A few years ago I was hunting for a typeface. I first spotted it on a shirt Joe Strummer was wearing in an old photo... "C. CITY ROCKERS - ENGLAND" it read. I spent days, no... weeks of my time researching this typeface, and trying to find out if someone had made a font. They had not. I was obsessed... finding old pictures (this was before Heated Worlds had come along) and scouring typeophile message boards. From what I gathered this typeface had originated as a set of iron-on letters - mostly around NYC in the 70's and 80's and was used primarily by the B-Boy and Hip Hop scenes. Using those photos I drew and created a basic font (including alternate "T" "Y" and "N" and "S" letters). It took me months, drawing a full set of letters / numbers as well as teaching myself how to use font building software. Oof.
Then today someone who follows me sends me a link to a font called TROUBLE II by Billy Argel... an exact copy of my font (minus the numbers and alternate letters) being given away for free... It launched on July 2nd - Around the time the few orders I would get per month completely dried up. Of course it links back to his site where he is selling a commercial version that has those numbers and alternate letters as well as the lightning bolts I used as brackets in my typeface.
So copyright is tricky when it comes to fonts / typefaces. Here's how it works. First of all, many of you use the word "Font" when you mean "Typeface" a "Font" is the software that delivers the typeface so you can use it on your computer. For example - Helvetica is a typeface. Helvetica.ttf that is installed on your computer so you can use Helvetica is a Font. It's kinda like Green Day - Dookie is an album but an MP3 is the way you listen to it. Helvetica would be "Dookie" and Font would be "MP3."
Where it gets tricky is Typefaces are NOT covered under US copyright law, but FONTS are. If someone took my font and changed the name from "grandmasterclash.otf" to "mynewfont.otf" then I could sue them. But if someone takes an image of all my letters and auto-traces them in illustrator and makes a new font using font making software, there's nothing I can do but complain... and that's what happened.
Now I expected there to be pirates and I expected people to make similar looking typefaces, but I never expected someone to trace all my letters and release their own font... heartbreaking.
So what am I going to do? There's nothing I can do. Except make the personal license of my font free of charge. So now it is - Click here and select "personal license" from the drop down. If you previously paid for a personal license? It is now a commercial license. Thank you for supporting me and my work.
What can you do? Just spread the word. I'd rather people use my font than the knock off version.
If you download my font for free and you use it in something commercial? Please buy the commercial license. It really helps. If you can't afford it... please throw me some money when you can. Thanks for reading - Ben