[OpenFontLibrary] Public Domain Fonts due to lack of copyright notice

Liam R E Quin liam at holoweb.net
Thu Dec 25 22:58:48 PST 2008

On Fri, 2008-12-26 at 00:43 -0500, Fontfreedom at aol.com wrote:
> >On Mon, 2008-11-10 at 21:13 -0500, Fontfreedom at aol.com wrote:
> >> It's my understanding that anything published in the U.S. before
> March
> >> 1, 1989 without a valid copyright notice is in the public domain.
> >> (unless the work was registered with the copyright office, fees
> paid
> >> within a short time period.)
> >
> >Your understanding is incorrect. [...]
> I stand by my understanding of US copyright law. Insofar that
> (Generally) "anything published in the U.S. before March 1, 1989
> without a valid copyright notice is in the public domain." Here is a
> reference:
> In the document titled "Copyright Office Basics", created by the:
> U.S. Copyright Office
> 101 Independence Avenue SE
> Washington, DC 20559-6000 
> You can find this document by going to www.copyright.gov, and clicking
> on "Copyright Basics".
> http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf
> It states:
> Notice of Copyright
> The use of a copyright notice is no longer required under U.S. law,
> although it is often beneficial. Because prior law did contain such a
> requirement, however, the use of notice is still relevant to the
> copyright status of older works.
> Notice was required under the 1976 Copyright Act. This requirement was
> eliminated when the United States adhered to the Berne Convention,
> effective March 1, 1989.

This is an oversimplification -- elsewhere in that same document it's
noted that registration of copyright without a notice was also
sufficient under the 1976 act.  Also, the document continues to say,
in the event that a work is infringed, if a proper
notice of copyright appears on the published copy or copies to
which a defendant in a copyright infringement suit had access,
then no weight shall be given to such a defendant's interposition
of a defense based on innocent infringement in mitigation
of actual or statutory damages [...]
What this is saying is the same thing I said -- the lack of a
copyright notice does not place a work in the public domain.
Instead, it limits the damages, because people can claim that
they didn't know the work was copyright.
I will also reiterate that a *typeface* is not copyrightable,
but that a computer implemnentation (a font) is another matter.

However, just about all of the commercial outline fonts I've seen
have contained copyright statements in them.  The Type 1 font
format encouraged this very strongly, for example. 


Liam Quin - XML Activity Lead, W3C, http://www.w3.org/People/Quin/
Pictures from old books: http://fromoldbooks.org/
Ankh: irc.sorcery.net irc.gnome.org www.advogato.org

More information about the OpenFontLibrary mailing list