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Public Domain Fonts for the Web

From: Charles Peyton Taylor <cpt@mbay.net>
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 1998 00:09:04 -0800
Message-Id: <199802230809.AAA15807@otter.mbay.net>
To: www-font@w3.org
(A copy of this message has also been posted to the following newsgroups:

This is something Iıve been thinking about a lot lately.  Iım
sending it now because I wonder how do-able it would be.  Any
suggestions would be appreciated.  I'm sending this to the 
www-font mailing list and to the comp.fonts newsgroups, sorry 
if this causes duplication for those subscribed to both.

   The problem : web designers can specify fonts using CSS,
but have to issue a list of backup fonts in case the reader
doesnıt have the font installed on his system.  Furthermore,
different operating systems come with different fonts, so the
web designer must specify backup fonts for different systems. 
Both Netscape and Microsoft have developed means of downloading
fonts, but this greatly increases the overall amount of time
spent downloading a web page, and many readers may disable this
feature; also, each method is different, so what works in IE
doesnıt work in Navigator.

   A possible solution : There has been something of a
tradition among some  programmers to write free software (i.e.
the GNU project, the Apache web server project, etc.)  I donıt
know if that idea translates well in the graphic design world;
my original idea was to win the lottery and hold a contest with
cash prizes for the designers who could give the best fonts. 
Unfortunately, I havenıt quite got the knack of picking winning 
lottery numbers yet, so Iıve had to think up other solutions.
   I know that some public domain fonts exist, so Iıve had
this idea of putting together a collection of public domain
fonts for everyone to use.  Not just in Windows format, not
just in Windows and Macintosh format, but in every format that
my copy of Fontographer will translate to/from.  People who
write web pages can specify a font name and know that the
readers who have Windows, Macintosh, or Linux machines can see
the typeface that the writers see without downloading it. 
   This collection would be a basic internet font set, kinda
like how you get a set of fonts with your computerıs OS.  The
difference is that this set could be on everyone elseıs
computer as well.

Some issues:
1) IDENTIFICATION OF FONTS: Which (good) fonts are the public
domain and could be translated and distributed freely? How do I
know if a public domain font isnıt really just a rip-off of a
commercial font (and more importantly, can it get me sued?) 
2) COPYRIGHT/LEFT :   Could the GNU public license be applied
to a set of public domain fonts? Should these fonts be free,
public domain, or CopyLeft?
3) QUALITY: A lot of the public domain fonts that Iıve seen so
far might not be good for a archive of this sort.
€ A lot are display type and wouldnıt be very useful for body
€ A lot donıt have a complete western character set.
€ A lot have only one style when it would be best to have
normal, italic, bold, bold italic, and (maybe) outline
€ And who determines what  a good font looks like? I know what
I like, and I have good taste, but I have no formal graphic
design training.
€ They could be distributed in the shareware archives as a set.
 People who use the fonts in their web pages could put links to
such archives, or perhaps links to one page with all the
archives, sorted by platform.
€ They could also be distributed with the ³Frankenbrowers² that
may come now that Netscape has announced plans to release the
source code to Navigator.
5) CATEGORIES : ³serif² (e.g. Times) ³sans serif² (e.g.
Helvetica), ³cursive² (e.g. Zapf-Chancery,) ³fantasy² (e.g.
Western) and ³monospace² (e.g. Courier) are defined as generic
font family names in the CSS 1 specification. I suppose it
would be helpful to have at least two of each, and probably
three each of serif and sans-serif? This means weıd need at
least twelve fonts.

You know, if this would work, and was used world-wide, the
people who designed these fonts could be as famous as the
person who designed helvetica.  Hmmm.... actually, I donıt know
who designed Helvetica, but I do know that Ray Larabie designs
some really nifty fonts that he distributes free on the web. 
Thereıs no reason that someone couldnıt get credit for
something just because that person is giving it away for free.

Some URLs Iıve been looking at while thinking about this: 

From Webmonkey: an article on fonts on the web that provides a
good bit of background - 
³What is Free Software?² an article from the GNU web site
³The Value of Free Software²  An article from BYTE magazine - 
TrueType Typography - 
comp.fonts Home Page -
Larabie Fonts - 
Create 8 Fonts - 
The WWW Consortiumıs CSS web page -
The WWW Consortiumıs CSS font page - 
³Free Fonts and Utilities² from Microsoft - 

Charles Peyton Taylor
My words are my own.
Received on Monday, 23 February 1998 03:09:08 UTC

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