3

When looking for the Helvetica font, it usually costs you a certain amount of money because it is not a free font. But when I am using the free open source software LaTeX, I can use the font wherever I want. But I cannot, for example, use it when writing documents in Word or OpenOffice.

Why is that? What kind of “special deal” or treatment is this?

2

Font shapes are not legally protected, whereas font names are. As such, one can make copies of fonts and give them new names. Helvetica is one of the 'base' fonts included in PostScript printers. This made having a 'desktop' version very desirable. Some years ago, the font foundry URW made their Helvetic clone (Nimbus Sans) available under an open license. This allowed the font files to be included in open source software distributions, including LaTeX set ups, with no fee or legal restrictions. Subsequently, these font files have been used as the basis for the 'TeX Gyre' fonts: see http://www.gust.org.pl/projects/e-foundry/tex-gyre for the fonts and https://www.tug.org/TUGboat/tb27-2/tb87hagen-gyre.pdf for background.

The TeX Gyre fonts are available in OpenType format, and so can be used with (for example) OpenOffice (technically and legally). Note that these fonts are 'metric compatible' with the 'parents', i.e. they can be used directly as replacements for Helvetica, etc. with no change to the appearance of documents.

  • 1
    Well, I took a closer look at “Nimbus Sans”, “Free Sans” and “TeX Gyre Heros” – and they all differ from each other in a slight but detectable way. So, it still seems to be illegal to just copy fonts and give them other names, right? Because if it wouldn’t be illegal, there would be no need for changes. And why should fonts then even be sold? I could just download them, give them another name and use them for whatever reason. This does not seem very legit to me. – Nemgathos Dec 6 '17 at 17:31
  • 4
    Why do you say font shapes are not legally protected, but font names are? If font names are protected, how are they protected (e.g. trademark?), as a mere name is not eligible for copyright. Also, even if the font shape is not protected for some reason, the computer file that generates a specific shape is likely eligible for copyright protection. – Brandin Dec 6 '17 at 22:56
  • @Brandin becasue in the USA they are not. – joojaa Dec 7 '17 at 7:20
  • @Brandin: Because in Germany they are not; fonts generally don't have enough "Schöpfungshöhe" to be legally protected. Only the names can be protected as trademarks. But IANAL. – Reinstate Monica - M. Schröder Dec 7 '17 at 10:14
  • "Shapes are not legally protected." Is that true? Sorry for using wikipedia: "SSI had used the FontMonger program to copy and rename fonts from Adobe and others. They assumed safety from prosecution because, though they had directly copied the points that define the shapes from Adobe's fonts, they had made slight adjustments to all the points so they were not technically identical. Nevertheless, it was determined that the computer code had been copied." *en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – LateralTerminal Dec 7 '17 at 18:22
1

My assumption is it just falls back on Helvetica only when using an Apple computer or computer with Helvetica already installed. This is what happens with web fonts that use Helvetica.

From what I'm reading it doesn't use Helvetica at all, it uses Nimbus Sans which is just very very very similar to helvetica but its not identical.

In this link it says:

• Nimbus Sans (i.e., Helvetica)

Which I'm pretty sure just means it's a replacement for Helvetica.

As far as the law is concerned...

In the USA it's hard to say. I can give a few examples here for you to research.

URW++ was involved in a 1995 lawsuit with Monotype Corporation for cloning their fonts and naming them with a name starting with the same three letters. As typeface shapes themselves cannot be copyrighted in the United States, the lawsuit centered on trademark infringement. A US court decided that Monotype's trademarks were "fanciful" and did not have descriptive value of the actual products. However it also decided that URW was confusing the public deliberately because "the purloining of the first part of a well-known trademark and the appending of it to a worthless suffix is a method of trademark poaching long condemned by the courts." The court issued an injunction preventing URW from using their chosen names.[15]

I'm not a lawyer but I can site this case. To explain why "Font shapes are not legally protected," might not be the correct answer.

A legal precedent was set in the case of Adobe Systems, Inc. v. Southern Software, Inc. (SSI).[12] SSI had used the FontMonger program to copy and rename fonts from Adobe and others.[12] They assumed safety from prosecution because, though they had directly copied the points that define the shapes from Adobe's fonts, they had made slight adjustments to all the points so they were not technically identical.[12] Nevertheless, it was determined that the computer code had been copied.[12][16]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_property_protection_of_typefaces

and also take a look at

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nimbus_Sans

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.