About cloning a public domain typeface for Grantha

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jamadagni
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About cloning a public domain typeface for Grantha

Post by jamadagni » Fri Jun 17, 2011 6:31 am

Hello. This is my first post on this forum.

This is a general question about font creation so I am asking here. Hope it's appropriate. And yes I realize that for official legal advice I should hire a lawyer. This is just me trying to do some homework to know the background of the situation.

I am working on encoding Grantha, an Indian script, in Unicode. Please see: http://sites.google.com/site/jamadagni/ ... -FINAL.pdf (7 MB). (Note: this document was submitted two years ago, and a lot of development has happened since then. This document doesn't 100% reflect my current views on how exactly the script should be encoded, but for purpose of the present discussion only the attestation samples that are given in that proposal document are important.)

Now while waiting for the script to be officially approved for Unicode, we are looking to creating a font for the script. We intend to make the font freely available under the OFL/GPL. So there are no commercial interests involved. We only want to revive the usage of the script which is currently slowly declining.

Now as you can see from the majority of the printed samples in the proposal, only one typeface has been used for the majority of printed Grantha texts. Apparently as Grantha was largely an academic/religious script not much variety was demanded for. Apart from one bold-like variant of the same typeface (which also I have documented in my proposal) I never found any other old printed typeface. Anyhow, everybody using Grantha here likes the look of this typeface and finds it very aesthetic and so we are thinking of cloning this old typeface.

Now there are only a couple printing presses who provide limited Grantha support today, and they only have the same typeface. There are no computer fonts for this typeface -- it is just that old hand-positioned stuff (you call it metal type?). I talked to the proprietor of one of them and he said they have had only the one typeface since their establishment back in 1903 in his grandfather's time. And he doesn't know where the typeface came from -- which foundry etc. As far as my inquiries go, nobody else (apart from these few, and they're all situated in or around the same town in Tamil Nadu) supports Grantha typesetting. And there is no-one selling publication-quality commercial typefaces/fonts for Grantha either.

Given that this line of enquiry petered out, I searched for the oldest printed book I could find using this typeface. A friend pointed out a 1901 publication at http://www.noolaham.org/wiki/index.php? ... தனிசுலோகம் viz http://www.archive.org/download/bharath ... 589mbp.pdf. If you look at the PDF you will find that the same typeface as seen in the other samples in my Grantha proposal is found even in this printing almost 110 years old. Another source assured me that he has a still earlier publication from 1860s (also having the same typeface).

Given that the typeface is at least 140 years old, that there are no vendors selling this typeface, that there are no other fonts existing that mimic this old typeface, I thought there would be no problem in creating a font based on this public-domain typeface, especially seeing as the font is going to be free and open source.

I talked about this with a lawyer friend of mine here in India and he says provided I have proper documentation as to the age of the font (140 years) there should be no problem.

But I still wanted to look at the larger picture. Specifically, I am aware there are lots of Times clones around. Times is a very old Latin script typeface, is it not? Based on this old typeface, if somebody genuinely creates a font fully on their own efforts, then I presume there are no copyright/patent issues? How is the Times situation regarded in Western (i.e. w.r.t. us in India as Eastern) contexts?

Especially the following passage from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Times_Roman:
Free variants

Times Roman and Times New Roman are proprietary fonts.[11] There are some free software metric-compatible fonts used as free Times Roman and Times New Roman alternatives or used for font substitution:

URW++ produced a version of Times New Roman called Nimbus Roman in 1982. Nimbus Roman No9 L, URW's PostScript variant, was released under the GNU General Public License in 1996,[12][13] and available in major free and open source operating systems.

FreeSerif, a free font descending from URW++ Nimbus Roman No9 L, which in turn descends from Times.[11][14] It is one of free (GPL) fonts developed in GNU FreeFont project, first published in 2002. It is used in some free software as Times Roman replacement or for Times Roman font substitution.

