This page is currently being reworked.
I am adding information as we go.
So if you have a question, please contact me.
Why are there os 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. So I fear I still have to fight a credibility problem here, the word “free” always sounds suspicious, does it not? Especially at the begining, with so few downloadable alphabets on my site. I am very hopeful that this problem will diminish with every new alphabet that comes up.
I also started to Twitter now – even though I have no clue how it works (yet) – to help me find contacts where my emails might just end in the junk-folder due to some overly inspired spam-filter. So if you want to help and follow on Twitter or Facebook, or maybe tell someone who could help with the approvals of alphabets, that would be great!
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.
Could you add more signs?
I get this question a lot. Especially concerning the numbers. I am looking into it.
Could you do something so I can see this on my cell phone or mobile device?
This is another question I am getting quite often. This is a private project of mine so I need to keep the lid on the costs. But there might be one thing I can do and I am looking into this possibility right now and doing the math. I will let you know if I find a solution.
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? I am not deaf–even though some might argue that at times I can be a bit hard of hearing. But 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 manual alphabets – a direct result out of small individual target groups. Just google around a bit, and you will see what I mean. And I know why this is, too. Small target groups result in little economical interest from potential investors, like publishers for example.
Think of a country with officially 5.000 people who are deaf and hard of hearing. They will be of all ages. How many of them will be interested in paying for alphabets? Most people of the target group will know it already. Maybe parents of young children, who are learning, maybe some friends. That is the reason why there is so little material out there. The US maybe being an exception because of sheer size and thus a larger target group.
Number of Deaf Sign Language Users: 250
Number of Deaf Sign Language Users: 130
Number of Deaf Sign Language Users: 250
And these are European Countries. 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.
Don’t you need copyright to illustrate the alphabets?
no, I do not need a copyright license on existing material, because I am making new material.
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