FAQ

Always when I find time I come here to add or answer questions.
Unfortunately I am a bit behind with the answers.

Still, if you have a question that is not mentioned below, please contact me.

 
 

Questions

General:

 

Copyright:

 

Procedure:

 

Material & Products:

 


 

General

 

Are you deaf?

No. I am not deaf.
Although my parents would suggest that I might be a bit hard-of-hearing.
 
 

Do you know many deaf people?

I knew some deaf children when I was a child myself. That was long ago.
Due to Fingeralphabet.org I am now starting to meet deaf people, which I find very nice.
 
 

Do you know sign language?

No, unfortunately I don’t. I learned the Brazilian sign language alphabet when I was a kid and used to fingerspell with my friends.
At present I am working with so many different alphabets that I am getting all mixed up, so that I cannot even use the Brazilian hand alphabet any more. I hope that passes, because I really want to learn a sign language – I have still to decide which one, though.
 
 

If you are not deaf and don’t know sign language then why are you doing this project?

It was really a bit like fate. I do not have the impression that I choose this project, but rather that the project chose me to take care of it.
 
 

How did Fingeralphabet.org get startet?

It started by chance and due to many small coincidences.
I wrote about some of it here.
 
 

Can I still get that first postcard?

I think I have one or two left, only, which I keep for sentimental reasons :). It was not the most beautiful postcard in the world. I had spent so much time with the research, that I literally ran out of time to do the layout. On top of it, it was the very first time I used a vector graphic software (Adobe Illustrator) which was a bit daunting.
But the really big issue was that the postcard contained two signs that were shown from a wrong angle. So it was really not advisable to have it reprinted. I had a second postcard later, which was much nicer (and also correct), but that is out of stock, too.

If you are interested, you can have a look at the original postcard here.

 
 

You are German, why is Fingeralphabet.org in English?

 
 

I am not good in English. Why can’t you translate the website into more languages?

 
 

What plans do you have for Fingeralphabet.org in the future?

 
 

I am also an illustrator/artist/writer. Can I help you with the material?

 
 


 

Copyright

 

Don’t you need copyright for the reference material to illustrate the alphabets?

Simply put:
no, I do not need a copyright license on existing material, because I am making new material.

There is a lot of confusion about copyright, so let me explain:

As a professional artist and illustrator, I know how important copyright is. Unfortungately most people are clueless and careless about it which leads to a lot of problems for all of us. So let’s talk about it for a minute in regard of alphabets.

The abstract idea of the alphabet can be used by anybody. You cannot copyright an idea, only very specific implementations of that idea.

Just imagine if you needed to clear the copyright for every letter you handwrote, because you are using the alphabet … That would be quite annoying.

While there is no copyright attached to the abstract IDEA of the alphabet, specific “illustrations” (or versions) of the alphabet do have a copyright holder. This copyright holder, be it a person or company, can then decide how to license his specific version of the alphabet. So the copyright holder decides if the alphabet becomes public domain, or if people who want to use it have to pay for certain types of licenses.

The font families “Arial”, “Helvetica”, “Courier” etc. that we like to use when working on our computers, are such an example of “specific illustration”. They are clearly defined and recognizable. And thery are copyrighted in one way or another. You should check every time you do something for commercial purposes, if you have the right to do so or if you need to get a license first.

The “A” in Helvetica looks differently than the “A” in Arial, but they are both “A”s. If you sit down and design your own version of “A”, you would be the copyright holder of this specific “A”, IF it has enough differenced to already existing ones. So you cannot just retrace something that is already there and claim copyright. It has to be something unique.

The same goes for the illustrations of the various manual alphabets. It is not the alphabet that is copyrighted, but the very specific illustrations or the photographs of the manual alphabet.

Even badly done illustrations with mistakes and smears, illegible ones, they would also have copyright. Someone made them. And this person has a right to refuse that you use or reproduce them. The copyright holder has also a right to sue you if you use his work without propper license.

So, yes, copyright is a serious business.

In this specific case here, I am doing totally new illustrations. So yes, the copyright would be mine. It cannot be any other way if I make different and new illustrations. This is important: I am not simply tracing illustrations that are already there, I am making totally new ones!
And as a copyright holder, I can decide how to allow others to use the material I publish here. If I want to hand it out for free, then this is my decision.

But obviously even if I am making new illustrations, they need to be correct to be useful. If you type an “A” on your keyboard, you do not want to get a “B”.

And this is why I am reaching out to the Organisations of the Deaf worldwide. Because all the hand positions vary a bit and the reference material that I find is often not good enough to show these slight but important variations.

So, to summarize, you really do not need to worry if it is ok that I draw a new version of the alphabets. Because it is ok. By collecting reference material I am not infringing on any copyright. And by illustrating my own material I am per definition in a totally safe position. So if I, as the copyright-holder, decide to give you a creative commons license to use my material for free, you are in a safe position, too, as long as you stick to what the license allows.

Check it out here: Creative Commons Attibution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0
 
 

What is the Creative Commons?

 
 

What does public domain mean?

 
 

What is the difference between public domain and a Creative Commons license?

 
 

What am I allowed to do with the downloadable Fingeralphabet PDFs?

 
 

What if I want to publish the material in a book or magazine article?

 
 

What if I need a commercial license for some of the material?

 
 

Why is the material not completely free to use on whatever I want?

 
 

Why are you drawing everything yourself?

 
 

I am also an illustrator/artist/writer. Can I help you with the material?

 
 


 

Procedure

 

Why are there so many works-in-progress and so few alphabets ready for download?

I keep asking this myself, seriously.

But the point is that even though I have quite some alphabets ready to go, I usually struggle to find organisations responding to my email request for approval. And I understand that, because it probably looks like scam or spam, when I write these unsolicited mails.  I fear I still have to fight a credibility problem here, the word “free” always sounds suspicious, does it not? Especially at the beginning, with so few downloadable alphabets on my site. I am very hopeful that this problem will diminish with every new alphabet that comes up.
 
 

Why are you focussing on European countries first? There are other countries who probably need the alphabets more urgently

I agree. But this question is inseparable with the question above. I am still fighting to get reference material and have it approved by official organisations. So basically what you see under “downloadable” are the countries where I managed to get the information that was needed. 90% of the time I am investing into this project right now I am spending writing eMails, and that is a bit sad and not really what I expected. But so it goes. Right now it is a fist come, first serve situation.

I have to admit, though, that I am focussing a bit on countries where I understand the language, so I can research the internet. So German, English, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, a bit of French, is where I can do my own individual research for material.
It will be tougher with other languages, so I am leaving this a bit for the years to come, even though I am totally looking forward to do the Chinese, Japanese signs and also for the Arabian countries, but I guess I will need to find me good contacts first.
 
 

Why are you working for free? Where is the catch?

There really is no catch. And I usually do not work for free – I am a professional concept artist and illustrator working on my own projects but also for commercial agencies and international organisations/ companies.

I value my time, which is very limited, and I value the quality of my work. My clients value them too, otherwise they would not be my clients.

BUT there is something else to life than to work for oneself and for paying clients. I value the idea of charity. I like the idea of making the world a better place, even if just in some very tiny way. So this is what I am trying to do here.
I am doing this work by having those people and non-profit organisations in mind, that would under normal circumstances never be able to pay for it.

Why the manual alphabets? It is quite simple that the manual alphabets are about illustrations, and this is something I am good at. In addition, I found that there is a relevant need for good illustrated material. Just google around a bit, preferably in the database of smaller countries, and you will see what I mean. Small target groups are of little financial interest for potential investors, like publishers for example. Therefore, there is hardly any affordable material.
The US maybe being an exception because of sheer size and thus a larger target group.

Iceland?
Number of Deaf Sign Language Users: 250

Malta?
Number of Deaf Sign Language Users: 130

Luxembourg?
Number of Deaf Sign Language Users: 250

(Source: EUD)

And these are European Countries, where you would expect basic material like alphabets to exist in high quality and to be freely available in all kinds of forms and colors. But is that the reality in Europe? No.
What about countries in the so called 3rd World? Contries with other much more urgend quests than to provide for a mostly silent minority?

I myself do not care how large the target group of each country might be. I want to draw ALL the manual alphabets, for ALL the countries.

Of course the time I can invest into this idea is limited. That is one of the compromises. But over a couple of years I hope it all will add up to a meaningful contribution from my part.

So: no, there is no catch. I am just trying to help out a bit.

 
 


 
 

Products & Material

 

Why don’t you have apps?

There are several reasons for this. The most important is that I am doing everything myself right now to keep the costs down. Fingeralphabet.org’s aim is not to have many fancy products out, but to provide the free educational material.
I am thinking about other products, too, but more in the line of posters and coloring books: simple things that I can set up myself and outsource the distribution while keeping the copyright under control. It would be nice to provide additional material while helping to finance the project at the same time. But I have to pick and choose carefully and keep the focus.
 
 

Why are there not reference books for all the downloadable alphabets?

I am sorry for that. Once or twice a year I will sit down and concentrate on the illustrations for the books – which are a bit different. It is easier and faster if I do them together.
 
 

Why are there only ebooks?

It were the easiest way to start out. There will be print-on-demand, too.
 
 

Why do the ebooks cost money?

There are several reasons for this. One of the reasons is that these books are being distributed by a publisher and publishing costs money. The yearly fixed and variable costs per book are not very high, but they exist. While some of the reference books might sell a bit more than others, most of them will not earn out. And I would not expect it otherwise.

There are several of the fingeralphabet reference books out by now and many more to come. The aim is to find a sweet spot in the price that will cover the costs.

Right now the price is the equivalent of an espresso with a small piece of pastry (here in Frankfurt, Germany). I would really like to keep it this way. Fingers crossed.

 
 

Why don’t you have more things to sell?

I am looking into having more things to sell via the publisher.
 
 

I would like to buy a large poster. Will you be offering them?

I have several posters ready for print. I am still looking into international fulfillment, though. It is a bit tricky.
 
 


 

Share Button