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Guy creates open-source, free font for dyslexic readers; gets copyright cease-and-desist threat

The title says it all. As noted in First Free Digital Font Optimized for Dyslexics Arrives,

The plight of dyslexic individuals served as inspiration to Abelardo Gonzalez, a New Hampshire-based mobile app designer, who devised a clever font to help dyslexics read digital text easier.The font, dubbed “OpenDyslexic“, employs a trick in which the bottoms of characters are weighted.  Curiously some dyslexic individuals visual processing cortexes rotate images that look slender, making characters appear backwards or upside down.  By making the bottom look “heavier” the font reportedly reduces this kind of visual “bug” in the brains of people with this disability.
Mr. Gonzalez wasn’t the first to use this trick, he explained, but he was the first font designer to make an affordable version.  He comments in a BBC News interview, “I had seen similar fonts, but at the time they were completely unaffordable and so impractical as far as costs go.  I figured there’s other people who would like the same thing but had the same issues, and so I thought I’d make an open source one that everyone could contribute to and help out with.”


“The response has been great: I’ve had people emailing saying this is the first time they could read text without it looking wiggly or has helped other symptoms of dyslexia.”


Then he “was contacted by font designer Christian Boer (who sells an alternative font called dyslexie for $69 USD per “single-use” license) to “cease and desist” early during his process.” That’s right. He was threatened with a copyright lawsuit for … making an affordable, open-source font to help dyslexics.

At the time he was charging a nominal fee and did reuse some bitstream-vera-sans characters as the basis for his font.  Bitstream-vera-sans’ license explicitly allows derivative fonts to be sold (free of fee to the bitstream font creators), however, Mr. Boer was claiming that the offense occurred due to the fact that Mr. Gonzalez had changed the (free) font in a similar way as he had.  By all appearances the real issue was that Mr. Gonzalez was offering it for far cheaper than Mr. Boer.

So Mr. Gonzalez went a step further and simply made the font free.

See also Gonzales’s post No good deed goes unpunished: Cease and Desists from Christian Boer, which notes:

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.


Update: See also Mike Masnick’s post Font Designed To Help Dyslexic Individuals Gets Legal Threat, Becomes More Open In Response.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Motion Graphics Bristol October 4, 2012, 8:18 am

    Man does good deed selflessly, man gets screwed over.

    Who actually pays $69 for a single use font, especially one designed to help those with disabilities.

    Motion Graphics

  • Ethan Erkiletian February 13, 2013, 11:36 pm

    Looks like he was also charging $445 EUR to businesses and schools! Incredible how fast prices can come down with just a tiny little bit of competition hey? If this guy wasn’t such an IP troll, at least his competitor wouldn’t have probably driven him down to zero!

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