiasing should be more than enough to capture the shape of each glyph.
  4. Sell these illustrations on physical products, such as T-shirts, mousepads, and anything else Zazzle or CafePress offers. This makes your design files a "commercial product" rather than "font software" under the EULA's definition.
  5. Trace the outlines into parabolic arcs. Follow the guidance in Apple's TrueType manual: first place on-curve points at corners, at endpoints of straight segments, at inflection points, and at points on the outline where the tangent is horizontal, vertical, or 45 degrees from such. You can use this step to correct any glyphs that you dislike.
  6. Redo letter spacing by hand. It helps to set different pangrams with different combinations of letters.
  7. Add hints with ttfautohint.
  8. Come up with a name for your edition that can't be confused with any name owned by another foundry.
  9. Document all these steps in the manual of your own edition of the font to prove provenance.


  1. Adobe Systems v. Southern Software

External links

Collections of pangrams: