W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > June 2009

RE: New work on fonts at W3C

From: Chris Wilson <Chris.Wilson@microsoft.com>
Date: Mon, 22 Jun 2009 16:34:03 +0000
To: Tab Atkins Jr. <jackalmage@gmail.com>
CC: John Daggett <jdaggett@mozilla.com>, "www-style@w3.org" <www-style@w3.org>
Message-ID: <61027177C88032458A7862054B3C6258035B12@TK5EX14MBXW652.wingroup.windeploy.ntdev.microsoft.com>
Tab Atkins Jr. [mailto:jackalmage@gmail.com] wrote:
>To be fair, it worked with music, and is in the process of working
>with many other content industries.  Betting on free has a very good
>track record on the web, no matter how much the entrenched industries
>kick and scream about it.  I think a lot of us don't see a compelling
>reason to bet *against* the existing widespread free format yet.

I see it differently, for two main reasons:
1) Fonts are certainly a creative product, but they are software - a software tool, in particular, used to produce creative works (content/web pages/apps/etc.).  The font itself is not an end product, like a track of music is, and is not always as recognizable as, say, a musical melody or riff (and there's a rich history of litigation over those, too.)  The analogy might work for music if you couldn't ship the finished product (the MP3 track) - but had to ship all the source material, synth settings and the mixing software, and anyone who got the music could create additional works with them.  (Remember, no one (at least, no one I've talked to) is questioning the use of the visual rendering of a font, e.g. in an image file.)

2) (This is the reason that always kills the analogy to music for me.)  The financial model for production of fonts and production of music is actually quite different, particularly today.  Musicians (the ones who actually create the music) typically make their money from live performance; revenue from distribution of the CDs (or MP3, etc) goes HEAVILY toward the music publishing/distribution middle-man.  Usually only very popular performers (who've typically wrested some measure of control away from the publishers for themselves) make any significant money from sales of recorded music.  This is why many performers are happy for an audience to download their music, even free - and even pretty big groups sometimes (like Coldplay's release of LeftRightLeftRightLeft).  As I don't see a huge amount of value in what publishers/distributers do here, and the musicians are getting paid even if the audience is downloading their tracks for free, the analogy fails for me.

In short, the problem I see is that there are (at least) two uses of fonts - the use for viewing and interacting with a creative work, and the use for creation of new creative works.  I would think the licenses for those two would be different.  Unfortunately, that's not well understood, and the TTF/OTF format does not capture it particularly well; and if you arbitrarily support all TTF files anyway for web content, you're setting a precedent.

Received on Monday, 22 June 2009 16:34:43 UTC

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