No good deed goes unpunished: Cease and Desists from Christian Boer

A few months back, I decided to try to create an open-source and free font for dyslexic readers (OpenDyslexic). Back when it was in its infancy, I got an email from Christian Boer. My first thought was, “Oh cool! It’s Christian Boer! That’s freaking awesome!!!!”

But, it wasn’t an awesome email. It was a cease and desist. Legal threats are not awesome. And making threats of violence against others to prevent competition is not very nice. It’s really just preventing others from filling a gap in the market. And, if his work is really high quality work, he shouldn’t have to resort to threatening me to succeed. He would succeed without them. I don’t like seeing legal threats happen to others, and I really, really did not like it happening to me. His demands were also unreasonable. He wanted me to pull my typeface off websites I didn’t control.

Why did I continue working on it? The great positive feedback from people who liked my work. And I’m sure my work is why he’s now added an italic version to Dyslexie (see, I did have a positive impact on his life).

Funny thing is, back at this stage, much of the font was still Bitstream-Vera-Sans, and his proof of my “infringement” included a Bitstream character (see PDF he attached: image dyslexie regular open dyslexic).

In anycase, while I did recommend the purchase of dyslexie to others at one point, I stopped after these emails. If you do wish to purchase a font, I instead recommend Gill-Dyslexic, which is also a very nice typeface, and has a monospace version for all you terminal junkies and coders :). Also, his price is very reasonable (Gill Dyslexic is $20 ea., which is quite possibly MORE than reasonable. It’s a bargain as far as typefaces are concerned. Dyslexie is a few hundred Euros with the license forcing the user to be a snitch — at least for the least restrictive license). He also never once threatened me for making something similar. He did at one point say that there is a reason a typeface has a price, and it’s true. He is able to put a lot more work into his typeface, and it does show. I’m still working on mine after a year, and can only afford to work on it during whatever free time I can afford to schedule, which isn’t much. I have, at any given point, 3 jobs I’m working on.

Anyway, here are the emails:

From: Christian Boer
Date: Jan 16, 2012 9:29 AM
Subject: studiostudio / typeface dyslexie regular copyright
To: [email protected]

Hello Abelardo Gonzalez,

I have noticed that the font: open-dyslextic
found on the location:

http://www.fontriver.com/font/open-dyslexic/

http://abbiecod.es/

presents an infringement on my copyrights of the font: Dyslexie regular
registered in 2008
The font ‘Dyslexia regular’ and ‘Dyslexia bold’ are protected by
worldwide
copyright and belong to my intellectual property rights.
It is clear to me that you have looked at Dyslexie regular to made the
font open-dyslextic

I have made a overview and attach to this mail of open-dyslextic and
Dyslexie regular for you to see that it clearly presents an infringement
on the copyright of Dyslexie regular.

I hope this notice is sufficient to remove the font immediately and
stop any other infringement at once. I expect a response within 48 hours

 

My response:

I received your request to remove the content. Because US copyright
law specifically excludes typefaces, therefore this is not infringing,
and I respectfully decline to comply with your request to remove the
content.

-Abelardo Gonzalez

And his final response: I just stopped replying after this point:

Hello Abelardo Gonzalez,

The software associated with the font in the USA already protected.
It is not clear why you as Spanish designer relies on U.S. law.
Because you have copy it in Spain and offers the copied work in Spain and other countries where the copyright law is applied, so your are in infringement.
So with the above arguments I ask you again to remove the font in 24 hours from now otherwise i need to turn to a lawyer.
Do not get me wrong if you want to do something to help people with dyslexia, its no problem, but if you copy work/design directly
it is wrong and you know that. I think your are cleaver enough to think of an own idea and design to do that.

Both emails he sent to me ended with his super-huge signature:


Met vriendelijke groet,
Yours sincerely,

Christian Boer

studiostudio
Prinses Margrietlaan 330
3708WH Zeist
The Netherlands

T: +31 (0)30 -87 92 396
M: +31 (0)6 – 23 23 46 60

skype: studiostudio.nl
www.studiostudio.nl

Kvk: 30244054
Btw: NL 126441686B01

Het lettertype ‘Dyslexie regular’ en ‘Dyslexie bold’ zijn beschermd
door
wereldwijde copyrights en intellectuele rechten. Het reproduceren en/of
distribueren van niet geautoriseerde kopieën is een overtreding van het
internationale copyright en is ten strengste verboden zonder
schriftelijke
toestemming van de copyright eigenaar Christian Theo Boer, eigenaar
van studiostudio (Kvk: 30244054; btw: NL 126441686B01).

