RussMusic font

Hello. I’m looking for a copy of this discontinued music font. If anyone can help, it would be much appreciated.

Dear scottu,

You are aware that you can only use SMuLF fonts in Dorico, right? And really a few fonts are SMuLF, and certainly no discontinued ones… Is this the real forum then?
I wish you luck :wink:

I’m looking to revive the font as a SMuFL compliant version, expanding the symbol set and potentially redrawing it a bit along the way. Need a copy of it first though and it isn’t sold anymore.

You should contact the publisher of the font. It is not a free font, even if it isn’t sold anymore.

I’ve already tried.

If you use a Macintosh, the font is not compatible with the newer Mac OSX. And as Marc stated, it is not usable within Dorico.

The OP said…

I’m looking to revive the font as a SMuFL compliant version, expanding the symbol set and potentially redrawing it a bit along the way…

Hi, scottu!

Even if someone were to supply you with the font (as I’m sure there are individuals in this and other notation app forums that have copies of them), I wouldn’t do that unless you get explicit permission in writing from Express Music allowing you to do so. It’s their work, not yours, so let them make that decision.

Trust me, I think it would be awesome, too, just get permission first. That’s all I’m saying. It’s the right thing to do.

I’ve been trying to get in touch with them to no avail so far. They’ve made it clear on their website they don’t plan to develop it further, so at a certain point I think it’s reasonable to consider it abandoned.

I’m not even sure I have any commercial aspirations once I’m done (voluntary donations maybe?), I’d just like to get it in usable shape again.

I’ll continue to try to get in touch with them, but I wouldn’t mind still having the font to look at and see how much work is needed. It’s been a while since I’ve done typeface work, so it’ll be slow-going anyway!

I know that you’re likely to go forward with your plan either way, and in the shadow of the anonymity of the internet, you’re not likely to face any significant consequences if you do happen to engage in any illegal activity, but I do think it may be useful for this discussion to clarify some things.

(In America), Whether or not they’re no longer selling the font most likely doesn’t have any bearing on the legality of obtaining or modifying it without permission. Fonts, as software, are copyrighted material, as opposed to trademarked or patented. The legal principle of abandonment as it relates to copyright is largely un-navigated waters, but it’s generally thought that without some explicit action to indicate abandonment by the copyright holder, the material can’t be considered abandoned (though, it is definitely the case that abandonware cases rarely go to court; nonetheless, that doesn’t change the legality). Simply no longer selling the software is generally not thought to meet this requirement.

Luckily, in your case, while fonts are copyrightable, typefaces are not (again, in America). What’s the difference? A font is software, the code itself, whereas a typeface is the actual design of the lettering and type. So, if you were to legally obtain a copy of the font and then edit it such that the only thing that remained was the typeface itself with none of the original code (and not being tremendously knowledgeable about the inner workings of fonts, I don’t know what that would entail), you would be 100% within your legal rights.

Now… how to go about legally obtaining the font in the first place to do that? You said you’ve tried contacting the publisher, but have you tried contacting the font’s creator, Russ Ward? It’s possible that although it was sold through Express Music, Ward could have retained the copyright himself and would subsequently be authorized to distribute it as he pleases. I would feel slightly improper providing what seems to be his personal email address on this forum here, but you can definitely find it with a little bit of googling.

If you don’t have any luck with that, or you’ve already tried it, you might find some success by asking around on one of the Finale or Sibelius forums or Facebook groups, as those users are much more likely to have it on hand. While it may not technically be legal to pass it along, not only are you in basically zero legal danger, I think most would agree that such sharing is, in this case, essentially benign.

Edit Oh, I also meant to point out that whether or not you have commercial aspirations also doesn’t change the legality, a common misconception about copyright violations. If you’re authorized you’re authorized, and if you’re not you’re not :wink:

Good thoughts all around. I’ll try Russ himself. I’d rather get some kind of permission if I can and I’ve already made some good faith efforts. Of course I agree that it’s better not to have a cloud over the work if I can.

That is correct in the USA, but not the rest of the world.

For example Germany and the UK have both explicitly rejected that distinction.

USA intellectual property legislation is a law unto itself - which might not be too surprising, considering that the entire USA publishing industry developed in the 19th century on the basis that there was no such thing as “international copyright.” Reprinting and selling foreign publications without permission was the fundamental basis of its business model. (And it still is the fundamental business model for publishers like Dover, if you replace “without permission” with “if no permission is required”).

Of course USA legislation takes the opposite extreme to protect its own IP: every time Disney’s famous mouse gets close to becoming out of copyright, the copyright period (for all USA-created IP, not just animated rodents) is legally extended!

For typefaces in particular, there is quite a bit of legal grey area. I’m not a lawyer, so take my statements with the pinch of salt they deserve, but my understanding is that you cannot copyright the letter forms and glyph shapes themselves, but only the font software, i.e. the actual outline data, metrics, etc. from the font file itself. So if you were to reproduce the glyphs in a font completely by hand – not using any auto-tracing or conversion software, but by drawing them all from scratch in your font editor – then you could not be accused of copyright infringement.

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I agree with Daniel under US law, but elsewhere it is not so clear cut. A “shape” can certainly be protected as a “graphic design” (e.g. a company logo) independent of any particular way of reproducing that shape, so the legal question comes down to whether or not the shapes of the individual glyphs in a font are automatically considered to be graphic designs, or not. Some jurisdictions say they do, others (notably the USA) say they don’t.

I appreciate the comments everyone. I do have a query out to Russ himself (I think, if I found the right email address), so we’ll see what happens.

I’m not a pro typeface developer though I’ve worked with typeface editing before. I’m just a composer that would love to see his music set in this font. I’d like to get it in usable shape again; a “RussNeue” if you will. This got a bit more complicated than I was counting on.

Just a slight update if anyone is interested. Heard back from Russ; very friendly.

Apparently the owner of Express Music Services passed away in 2017, which is likely why development and sales stopped. Russ gave me someone to contact (the person that took his engraving hand and made it into the font) to see about continuing work on it.

Adventure continues!

Sorry to hear of the owner’s passing, but exciting that Russ’s font may become more accessible! Do keep us updated! And thank you for being diligent in getting permission first! Let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Well, I’m just starting to lay out what needs to be done to get this font up to speed for SMuFL (and Dorico).

Hoo-boy, looks like I’ll end up needing to draw vastly more new characters than already exist! I knew I’d have to do quite a few, but to be fully compliant (which is the goal), it’s going to be quite a bit of new work. I’d guess 60-70% of the characters will be completely new. Project!

Also, I can already see some weighting changes I’d make to the existing characters, so this may be an homage to RussMusic more than anything else, as I’m likely to be redrawing everything in the end. Perhaps as it should be, given its cloudy ending. My specific goal for this font is to become a hand engraving option for concert and film composers and so I’ll be concertedly steering away from the “fake book” handwritten look (which I think the old font already does decently).

Thanks to everyone for your contribution to this thread. As I can see some of you are typeface designers, I may ping you (particularly about organization of the project at the outset) for some pointers if you’re willing.

I suppose once I have something new to share, I’ll start a new thread.


In all seriousness, you don’t need to draw the full glyph set to be “fully compliant”. Bravura did because it’s supposed to be the benchmark. Take it easy and do the best work you can. Your plan already sounds exciting.

Yes, “compliant” means that whatever glyphs there are, are correctly encoded. Starting with a font that only worked with Finale before, I’d recommend starting with the existing glyphs to get a feel for what will be required during the production stage of the font. Then, adding more glyphs should be easier to manage.