Liberation Serif is metrically equivalent font to Times New Roman developed by Ascender Corp. and published by Red Hat in 2007 under the GPL license with some exceptions.[15] It is used in some GNU/Linux distributions as default font replacement for Times New Roman.[16]
... are interesting as they reveal that existing typefaces can be cloned and published as open source fonts without copyright/patent issues. But still I would like people here to review and comment on the situation.

Thanks for your patience in reading this long post (I always seek to give the entire background) and I once more request your valuable comments.

Thanks again.
Shriramana Sharma

William
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Re: About cloning a public domain typeface for Grantha

Post by William » Fri Jun 17, 2011 12:09 pm

Welcome to the forum.
jamadagni wrote:There are no computer fonts for this typeface -- it is just that old hand-positioned stuff (you call it metal type?).

Hand set metal type is called metal type.

Please be aware that machine set metal type is also called metal type.

Some machine typeset metal type was cast so that each line of words was cast as one piece of metal. For example, a Linotype machine.

Some machine typeset metal type was cast so that each character was cast as one piece of metal. For example, a Monotype machine.

Type could be cast using a Monotype machine so as to produce a font of type for handsetting.

Type used for handsetting was usually cast using a stronger alloy of type metal than Monotype machine set for a particular job, as the hand set type would typically be distributed back into a type case after use ready to be used for a later, different job.

The traditional process of printing with metal type is known as letterpress printing.

Is the following link to the webspace of The British Library of use to you?

http://www.bl.uk/

I entered the word Grantha in te search box and got over two thousand results, though I do not know if any of them will be of use in your study about the typeface.

William Overington

17 June 2011

Edited later as I had not got the way of producing the quote correct.
Last edited by William on Fri Jun 17, 2011 3:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

vanisaac
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Re: About cloning a public domain typeface for Grantha

Post by vanisaac » Fri Jun 17, 2011 1:24 pm

Apologies for the completely off-topic response by William there, Jamadagni.

The information I've been able to glean - mostly from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Public_domain and the wikimedia public domain file tags - is that type designs, per se, cannot be copyrighted, only the actual scalable font files as computer programs (Adobe vs. Southern Software, Inc). Which means that as long as you are creating the actual TTF files by yourself based on the images of these old printed works, you are fine in the US and almost everywhere else (the UK is a bit more complicated). Even then, the current maximum copyright length in the world makes all works older than 1923 in the public domain, so you seem to be doubly protected.

I would like to ask you how the Grantha proposal is coming, however. I remember someone (you?) calling in to the August UTC, and it seemed like you were well along in the process, but don't remember too many specifics.

-Van Anderson

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Re: About cloning a public domain typeface for Grantha

Post by William » Fri Jun 17, 2011 4:03 pm

vanisaac wrote:Apologies for the completely off-topic response by William there, Jamadagni.

Well, I did answer one question that was asked.

Also, I telephoned the British Library yet unfortunately no specialist from the Asian and African Studies enquiries line was available at the time and I am hoping to telephone again.

I am trying to find out if details of which company produced the typeface can be found. Maybe it was produced in England or maybe in India.

Back in the 1960s the Monotype Corporation in England produced a publication with a title something like Languages of the World that can be typeset using a Monotype machine. I do not know if Grantha script is in it: if anyone has a copy to hand it would be helpful if he or she could have a look please. I know that there were many scripts in the publication.

You mention the UK and I am in the UK.

My way of looking at this is that if someone is trying to get everyone on board over using some glyphs it is best to try to find out who owns the rights and discuss it with them or, even if it is in the public domain by now to give an academic credit and thanks. Also, maybe there is a museum with much useful information.
vanisaac wrote: Even then, the current maximum copyright length in the world makes all works older than 1923 in the public domain, ... .

I am not a lawyer, but I think that that is not correct.

Consider that someone produced a work in 1920.
Suppose that that author lived from 1890-1960.
Is the work still in copyright?

I believe that the answer is yes in the United Kingdom and I think that it is yes in a lot of other countries as well, as the seventy year time period before copyright ceases starts from the decease of the author.

If a work is regarded as authored by a company the period is from another time point, maybe from publication.

