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RE: Fonts WG Charter feedback

From: Thomas Lord <lord@emf.net>
Date: Thu, 02 Jul 2009 10:46:12 -0700
To: "Levantovsky, Vladimir" <Vladimir.Levantovsky@MonotypeImaging.com>
Cc: cfynn@gmx.net, www-font@w3.org
Message-Id: <1246556772.6767.42.camel@dell-desktop.example.com>
On Thu, 2009-07-02 at 12:56 -0400, Levantovsky, Vladimir wrote:

> I am not sure about music in general, but I think that iTunes is a good
> example where the technology, the users and the content providers strike
> a (nearly) perfect balance, which makes everybody happy as a result.

There are certainly a great many people who 
are not happy about the DRM aspects of iTunes
but we need not even get into that question
because the analogy is flawed.

With iTunes, users are buying from a very small
line of devices for the limited purpose of having
those specific devices play music for them.

With web fonts, a vast array of software
encompassing both Web UAs and desktop applications
is at stake.

When we build Internet / Web standards,
one of the big places we can go badly wrong is to
introduce new formats and protocols where none is
technically necessary.   When that happens, it is a 
kind of tax as many, many separately developed and
maintained programs around the world must add new code
and complexity to deal with the new format, and users
must endure the hassle of a more complicated and less
smoothly inter-operating computing environment.  
Gratuitous new formats are more or less the opposite 
of what these standards processes are supposed to 
produce.

I think we all understand the "let's have a 
low garden fence" argument and have sympathy 
towards it even while recognizing its limits.
It should not imply *not* requiring OT/TT support
and it should not imply a new format whose sole
rationale is to damage interoperability and 
add needless complexity to many, many programs.



> I want to make it clear that font vendors have full trust that authors
> will always do the right things and license fonts properly, so I see no
> reason policing them. However, by making raw TTF/OTF fonts available on
> the web for unrestricted access, we create an environment where fonts
> are easily accessible, can be copied any time by anyone for any use
> outside web - this is what font vendors are most concerned about.


I think it is honorable if font vendors have a 
presumption of trust of authors but it is naive
and unrealistic to think that, regardless of what
formats are agreed upon, policing will not be 
necessary to ensure that licensing terms are obeyed.

This isn't even, strictly speaking, an issue
limited to restricted-license fonts.  It applies
as well to libre, particularly "copyleft" fonts.

People do and will continue to violate licenses.
In every other medium (ordinary programs, music,
video, photographs, etc.) the experience has been that
policing for license violations is necessary.

Any plan from font vendors premised on avoiding that
policing activity begins from a flawed premise.

The question we're left with, then, is whether or not
support for raw TT and OT, along side an enhanced 
novel format, makes that policing task easier or 
more difficult.   On a technical level, I can not help
but think that support for raw TT and OT would make
policing (especially of innocent mistakes) much easier
and less expensive:  simply search the web for verbatim
copies of fonts not licensed for web use in TT and OT
but found on the web in those formats. Then send the 
take-down notices (and an offer to sell a license :-).

If anything, the font vendors should be pressuring
Microsoft to embrace a three-format solution:
raw TT, raw OT, and wrapped in the manner I've 
described.

Raw TT and raw OT are the best for the software
ecology.  The wrapper adds useful new functionality,
does not add much complexity to existing font
handling code, and, yes, temporarily prevents the 
"drag-n-drop" of fonts in that format to legacy 
desktops.

-t
Received on Thursday, 2 July 2009 17:46:53 GMT

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