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

Re: Protecting WebFonts

From: Michael Bernstein <michael@cascadilla.com>
Date: Thu, 22 Aug 1996 13:53:33 -0400 (EDT)
Message-Id: <v01540b01ae42120af8ca@[204.167.103.218]>
To: Gary Ruben <gdr@cataneo.bitstream.com>, www-font@w3.org
>> And what happens when the browser becomes the operating system, as some
>> folks in OS design are suggesting?  Some fringe guy named Bill Gates is
>> even taken with the idea, and he just might be able to convince a few
>> other people to go along with him.  All of a sudden, there are no "other"
>> applications, and the font which only the browser is allowed to use is
>> completely available for everything you want to do on the computer.
>>
>I can't believe that Bill Gates is hell bent on liberating everybody's
>fonts by ignoring or side-stepping the private font installation
>facilities in Windows. Even if the browser *is* the OS, the user agent
>for viewing HTML Web pages should still respect the font protection
>mechanisms either proposed or finally agreed upon and implemented.

Why?  Anyone can write a browser.  The server either provides a copy
of a font or it doesn't.  Protection after that can always be gotten
around, unfortunately.

>> Here's a variant, which addresses the actual rights of the font's copyright
>> holder.  The only acceptable font references in a web page should be refs
>> to the font distributor's server (or whoever holds the copyright to that
>> font).  That server can then send out copies if the copyright holder wants
>> to.  Adobe and Bitstream can give away their fonts, and I can choose not
>> to give away mine.  And you don't give end-users the false impression that
>> somehow they have the right to distribute copies themselves.
>Well, I agree that we should not give end-users the impression that
>fonts are free (except if they are specifically identified as such). But
>we are not talking about end-users distributing the fonts. I am
>suggesting that Web page authors and publishers who have purchased or
>licensed a legitimate copy of a font should be able to publish with it,
>without worrying that it will "accidently" fall into the hands of users
>who did not pay for the privilege of publishing with that font, and that
>we in the industry have an obligation to find a method that lets
>publishers use the fonts they own without that risk.

There's a difference between use and distribute.  Publishers have the
right to use the fonts they bought.  They don't have a right to distribute
them.  I'd like to find a method which will allow publishers to use fonts
on the web without distributing them, because that's all they have the
right to do.  TrueDoc and such are methods for distributing the fonts
as well as using them.

>I *do not* speak for Bitstream, but I honestly don't think that either
>Adobe nor Bitstream, nor Microsoft want to give away all their fonts.
>Nor do they want to force you to give away yours. You are free to write
>your license agreements to prohibit electronic publication and
>distribution, if you want. None of the major type foundries will look on
>you as some sort of pariah if you retain that sort of control over your
>work.

Microsoft is giving away all the fonts it has the rights to.  All the
ones included with Office and with Windows, and all the ones it's
commissioned for the web.

Adobe and Bitstream have put forth technologies which allow anyone with
a copy of their fonts to redistribute it.  That's what TrueDoc and it's
kind do.  If they don't want to give away their fonts, they screwed up.

>> So if I want to use Adobe Minion, I can send out my page along with a
>> reference to Adobe's site for where to retrieve the font.  I'd better
>> expect that Adobe's site might not be working, or that Adobe might have
>> decided not to give it away any more.  Such is life.  But if Adobe is
>> still giving it away, great!
>Are you saying that you would make a reference to Adobe's server, even
>if you did not own a licensed copy of Minion, and if they were feeling
>magnanmous at the time your Web page was read, and served up a free
>copy, you'd be happy. And if not, no big deal? Or are you saying that
>*if* you owned a licensed copy of Minion and it could be served from
>Adobe's server you would make the reference point to Adobe's site?

So you add a method for listing the document server as well, and in
purchasing a font you register your document server.  Then Adobe can
provide the font only if the document server is listed as owning the
font.  (Good luck arguing that AOL cannot legally allow any of their
users to publish using Minion by purchasing just one copy in that case.
The licenses would be a nightmare to work out, but probably could be.)

>What if you owned a licensed copy of Minion and the license allowed you
>to publish any document using it over the Web. If you reference Adobe's
>server for Minion and they happen to be down that day, or have changed
>their mind about free distribution, wouldn't you feel cheated? Would you
>sue for breach of contract? Wouldn't it be better to serve *your* copy
>of Minion from *your* server?

It would be better to serve my copy from my server, if I had the right
to do that.  But I don't.  It's not that hard to set up a distributed
network of font servers which will pretty well ensure access even if
one server goes down.

>If you re-read the proposal I think you will see that I am not
>advocating the distribution of fonts. I am looking for a way to let
>publishers publish typographically rewarding documents on the Web with
>the fonts they own, and presumably have a right to use.

Unfortunately, your proposal includes distributing the fonts.  Yes, you
want to protect them.  Yes, if everybody plays along, the fonts will
remain secure.  But I don't want to gamble on that.  If everybody played
fair, we wouldn't have pirated software and bootleg CDs.

Everybody wants designers to be able to use fonts in their web pages.
The question is how to make that feasible, and how to keep it legal.
TrueDoc makes it feasible, but arguably not legal.  I like the basis
of your proposal.  Don't distribute the fonts openly, and don't
distribute them as a direct part of the web page.  However, unless
the web author has the right to distribute them at all, why not just
change the proposal slightly so that it's the proper person distributing
the fonts?  I think we agree on almost everything here.  It's just
a question of who actually sends out the font.

Any proposal which includes having individuals who purchased copies
of fonts redistribute those fonts is not likely to be legal, no matter
how noble the goals.  I exchanged plenty of e-mail months ago with
folks at Bitstream about TrueDoc, where I pointed out the legal problems,
and Bitstream kept responding that their intentions were noble.  I don't
care about Bitstream's intentions.  I care about my bottom line on the
fonts I sell, and I'll protect my rights to the fonts I create.

Yours,
  Michael Bernstein
  Cascadilla Press
  michael@cascadilla.com
Received on Thursday, 22 August 1996 13:55:47 UTC

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