Crime and punishment

15 May 2002

With the drawn out nature of such cases, the high level of input required by the foundries and the sheer level of piracy involved in this case one would tend to assume that those involved would be pushing for stiffer penalties, more help from legislation and, perhaps, criminal charges and custodial sentences. It seems that such things are not black and white, even when it’s your rights that have been infringed.


‘Our jails are too full already’

Summing up the issue of criminal prosecutions, with custodial sentences, Rudy VanderLans probably did it most concisely ‘Our jails are too full already’. This may sound a little too liberal for many, but the motivation for Emigre to follow this course of action is not targeted at punishment of an individual. VanderLans goes on to say ‘We’re not filing lawsuits out of vengeance. We’re more interested in safeguarding our work than punishing people. Unfortunately, bringing someone to court is the only effective method available to protect our livelihood.’

Again the cost and longevity of such actions comes to mind. Emigre has taken part in litigation of this sort several times, it seems the process never gets any easier, or any cheaper, ‘It sounds like a terrible cliche, but filing lawsuits is prohibitively expensive. The only way for us to file this law suit was to join forces with the other type foundries, which was easy because they were all similarly hurt by Apostrophe’s actions.’ VanderLans is also realistic about the effect on the defendant, as well as that of the plaintiff, ‘It’s not that difficult to take action against individuals such as Apostrophe. The lawsuits we have filed all had the merit necessary to go the distance according to the courts. It’s the never ending judicial process that hurts both parties in the end due to the huge cost involved.’

While many have painted those protecting their rights in this way as vultures, abusing the law, it is clear that none of the foundries involved invited such infringements of their rights, none are keen to repeat such legal actions, and to a certain extent have fairly liberal views on the whole issue of copyright.

‘Intellectual property and the law aren’t always a perfect fit, especially the law as it stands in 2002’


‘Intellectual property and the law aren’t always a perfect fit, especially the law as it stands in 2002’ says Jonathan Hoefler. ‘In the United States, the best example of this is probably the current hubbub over the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which is going to need more interpretation than any other single law I know of.’

Hoefler’s view of the whole area of intellectual property protection is tempered by battles going on elsewhere. ‘As someone on the production end of the intellectual property food chain, I tend to side with the licencing watchdogs: I’m very eager to guarantee that my work isn’t being abused. At the same time, the current battle between Hollywood and Silicon Valley over MP3s gives me real pause – I’m squarely behind the people who agree that ripping tunes from a CD so I can play them on my iPod constitutes ‘fair use’.’

All this sounds reasonable, from someone who is taking a responsible view of intellectual property – both his own, and that of others. But what happens when people ignore their responsibilities? Hoefler responds, framing his answer in the context of the affect on other users, and the rest of the type industry, ‘The problem is that honest users can’t convince the powers that be that they’re planning to behave honourably – which is why what Apostrophe has done here has been so diabolical. By stealing our work and broadcasting it to the world, he’s basically sent a message to the entire type industry that we can’t expect our rights to be respected.’

Clearly here the overall implication is that as rights infringement increases, so will pressure on rights holders to find ways of protecting their work. All intellectual property law is based on an implied contract between producers, consumers and the legislature – producers make their work available to consumers for a return on the investment they made in it’s creation, the legislature helps protect the producers and gives the public access to a wide variety of work that may otherwise be unavailable. Certainly it’s true to say that were there no financial incentives to producers, of all types of intellectual property, there would undoubtably be less choice in the market place (given that there would be little room for producers to act on a fulltime, professional basis).

This implied contract on all parties breaks down with such acts of gross infringement. We have recently seen moves in the entertainment market to limit piracy by copy protection. If such rights abuse continues against typeface creators how long can it be before similar controls are put in place?


‘I am, however, for a much more open policy than most of my colleagues’

Some hope that the future lies in cooperation on a ‘human’ level, Erik Spiekermann of FontShop International (FSI) has a radical vision: ‘I am, however, for a much more open policy than most of my colleagues, especially those at FSI. I would like to see an open CD with all the FontFonts on it given to trusted customers who would sign a document requiring them to buy a licence as soon as one of our fonts was used publicly.’ His reasoning for this view is clear enough ‘As long as they make their design choices or just show different fonts to clients, they should be encouraged to use as many as they like. I believe that would make designers use a greater variety of typefaces. Right now, they use whatever is on their hard disk, regardless of how it got there. This is an honour system, and I think it will work.’

There is a little more to this than meets the eye – Spiekermann is not suggesting a ‘shareware’ type honour system, he is being very specific about who he might distribute such CDs to: trusted clients. What really is on offer here is the chance to influence the senior people in design businesses, and hopefully there would be a trickle down affect. ‘Fonts are invisible’, continues Spiekermann. ‘But if I make a purchase person or a production manager sign a paper which promises to prosecute any illegal deals, he’s going to look out for that stuff much more closely.’

Read the rest of this article:

Just who is that masked man? 15/05/2002
Internet heroes and villains hide behind pseudonyms, but is there any real anonymity involved?

Damage done 15/05/2002
What is the affect of having your main, or in some cases only, source of income uploaded to the internet for anyone to download freely?

Crime and punishment 15/05/2002
Are there direct ways to help resolve conflicts of this sort, can the law be changed or is copy protection an answer?

Why did Apostrophe do it? 15/05/2002
What motivates a person to expose themselves to what could become a devastating legal investigation?

What’s the conclusion? 15/05/2002
The case is settled, everyone goes home, but is there a lasting legacy?


Clive Bruton w:

Related sites

Erik Spiekermann w:

FontShop International w:

US: Digital Millennium Copyright Act w: