This section owes a great deal to Charles Bigelow (co-designer with Kris Holmes of the Lucida typeface family, among others), who has generously answered our many queries about fonts and the law around the world with remarkable patience and understanding. (But he is naturally not responsible for any errors here, much less our opinions.)
Fonts have always been treated rather strangely under the law, as befits their rather strange nature: letterforms are indivisibly both useful and artistic. In most countries—in all countries until recently—utility has taken precedence; i.e., it has been legal to copy fonts without permission or fee.
In any case, to the best of my knowledge, the situation in those countries which have adopted any sort of typeface protection is as follows. This was originally written in the early 1990's; these days, the situation is probably different, due to widespread adoption of software patents, among other things, but I lack specific information to include.
Particular programs which instantiate a font can be copyrighted just as any other computer program can. This is arguably wrong, since font programs are nothing but a description of the shapes, possibly with some simple hints, and there's only one basic way to describe the shapes in any given language. Thus, the creativity lies in making the shape right, not in making the computer program right, so it would seem that to be consistent, the copyright laws should protect the design, not the program—the opposite of the current situation.
In 1973 the international Vienna treaty on typeface design protection was proposed. France ratified it in 1974 or 1975, and Germany in 1981. The English law might constitute ratification, but this has not been settled. In any case, since at least four countries have to ratify it before it takes effect (and even then it takes effect only in those countries which ratify it), it is still of no consequence for now.