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Re: Emails for pwld

From: David Woolley <david@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
Date: Sun, 11 Jan 2004 13:44:05 +0000 (GMT)
Message-Id: <200401111344.i0BDi5x00560@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

> The really sad thing is that whilst fonts were invented before 
> copyright kicked in, and thus we can find copyright and royalty free 
> fonts, the same cannot be said for graphics. Imagine trying to publish 

I think the real reason for this is that if the printed rendition of
fonts were copyrightable, every copy of a publication would require
royalties to the font owners as well as to the content owners.  (E.g.
you might have a notice on a form saying "You may use this form or
a photocopy of it, but if you use a photocopy, you must send 
$0.01 royalties to Monotype (chosen as a random example) as royalties.")

At the time that fonts became commercialised (which predates probably
all fonts in common use), this wasn't a great problem as the font owners
could get their royalties from the typecasting machine makers.
Modern technology has changed this, and anyone can reproduce more
or less perfect characters from a font.

The situation has changed now, because most people use computer outline
fonts, like True Type and Adobe Type 1 and these are copyrightable on
the basis that they are computer programs.  It seems to be accepted
that fonts converted to bitmaps are the equivalent of printed images and
therefore have special exemptions from copyright, but I am not a lawyer
and this may vary from country to country.

Almost every font that people here use is actually subject to copyright,
and probably every font's design postdates copyright law.

Some outline fonts are made royalty free as loss leaders, to establish a
brand (typically the old and basic designs from the major foundaries).
Many are royalty free because they are low quality amateur designs,
typically of display fonts (i.e. ones for effect, not for ease of
reading).  Finally, printers and GUI operating environments need fonts
to work, so the royalty for some fonts is bundled into the royalty for
the containing product.

Stock photographs are not used in every document, and have traditionally
been sourced directly rather than through stock photo printing
machines[1], so directly charging royalties has not been a problem with
them, so they have not needed the special treatment that applies to fonts.

My understanding (not legal advice) of the current situation is that you
can get away with rendering a font into a GIF file and embedding that[2].
You can probably get away with hand tracing the outline of the bit map
of a font and embedding that, but if you embed an outline, e.g. in a
PDF or Flash document (free Flash fonts are generally bit maps, though),
or by using an Embedded Open Type font with IE or an SVG font, derived
from a True Type, etc., font, you must respect the copyright licence
on the font and pay any necessary royalties.  This is a contributory
factor to the preference for text as images over embedded fonts.

[1] However, nowadays stock photo CDs and DVDs fill this sort of role.
Often they have special licensing for "non-commercial" use, with the
royalty included in the price of the CD, but "commercial" users are
likely to have to pay for the specific image as well.

[2] Font foundaries are probably not happy with this; they both lose
royalties and have the quality of their product misrepresented by 
conversion from scaleable format to a fixed image.
Received on Sunday, 11 January 2004 08:56:10 UTC

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