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Re: Minutes, 16 February 2011 WebFonts WG telcon

From: John Hudson <tiro@tiro.com>
Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2011 18:38:48 -0800
Message-ID: <4D607EB8.3050505@tiro.com>
CC: public-webfonts-wg@w3.org
Maciej Stachowiak wrote:

> This argument (and Vladimir's similar one) assumes that today's popular forms of commercial font licenses are not only the common case today, but will be the common case for as long as the Web exists. I don't have evidence that this assumption wrong. But what's our level of confidence in this assumption? 90%? 99%? I think it would take a high degree of confidence to rebut the default assumption of consistency.

I don't think Sylvain and Vladimir's arguments make any assumption about 
the future; rather, I think they are considering how to ensure that the 
people with the greatest variety of quality fonts available *today* 
bring those products to the Web and make them available to Web authors 
and publishers. None of us have an infallible crystal ball, and guessing 
that commercial font licensing might get replaced or overtaken by 
something else, at some future date, makes no more sense than assuming 
that it won't.

That said...

My level of confidence is very high that so long as a) people want lots 
of different font styles and not just a few and b) the people who make 
fonts want to earn a living doing so, then commercial licensing of the 
kind common today is going to remain a very significant mechanism for 
meeting these two ends. This is not the only model by which fonts may be 
created and their creators paid -- it is not the way in which I make a 
living --, but it is the only mechanism I have seen working to generate 
a massive variety of designs, because the investment of time and 
creative labour involved must either be paid for up front or made 
speculatively against future earnings. There is not sufficient capital 
investment available for new font development of today's scale to be 
paid for up front. In two decades in the digital font business, watching 
people try to make a living in various ways, I have not seen any 
mechanism other than commercial licensing that successfully generates 
ongoing revenue. [The libre font enthusiasts should go talk to some of 
the shareware font developers of 1995.] Of the new mechanisms made 
possible by Web typography, subscription font services -- where the font 
is hosted by the font service provider rather than by the 
author/publisher -- do offer the possibility of ongoing revenue but also 
new ongoing costs that many font developers could not meet.* Obviously 
the same origin restriction is moot for such services, since they can 
set their headers however they require; the same origin restriction is 
germane to fonts served by authors/publishers, and I see no reason to 
think that the majority of these will cease to be made available by 
something like today's commercial licensing model.

Further, I think it would be a mistake to assume that the concerns that 
make commercial font licensors favour default same origin restriction 
are peculiar to those licensors or to that model. I generally get paid 
up front for font development, usually because the client wants either 
exclusivity or flexibility in how the fonts are used or distributed. 
They also have concerns about unlicensed use of their assets, and are 
interested in WOFF as a format that offers some limited protection 
against such use. Default same origin restriction is part of that 
package. The people who are concerned about unlicensed font use are the 
people who own fonts, regardless of whether they are actively, 
commercially licensing those fonts to others.


* Please bear in mind that the majority of people who actually design 
and make fonts are independent artisans, not employees of 'foundries'. 
Many of these artisans have found ways, since the advent of desktop 
publishing and the collapse of the old type industry, to operate 
boutique retail licensing, thereby avoiding giving 80% of license income 
to larger font companies or resellers. This business thrives on direct 
contact between the makers and users of fonts, and while Web font 
subscription services will be of interest to some type designers, I do 
not want to see Web typography become something that forces independent 
artisans into exploitative agreements with such services because they 
can't afford the costs associated with hosting and serving their own 
fonts in such a way. Direct licensing of fonts by their creators to 
users, to be served by those users in support of Web documents, is 
important not only to the livelihood of those creators, but also to the 
diversity of the typographic environment. If you make this easy for both 
the font creators and the font users, you foster a richer Web typography 
than if the creators have to provide their fonts through third party 
services and the users have to jump through hoops in order to be able to 
comply with licenses.
Received on Sunday, 20 February 2011 02:39:28 UTC

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