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Re: Font license vs. conversion between font formats

From: Mikko Rantalainen <mikko.rantalainen@peda.net>
Date: Tue, 07 Jul 2009 14:56:11 +0300
Message-ID: <4A5337DB.9050201@peda.net>
To: www-font <www-font@w3.org>
Thomas Lord wrote:
> On Mon, 2009-07-06 at 20:36 +0200, karsten luecke wrote:
>> Users -- including designers who should know better -- tend to
>> think that they "own" software (including fonts) once they
>> "purchased" it, and ignore that they got a license only for
>> specific type of use.

This sounds way too familiar with music distributors: "The consumers
think that they 'own' the CD once they 'purchased' it, and ignore that
they got a license only for specific type of use".

However, in the stores, you don't see advertisements for "licensing the
music". You're always "buying" or "purchasing" the music in your collection.

Perhaps there has been similar problem with marketing terms versus the
actual intent by the font distributors?

>> Fonts already licensed for print are TTFs/OTFs.
>> These same fonts can be used on the web now.

Yes, technically correct. Whether or not those fonts can be used legally
on the web is another issue.

Requiring browsers to only support some other format (EOT?) does not
change this a bit. The only way that other format could become widely
used is to allow end users (a.k.a. "page authors") to convert existing
fonts to that format. As a result, any existing TTF/OTF file data can be
technically used in the web regardless of actual format.

The only way to prevent this is to make the tools required to make the
files in the other format secret. One possible implementation would be
to only allow files digitally signed by a secret key known only to some
"trusted" entity (public key encryption used for signing). Then, only
font files signed by that trusted entity could be used in the web. Who
would you trust as the only allowed signer of ANY font file? Do you
expect Microsoft, Adobe, Monotype, Opera, Mozilla and everybody else to
trust the same entity. And if a new font vendor were to enter the
market, would that signing entity sign those fonts, too?

Also note that such signature would not prevent copying the font data
from that "other format" and encoding it again back to TTF/OTF file. A
browser extension could easily do that automatically for every web font
file that the browser downloads.

And because such signature would only prevent end users from seeing the
font, an user agent could become popular by ignoring the signatures in
all cases. A browser vendor does not benefit from restricting the user,
the other way around. Of course, font vendors could make it beneficial
to browser vendors e.g. by offering monetary compensation for
implementing such restrictions...

>> Users will not extend licensed since they have the files already
>> and (mixing up buying physical entity with getting a license which
>> is restricted in one way or another which has been demonstrated in
>> this very discussion) won't extend the license for this different
>> type of use.

Am I correct that the problem is that such customers are not aware what
they have bought? Or that they don't care? This cannot be fixed by an
another file format.

>> A separate web font format serves as a reminder of this different
>> use case.

If tools to convert from TTF/OTF file to the other font format ("web
font") are available to anybody and converting the TTF/OTF file to such
other format is the usual way of working with web fonts, how is this
reminder of licensing terms the user is not aware of? On the other hand,
if the user is aware of those licensing terms, he does not require any
reminder at this step.

It does, however, make it more difficult to use fonts in the web.

>> A photographer with whom I spoke today brought up a nice analogy: 
>> Photographers can at least post a low-res image with watermark on
>> the web which is unusable for anything else, and ask for a fee for
>> the high-res printable image. Which serves as "physical"
>> restriction to use. With fonts, you guess it, you only get the
>> high-res printable version, so it's rather the opposite to the
>> "opportunity" of new markets that you are musing of.

OTF files can include bitmap glyphs if I haven't totally misunderstood.
Do not distribute the actual font shaping data if you are not
comfortable with anybody copying that data. Instead, pre-render those
shapes as bitmaps and distribute a collection of those bitmaps as the
"web font". Use deformed vector shapes if such data is always required
by the OTF (I don't know). That would be the low-res font file directly
comparable with low-res image.

> You seem to be suggesting a possible rationale
> against "TTF/OTF plus ____".  I think you
> are saying that people will then go ahead
> and use TTF/OTF in cases where they are not
> permitted to.  No doubt they will -- just as some
> will make unauthorized conversions of 
> restricted licenses to and from any other format
> we construct.

I agree. If tools to convert from TTF/OTF to any new format will be made
widely available, then existing TTF/OTF files will be converted to that
new format. And some part of those conversions will be unauthorized.

I hope that we can agree that the correct fix is not to make conversion
tools secret?


Received on Tuesday, 7 July 2009 11:56:57 UTC

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