W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-font@w3.org > July to September 1996

Re: Re[2]: pixel fonts

From: Tiro TypeWorks <tiro@portal.ca>
Date: Sun, 11 Aug 1996 15:56:52 -0700
Message-Id: <199608112250.PAA03133@kefron.portal.ca>
To: www-font@w3.org
Bill McCoy wrote:

>I think it's pretty obvious that fonts are one instance of a data type which
>contains intellectual property and thus "wants" protection. But, I think
>it's equally obvious that IP in general is not yet being protected on the
>net and that this isn't a disaster. E.g.,

>"As professional graphic artists, neither Joe nor I are
> keen on seeing our illustrations being shot around the world in a variety
> of insecure formats (of which JPEG and GIF are definitely examples)."

The difference being, of course, the inherent resolution limitations of the
JPEG and GIF formats, and the relative limitation in the usefulness of
graphic images compared to typefaces. A 640x480 JPEG image cannot be
stripped from a website and printed at acceptable resolution in a glossy
brochure or magazine (except about an inch in width). Furthermore, if an
image was stolen and used in this way, the legal process to deal with the
infringement is clearly set out and implemented: the presence of the image
in the brochure or magazine is itself evidence of the infringement. This is
not true of a typeface. Pick up any magazine in any shop -- you have no way
of knowing how the designers/publishers came by any of the fonts employed.
The best you can hope for, as a foundry, is the ability to check if the
publishers own a registered copy of your font, and to bill them if they do
not. If you font is sublicensed through half a dozen different distributors
with different or non-existent registration procedure, this is essentially
impossible to check on.

>Yes of course the world needs IP protection mechanisms for Web resources.
>And I wholeheartedly agree with John that "Designers who intend their fonts
>to be used
>primarily for print media applications should be able to disable the font in
>such a way that it cannot be used in electronic documents" (though I would
>qualify that as "cannot be *easily* or *inadvertently* used").

This, I think, is the main point. It is unacceptable to be handed a new
technology, told it is going to be the world standard, and then told that
you have to give up the right to protect your work as a result. In the
United States in particular, where protection of typeface design as
intellectual property is not possible, and where protection of font software
remains untested in the courts, it is essential that technical protection be
considered as an option.

>However, I do not think that the IP needs of type designers differ that
>greatly from the needs of other creators of graphical and textual
>information. For type designers that are nervous about fonts being shot
>around the world, perhaps you can take some comfort in the fact that the
>proliferation of trivially rip-offable GIF and JPEG files has not led to a
>decrease in sales of clip-art libraries nor to decrease in demand for
>graphic design for the Web: quite the opposite! It has given a much larger
>user base a taste of the possibilities, and most people are, given an
>opportunity, honest. So the benefits of greatly increased exposure to
>potential (honest) customers should far outweigh the costs of the
>hypothetical lost revenue from increased piracy. I say "hypothetical"
>because piracy in most instances is performed by those who would not
>otherwise be paying customers anyway.

As I almost tire of saying, lost revenue is not the only -- nor even, to my
mind, the principal -- problem of piracy. I object to being told that piracy
is inevitable when the only thing that makes it inevitable is the nature of
other peoples' technology, to the standards of which my work is expected to
comply. Direct loss of revenue is negligible, if one accepts that argument
that pirates wouldn't pay anyway. I am more concerned about the fact that my
work is being devalued by being made available to people whom I don't intend
to have it. If I design and price my work for a particular market, that work
is devalued within that market by being available free to people outside
that market.

>And, though I agree the interests of print-centric type designers are
>different than the interests of designers working with media primarily
>intended for online viewing, electronic documents are becoming critical to
>prepress/print workflows. The printing paradigm is shifting to demand
>printing, digital presses, etc., so there's really no crisp dividing line.

I don't believe this to be the case. Demand printing and digital presses are
not making a substantial impact on print media, basically because the
quality is so poor. Anything worth printing (i.e. worth making available in
a lasting, hardcopy format) is worth printing properly, anything not worth
printing is better off in an electronic document (saves trees, don't you
know...)

>So, I believe that it is in the interests of all type foundries to accept
>the reality that our work has been pretty much rip-offable all the while,
>and that although this will be even more true with Web fonts, it will in the
>final analysis be a net win.  Holding up use of Web fonts until we have IP
>protection, or even worse trying to implement a font-specific IP protection
>mechanism before the Web community has sorted out the general IP protection,
>payment, and distribution issues, would be very shortsighted.

Net win for who? If those portions of Adobe producing electronic document
applications are happy to carry the Adobe type development team, whose work
they are busy devaluing, then I guess David Lemon, Carol Twombly, Robert
Slimbach, Fredy Brady, etc., might get to keep their jobs. What about
independent type designers? I don't think Erik and I are being shortsighted
at all. We've got a good handle on our own industry and on the value of what
we produce. Frankly, I think it would be shortsighted to push through a
webfont technology before IP protection, payment and distribution issues
have been sorted out. Or is Adobe in the habit of releasing software before
their legal department has ensured it can be protected?

>Adobe has the largest aftermarket font business, and the entire Adobe Type
>Library is licensed under terms which permit embedding in documents. Thus we
>are putting 10s of millions of dollars of revenue on the line on this
>proposition that we will grow our business and sell more type by letting
>users get a taste of documents and media that really show-off high-quality
>type, rather than bitmaps or imitations. So far, so good. But to really make
>this a success, I think the type industry as a whole needs to step up, post
>haste, to these new challenges of professional type in electronic media. We
>need to focus on delivering quality, performance, minimizing bandwidth... a
>host of issues. Intellectual property is definitely one of these issues, but
>to spend the next 18 months squabbling over it, would really be missing the
>boat.

I'm sorry, but I think this is patent nonsense. I don't believe that Adobe
believes for one minute that they will sell more type by developing formats
(such as Acrobat) from which any ten-year-old kid with a computer can strip
a Type 1 font in about five seconds. I think Adobe realises that making
fonts more versatile increases the value of Adobe tools such as Acrobat, and
that they will make more money selling the latter than they will by selling
type. Fair enough -- shortsighted, but fair enough. What I insist, is that
the rest of us -- who are only selling type -- retain the right to opt out
of the scheme by whatever means, legal or technical, you are prepared to
grant us or we are able to hack for ourselves.

John Hudson, Type Director

Tiro TypeWorks
Vancouver, BC
tiro@portal.ca
http://www.portal.ca/~tiro
Received on Sunday, 11 August 1996 18:51:14 UTC

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