Can Somebody's Handwriting be Copyrighted

Praise Jah for Microsoft Word 98! It has every conceivable kind of font. Every kind, that is, except for the childlike, loopy, and circular style that is Walt Disney’s signature. I would like to make up some Christmas cards in this font, but I have not seen it in any of those commercially available font CD’s, either.

  1. Can someone’s handwriting be copyrighted? Could Walt Disney, being a great artist in his own right, claim that even his HANDWRITING is a work of art, and thus forbid its reproduction?

  2. Surely some handwritten manuscripts by Mr. Disney remain, somewhere. Why has no one thought to make a font out of it?

  3. Has someone tried this and then gotten sued by lawyers wearing mouse ears?

Thanks again.

Handwriting can be copyrighted, sort of. There is a font called Matt that is based on the handwriting of cartoonist Matt Groening (Life in Hell, the Simpsons). So I guess what you have to do is develop a specific font based on Walt Disney’s handwriting called Walt, send the copyright forms to the government, then sit back and wait for the lawsuits from Walt Disney Co. to come flying in.

I do believe that Walt’s signature has been trademarked, but I doubt that an individual’s handwriting could be copyrighted. That’s simply a WAG, though.

“I love God! He’s so deliciously evil!” - Stewie Griffin, Family Guy

My WAG is that handwriting can’t be copywritten simply because it is so organic. People’s handwriting changes all the time (at least mine does (does that say something about me?)), and there are thousands of tiny variations. The most you could do is catalog a representation of a person’s handwriting at a specific time and try to copyright it.

You could create a font very similar to a particular style of handwriting and copyright that. IIRC, there are even programs that will scan in a sample of your handwriting and change it into a font. If you have TONS of money to spend, you could hire a design or fontographic firm to make your own font.

And Disney’s signature is most definitely trademarked.

Sola bona lingua est mortua lingua.

The magazines in the airplanes that sell weird products advertised YOUR OWN HANDWRITING font. I haven’t seen such an ad recently, but they attracted my attention last year or so.

There was an application form, that asked you to write each letter of the alphabet in both upper and lower case, and to write some letter combinations (such as ar, st, qu, etc)… and the claim was that they would send you a font that was YOUR handwriting.

So, it can be done.

Only one problem, they did not get Unca Walt to do this before he took the celestial dirt nap. Now maybe after he is thawed out in the future he might could have his font created, but for now we are SOL.



This may be a WAG, but hasn’t Princess Diana’s sig been copyrighted to stop other people making a fast buck? If this is so it would seem to apply not only to the name but the actual look of the thing too. Then again, I may be totally wrong here too.

It only hurts when I laugh.

I don’t think handwriting, per se, can be copyrighted. It would be possible to have the images of letters and certain words copyrighted as logos, but it wouldn’t be very pratical. For each individual element you would have to derive a specification that completely defines it in terms of it’s uniqueness. This specification is what would be used in a court to determine infringement. I’ve seen the copyright legal documents for a particular company logo (which I am not at liberty to discloase). The logo is simple - the documentation is about 10 pages long with lots of dimensions, angles of arcs, color codes, etc… Furthermore, you have to be careful how you use these copyrighted symbols. I’m told that unfaithful reproduction of the logos in official contexts can result in an undefendable copyright.

BTW. It’s a subtle thing, but the copyright on the font “Matt” does not protect the images of the characters in “Matt”. It protects the software content (or intellectual property) of the font. It prevents someone from reverse engineering, or otherwise altering the content and trying to make some claim to ownership and unauthorized use without benefit of a license.

I am not a lawyer and I don’t play one on TV.

The Walt Disney signature is not Walt Disney’s signature. It was designed by artists at the Disney studio, and Walt felt quite upset later in life when children asked him for his autograph they’d be disappointed when he couldn’t duplicate it.

The “signature” is actually the logo for the Walt Disney company and thus is protected under trademark law, not copyright law. It’s treated similarly to any other corporate logo.

You can copyright a typeface. This means that in order to use that particular typeface someone has to pay the copyright holder. However, it’s relatively easy to create copycat typefaces that look very similar (e.g., Optima (copyrighted), Optimum (not copyrighted)). Disney has probably copyrighted the letters in the signature, so they could come after you if you used them as is. If you only did something that looked like the logo – without duplicating the letters exactly – you’d have a chance of winning. But you’d better be prepared for the cost of a lawsuit.

I’m looking at page 20 of “Walt Disney Imagineering” (Hyperion, 1996). There is a diagram drawn by Mr. Disney, with several explanatory words and phrases he’s written. Sure enough, his writing looks nothing like the “Walt Disney” trademark. I don’t know why I didn’t notice this before.

Of course, I’m crushed. I always loved watching Tinkerbell fly across the screen and spell out “W-a-l-t D-i-s-n-e-y” with her wand – I’d always just assumed that somebody as loopy and childlike as Mr. Disney would have loopy and childlike handwriting. sigh

I suppose I could hire a local artist to replicate the alphabet, upper- and lower-case, in this syle (shouldn’t bee too difficult), submit it to a “Your Own Handwriting Font” company, and go ahead and use it. None of my intended Xmas card recipients would rat on me to the Disney people, anyway.

Thanks for all your help.

Many countries have copyright protection for “typefaces”, so if you make one based on your handwriting it may, in your country, and in other countries with similar protection, be copyrighted.