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The other party in all this

From: John Hudson <tiro@tiro.com>
Date: Fri, 03 Jul 2009 13:17:06 -0700
Message-ID: <4A4E6742.804@tiro.com>
To: www-font@w3.org
I'm writing this in response to some of the things I have read on this
list over the past couple of days, but am starting a new thread in the
hopes of introducing some new considerations and perhaps a new tone. I
freely admit to not having read all the messages because, well, there
have been more than 200 of them. That generally suggests something other
than discourse or even debate: something like alternating artillery

I am a type designer and font software developer. But I am *not* a font
vendor in the sense that many of my colleagues are. I do not license
fonts to end users or operate a retail font licensing business. [Tiro
Typeworks has a single font available for retail licensing from our
website, but this is something outside of our normal business. I don't
consider it to have any impact on my thoughts regarding web fonts.]

I make custom fonts to resolve typographic communication issues for
clients. Typically, these issues involve internationalisation or
specialised character set support. The clients include software
companies, publishers and government. The ownership of rights to the
fonts varies from project to project: quite often the client purchases
all rights to the fonts, i.e. they own them outright.

Often the fonts are very large and address specific technical
considerations such as low-resolution legibility as well as specialised
content requirements such as transcription of other scripts, phonetic
notation, mathematical typesetting, etc. The financial investment in
such fonts can be a significant item in the client's budget. Development
may take a number of years. The resulting fonts are an asset that adds
value to the client's products, be they operating systems, applications,
books, or electronic documents, including web content. The custom fonts
enable the clients to work with specialised character content, in a
typographically sophisticated way, and also contribute to the visual
identity and market-differentiation of the clients and their products.

My clients are definitely interested in using their custom fonts in a
web-publishing setting, but they also want to protect their investment
in fonts whose value is, at least in part, due to their exclusivity.
They don't want to give away to the world the fonts in which they have
invested large sums of money. In effect, my clients assume many of the
interests of font vendors with regard to web fonts, with the difference
that they are not interested in protecting revenue streams but with
protecting assets.

By way of disclosure, one of my clients is Microsoft, but my thoughts
regarding web fonts are largely guided by the needs of some of my other
clients, particularly the publishers. These are the clients whose needs
bridge the desires of web publishers and designers who want greater
flexibility in the choice of fonts on the web and those of font software
owners who don't want that flexibility to expose their fonts to
unauthorised use by others. They are the other party in all this.

I am interested in understanding how various proposals for web font
formats address these two desires: to enable use of custom fonts in web
publishing and to not expose those fonts to exploitation by others. The
fact that these two desires are held by the same party, my clients,
indicates that these are not mutually exclusive desires -- as they might
appear when only expressed by opposing parties, as they seem to be on
this list --, and I believe there must be a solution that reconciles
these in its goals.

John Hudson
Received on Sunday, 5 July 2009 20:43:11 UTC

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