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Re: Fonts WG Charter feedback

From: Thomas Phinney <tphinney@cal.berkeley.edu>
Date: Fri, 3 Jul 2009 16:21:07 -0700
Message-ID: <f49ae6ac0907031621jbf3d0e2w95b30050d6516a2a@mail.gmail.com>
To: "Tab Atkins Jr." <jackalmage@gmail.com>
Cc: Aryeh Gregor <Simetrical+w3c@gmail.com>, John Hudson <tiro@tiro.com>, Håkon Wium Lie <howcome@opera.com>, Thomas Lord <lord@emf.net>, Chris Wilson <Chris.Wilson@microsoft.com>, Sylvain Galineau <sylvaing@microsoft.com>, "www-font@w3.org" <www-font@w3.org>
On Fri, Jul 3, 2009 at 4:06 PM, Tab Atkins Jr.<jackalmage@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Fri, Jul 3, 2009 at 5:18 PM, Thomas Phinney<tphinney@cal.berkeley.edu> wrote:
>> On Fri, Jul 3, 2009 at 2:41 PM, Aryeh Gregor<Simetrical+w3c@gmail.com> wrote:
>>> so foundries will be forced to go
>>> along with whatever common format is agreed upon no matter what, at
>>> least to some extent.
>>
>> There you are completely incorrect.
>>
>> There's demand for $10 blu-ray players, too.
...
> Bad analogy.  We don't have $10 Bluray players because no one's
> figured out how to make them that cheaply.  It's physically impossible
> to sell them for that low and make money currently.
>
> Fonts, on the other hand, cost $0 to reproduce.  Any price you charge
> will recoup the price of a copy.  (The fixed costs of creating the
> font are a different matter, but they have nothing to do with
> reproduction of the font file.)

Sure, the marginal cost of a copy of a digital font is zero. That does
not mean that there is a viable market at any price, however, nor that
lots of people will "rush to fill the gap" with equivalent goods at
any price.

To wit: digital fonts have been out there as retail items for desktop
use for a couple of decades, and although there are a wide range of
prices and qualities available, there is actually a fair bit of
convergence on pricing for what I would consider "good quality" fonts.
The market is fairly stable there, and it's tough, but possible, to
make a living.

>  Anytime someone big gives up a niche, there are ten
> others who will gleefully fill it in now that there's no competition.

You think there's a niche there in the sense of an economic
opportunity. Most font vendors do not agree.

> I'm curious as to exactly what *would* really happen.  To use the old
> comparison, the recording industry was dead-set against allowing their
> music to be sold online, let alone in mp3 format, because they thought
> they'd die from piracy.  Nowadays mp3 is the dominant format, and
> every major store sells bare mp3s online.  That's just where the money
> was - the companies that didn't sell their music online saw the money
> they were missing, and the stores that refused to sell mp3s in favor
> of encumbered formats saw their profits eaten up by the mp3-sellers.

That's a great comparison, but not the way you think.

Font vendors are already selling completely non-DRM fonts online and
other ways, and many have been offering retail desktop fonts via
online download for over a decade. They're just saying that they don't
want users to put those fonts up on web servers in the same
widely-usable format. *Some* also see this as an opportunity to
license font files already processed into a less-directly-sharable
format, but that's by no means the general desire among font vendors.

It's like record companies objecting to peer-to-peer file sharing of
commercial music files, if they were already making the non-DRM MP3s
available and had always been doing so.

Cheers,

T
Received on Friday, 3 July 2009 23:21:47 GMT

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