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RE: The other party in all this

From: Richard Fink <rfink@readableweb.com>
Date: Mon, 6 Jul 2009 13:43:17 -0400
To: "'Tal Leming'" <tal@typesupply.com>, "'John Hudson'" <tiro@tiro.com>, <www-font@w3.org>
Cc: <www-font@w3.org>, <jdaggett@mozilla.com>, <robert@ocallahan.org>, <howcome@opera.com>
Message-ID: <000401c9fe61$4118ffd0$c34aff70$@com>
Tal Leming wrote:

>the fact is, we simply don't know what is going to happen. No one does.

And,

>I've heard the "You don't have to license your fonts for web  
>use" argument. That's not our point. We *want* to make our fonts  
>available for web use. Our point is that we are being told to take a  
>huge risk. The browser makers have made it very clear that they are  
>unwilling to do anything that exposes them to any risk, DMCA or  
>otherwise. All of the risk is on us. The overwhelming feeling among  
>the type designers I've talked to is that we are at the mercy of  
>large, well-funded corporations and organizations. It's not a fun  
>place to be right now.

Tal, you're right. Nobody knows. But upon who else would the risk be upon
except the producer of the font?
And remember, there IS such a thing as the risk you cannot afford NOT to
take. (Peter Drucker, from the book Managing For Results, I believe.)
Feeling helpless? Join the club. It's very, very uncomfortable. But as I put
it in an email to my online friend Bill Hill, "The Internet is like a
tsunami, the only thing font vendors can do is grab a surfboard and hope for
the best."

Dave Crossland, taking his cue from a question aimed at font vendors by
Jonathan Kew, wrote:

>I've posed the relevant question on typophile:
>http://typophile.com/node/59630

And the question posted on Typophile is this:

>(A) FONT VENDORS:

>If there is a W3C recommendation for web fonts that specifies

>* internal compression of the font data (presumably based on MTX or ZOT
ideas, but details TBD), and

>* same-origin checking, with CORS to allow controlled relaxation of
restrictions, similar to how Firefox 3.5 deals with TTF/OTF fonts,

>would you be willing to license your fonts for use in accordance with such
a standard?

Now, I found this question a little too passive for my taste. And I crafted
my own which appears at the tail end of this response. You see, I would
rather hear a small percentage of font vendors voice an enthusiastic "Yes"
to MY question, than a foot-dragging, tepid "Yeah. OK. If that's the best we
can do..." response to Jonathan's question.
I believe that the results we need will be achieved by the enthusiastic and
entrepreneurial few, not the many. And I expect those enthusiastic and
entrepreneurial few to be just as nervous and bewildered as everyone else.
They just handle it differently. (And I don't exclude companies like Adobe
or Monotype, among the candidates.)

Here it is, (and sorry about the overall length of this response):

"Those browser-makers with reservations about a web-specific font file
format are looking to font-makers for assurance that web fonts will get the
time and attention that they deserve. Just offering up print fonts for web
use is not going to get the job done. (I’ve done a lot of testing. And I can
tell you firsthand that taking the bulk of fonts as they exist today, and
readying them for the screen will require work, and lots of it.)
And these fonts will need to be accompanied by simple, plain-English EULAs
and reasonable pricing.
In an effort to clarify the situation for myself, I've found it helpful to
view web fonts as a kind of labor dispute involving workers for whom no
replacements exist; I think of the font-making community in the same way as,
say, professional baseball players. When the pro ball players go out on
strike there’s no replacing them; at that point there can be no professional
baseball, period. And I think some of the folks involved in the discussions
at the W3C have come around to sensing the issue in this light as well: that
without enthusiastic and active participation by the pros, a dark cloud is
cast on the future of typography on the web.
Now, one ideologically thorny flaw in the analogy is that the business model
for fonts looks to copyright and not strictly to pay-for-performance as in
sports.
So, as I said to Vlad Levantovsky of Monotype, “Stop waving the EULA flag”.
Stop going on about your “rights”. Not because you’re wrong, but because
it’s counter-productive.
On the web, the extent of your rights, as well as your opportunities, will
be defined not by legalities, but by a file format implemented through an
agreement among the major browser-makers.
And these browser makers, plus web authors, and the browsing public sorely
need and have a right to expect performance in exchange for this insofar as
it provides reasonable protections against unlicensed distribution.
And so the bottom line question that I await an answer to is this: if you
are given these protections, will you perform?
That’s the deal, yes or no?"

And so I pose this question to you, too, Tal. Gonna grab a surfboard, or
what?

Cheers, 

Richard Fink

-----Original Message-----
From: www-font-request@w3.org [mailto:www-font-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of
Tal Leming
Sent: Monday, July 06, 2009 12:31 PM
To: John Hudson
Cc: www-font@w3.org
Subject: Re: The other party in all this

I'd like to follow up on what John has said. I am a type designer who  
licenses fonts to end users. There has been a lot of discussion about  
the business model and economics of this practice on this list. As  
someone who has been in this business for 10 years, I'd like to offer  
some insight.

The truth is that there is a font business model that works. In fact,  
there are few business models that work. They have worked for about  
500 years now. As Håkon put it, "They have a font model, it works, but  
now we're changing it"[1]. For the purposes of fonts on the web, we  
are mostly talking about the model that brings fonts into the open  
market. That model generally follows these steps:

1. The designer has an idea.
2. The designer spends a lot of time to turn that idea into some  
fonts. (I've never released anything that didn't take months of work.  
Most take at least a year. Some have taken a decade of work.)
3. Users license the fonts for particular types of use.
4. The designer hopes to sell enough of these licenses to cover the  
expenses incurred during steps 1 and 2.
5. The designer hopes that if step 4 happens, more licenses will be  
sold to help cover the costs of developing the next font.

This is, essentially, an investment model. The designer makes  
something in the hopes that it will generate income at a later date.  
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. It isn't a highly unusual  
business model.

There have been numerous experiments with pricing since digital fonts  
arrived around 25 years ago. Some have worked and others haven't. Just  
about every possible scenario has been tried. Donation based pricing?  
Tried. Free fonts with a request for payment? Tried. Exclusive, vetted  
licensing with high costs? Tried. Lots of stuff in-between? Tried. As  
it is today, fonts are priced anywhere form $0 to several thousand  
dollars. The price is calculated based on the number of likely users,  
the general usefulness of the fonts and the expenses incurred during  
the development of the fonts. The fact that the files are infinitely  
reproducible has no bearing on the pricing because it is irrelevant.  
There are only a small number of font buyers out there.

We fully recognize that there *could* be significantly more buyers of  
fonts when fonts are available for use in browsers. But, the fact is,  
we simply don't know what is going to happen. No one does. This is why  
you see concern about raw OTF/TTF fonts as the web format. If raw OTF/ 
TTF as the only browser font format doesn't work out as people hope,  
the business model I outlined above, our main business model, is in  
jeopardy. I've heard the "You don't have to license your fonts for web  
use" argument. That's not our point. We *want* to make our fonts  
available for web use. Our point is that we are being told to take a  
huge risk. The browser makers have made it very clear that they are  
unwilling to do anything that exposes them to any risk, DMCA or  
otherwise. All of the risk is on us. The overwhelming feeling among  
the type designers I've talked to is that we are at the mercy of  
large, well-funded corporations and organizations. It's not a fun  
place to be right now.

In any case, I hope this will shed some light on what it is that we  
type designers do and ease some of this speculation and hypothesizing  
about how and why we do it.

Tal

[1] http://www.w3.org/Fonts/Misc/minutes-2008-10
Received on Monday, 6 July 2009 21:48:10 GMT

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