William Overington

17 June 2011

vanisaac
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Re: About cloning a public domain typeface for Grantha

Post by vanisaac » Fri Jun 17, 2011 5:18 pm

William wrote:
vanisaac wrote:Apologies for the completely off-topic response by William there, Jamadagni.

Well, I did answer one question that was asked.
And the correct answer was "yeah, it can be called metal type". An essay on the vagueries of linotype and monotype technologies only served to obfuscate the fact that you had absolutely no pertinent information about copyrights and their applicability to typefaces.
vanisaac wrote: Even then, the current maximum copyright length in the world makes all works older than 1923 in the public domain, ... .
William wrote:I am not a lawyer, but I think that that is not correct.

Consider that someone produced a work in 1920.
Suppose that that author lived from 1890-1960.
Is the work still in copyright?
I don't believe so. I am not a lawyer either, but I believe those terms don't apply to works as old as that. Like I said, from what I can tell, all works made prior to 1923 are definitely in the public domain in the US, and seem to be in the public domain elsewhere - the US is known for having nearly the most stringent copyright terms in the world (Côte d'Ivoire is +4 years). Futhermore, type design is explicitly not covered by copyright almost everywhere, except that there are some exceptions in the UK; but as far as I can see, these only last 25 years from publication. I reiterate, from what I've been able to find online, there are no works published prior to Jan 1, 1923, that are still under any copyright in the world, and fonts have significantly fewer protections than that.
William wrote:I believe that the answer is yes in the United Kingdom and I think that it is yes in a lot of other countries as well, as the seventy year time period before copyright ceases starts from the decease of the author.
Which is modern copyright law, not necessarily former, and doesn't seem to apply to typefaces:
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 wrote: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..
Van

jamadagni
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Re: About cloning a public domain typeface for Grantha

Post by jamadagni » Sat Jun 18, 2011 3:27 am

Hello people and thanks for the replies.

@William -- please do inquire with British Library or other sources as to whether the type foundry exists etc. An article I read on Tamil typography seems to indicate that most of the old Tamil typefaces have been made in England (not surprising given the colonial rule) and I suspect somehow that the Grantha typeface was also done in England. As you say, it would be good to give academic credit even if it is not in copyright (or even copyrightable).

@Van -- yes I had called in to the UTC meeting. And though it's slightly off-topic for this thread, Grantha had its stumbles, but it's now back on track hopefully. I am informed that the GOI will submit a revised proposal as per feedback from the TN Govt in time for the August UTC.

In general, given the situation with GPLed lookalikes of Times existing, and given that Times is after all just 1930 (compared to 1860 for Grantha) I think I'll go ahead with the font making, based also on the advice of my legal friend (maybe I'll just officially retain him as my lawyer for this purpose).
Shriramana Sharma

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Re: About cloning a public domain typeface for Grantha

Post by William » Sat Jun 18, 2011 9:33 am

jamadagni wrote: @William -- please do inquire with British Library or other sources as to whether the type foundry exists etc.

I have this morning had a discussion with a gentleman on the help line and have now emailed him the links to this thread, namely the direct link to your second post and the link to the thread itself.

William Overington

18 June 2011

vanisaac
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Re: About cloning a public domain typeface for Grantha

Post by vanisaac » Sat Jun 18, 2011 11:05 am

I almost forgot the big one, which is that an evolved writing system is, by definition, in the public domain. So unless you are actually copying the particular vagueries of a given typeface (e.g. importing an image of the letters and creating an outline directly from that image), then your font is unambiguously your own.

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Re: About cloning a public domain typeface for Grantha

Post by William » Wed Jun 22, 2011 5:45 am

A gentleman from Monotype here in England wrote as follows, in an email.

quote

Monotype has never produced a Grantha Script font. The Indic and S.E. Asian fonts that we have produced from hotmetal right through to the present day digital typography are all for current rather than historic scripts. This range of Indic scripts is still basically the same as in the 1963 Languages of the World publication.

end quote

William Overington

22 June 2011

Dave Crosby
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Re: About cloning a public domain typeface for Grantha

Post by Dave Crosby » Sat Jul 30, 2011 4:21 pm

Aut nunc aut nunquam

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