The font ‘Dyslexia regular’ and ‘Dyslexia bold’ are protected by
worldwide
copyright and intellectual property rights. The reproduction and /
or distribute unauthorized copies is a violation of the international
copyright and is strictly prohibited without written permission from
the copyright owner Christian Theo Boer, owner of studio studio
(Commerce: 30244054, VAT: NL126441686B01).

De informatie in dit e-mailbericht en eventuele bijlagen is
vertrouwelijk
en is alleen bestemd voor de beoogde ontvanger(s). Indien u dit bericht
ten onrechte heeft ontvangen, wordt u verzocht de verzender daarvan
in kennis te stellen en het bericht te vernietigen. Het is niet
toegestaan
de hierin opgenomen informatie op welke wijze dan ook te gebruiken
of openbaar te maken.

The information contained in this e-mail, including possible
attachments,
is confidential and is solely for the use of the intended recipient(s).
Should you have received this e-mail unintentionally you are then
requested
to inform the sender and to destroy the message. It is prohibited to
use
or disclose the information this message contains in whatsoever way.
—————————————————————

Comments

  1. You go girl! Legal threats like these are silly, a waste of time and effort and generally just not very nice. I think something should be done about unreasonable patent/copyright/trademark claims. On an unrelated note: I like your blog. The styling is very clean and calming. Also, it is quite original. I think I have seen the blogging software before, but the font and everything make it unique (atleast as far as I know ofcourse). The kudo thing is new to me as well. Works nicely. Keep it going! :-)

    Reply
  2. As a professional graphic designer, I looked at that PDF with incredulity. There is no way anyone who knew anything about fonts would think your font is a copy of the commercial one.

    Major type studios release fonts every year that are more similar to each other than your font to that other one, and they don’t sue each other. You were right to ignore the C&D.

    Reply
  3. This is interesting. Christian Boer has literally, word for word, said the following about releasing his typeface in a well-respected Dutch newspaper:

    “So I thought, I shouldn’t be selfish. This can help others.”

    So much for his selflessness. $60 for home use, $445 for professional use. How is this helping people with dyslexia?

    From what I can tell the only thing that you have copied from his font is the concept of adding more weight to the bottom of glyphs. That is okay. You cannot copyright an idea, only the way in which it is expressed. Christian Boer knows that.

    Reply
    • Typefaces do take a huge amount of effort, so I can understand the prices. He doesn’t do a good job of communicating charity over business though. The educational version, for example, is one o the most expensive packages, and only publishers (Last I checked) could get the regular and bold typefaces.

      Reply
  4. The fonts are not similar enough, I’m not sure of the state of copyrights on fonts in your country but this will never pass a close scrutiny by a judge. The shapes of the letters are simply not close enough. The fact that both fonts are bottom-heavy stems from utility, not design. It’s an idea, and ideas are not copyrightable. They can be patented, but he doesn’t hold a patent, does he now?

    Reply
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  6. If he wanted a monopoly on dyslexia friendly font technology, he should have applied for a patent, and even that would be a dubious proposition. He didn’t do this, so he can go eat dirt.

    Copyrights and other IP protections don’t exist to shield someone from competition. Your work is not a derivative of his, end of story. If he doesn’t like competition, then I’m afraid he’ll have to learn to live with disappointment.

    For him to demand that you cease your efforts would be like Stephen King threatening to sue Clive Barker because the latter is writing horror novels.
    Lee Reynolds recently posted..Mouthpiece for Ahamadinejad Gets Behind Kicked on NY Street by Iranians

    Reply
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  8. Hi, this is an awesome initiative. As a pretty good reader myself (and not a cognitive scientist) I don’t have the possibility to try these kinds of things out. It’s a great work you’re doing and even better that it’s free and open!

    What I’m very interested in would be if you have had the chance to compare various font sizes in longer reading sessions. I noticed myself that I had to zoom one step in Firefox to read the font on your blog more easily (my screen is 96 PPI).

    And if you haven’t made any such hobby research, don’t feel stressed about it if you’re working on other stuff. But further on I think it would be a good idea to have “recommended font sizes” for any user interested in using your font!
    Mikael “MMN-o” Nordfeldth recently posted..Ye Banished Privateers släpper fritt på nätet

    Reply
    • If you have suggestions for recommended font sizes, please stop by the github page and add them in. :) I do think it depends on the computer though. On windows, with cleartype turned on, I have to increase my font size also. Probably means I have to work harder on the font smoothing. :)

      Reply
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