W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-font@w3.org > July to September 1996

Re: Re[2]: pixel fonts

From: Andrew C. Bulhak <acb@cs.monash.edu.au>
Date: Fri, 9 Aug 1996 20:27:36 +1000 (EST)
Message-Id: <199608091027.UAA01358@silas.cc.monash.edu.au>
To: evb@knoware.nl (Erik van Blokland)
Cc: tiro@portal.ca, www-font@w3.org
[Erik van Blokland]
> Andrew C. Bulhak:
> >Anyone can theoretically make a second-rate outline font from a 
> >PostScript file;  but then again, anyone can also scan in a 
> >printed font and make a knock-off font, which is perfectly legal in
> >the US as long as they change the name.  And yet professional 
> >publishers and designers still buy original fonts.
> But why make it even easier to pirate fonts as it already is? Practice 
> is: most people will move heaven and earth to get a copy of an original 
> font from a friend. They will wait for weeks and be happy with incomplete 
> products. Then they will use it in a professional environment. Have no 
> illusion.

But if they use it in a professional environment, they open themselves
up to prosecution for software theft.  And doing so is a major 
liability and Not Good Business.

> My estimate is that in the US, every font I sell gets copied around 30 
> times. That's more than hobby font collectors and people with family 
> newsletters. Copy protection outfits as FAST or SPA are sponsored by a 
> couple of big companies that actually discourage new members (why make it 
> easy for your competitor). 

How many of these pirated copies actually compete against legitimate
copies in the marketplace, as opposed to lying around on a pack-rat's
hard disk?  I suspect that most "font collectors" who swap fonts with
friends are not in the publishing or design business and would not
buy fonts in the first place. (That is not to say that they do no wrong;
if the latest design ends up on lots of two-bit newsletters, its image
becomes less valuable more quickly than it otherwise would.)

And if SPA and FAST don't worry about font piracy, perhaps various 
type foundries should form their own organisation that does.

> The scale of font piracy in the offline world (that is: floppies, 
> sneakernetworks etc) where the spreading of fonts greatly hindered by 
> practicalities, is already worrying, it will be a massive threat in the 
> online world because it    is    so     much     easier. There will 
> always be a page somewhere with the fonts you're looking for. Just for 
> fun, check alt.binaries.fonts and monitor the fonts that come by there 
> every day.

Aren't most of them dodgy TrueType knockoff fonts of the "1,000 fonts 
for $19.95" variety?  

> I can't repeat this often enough: of course outline fonts are better for 
> many applications, but current formats    are    just   not   safe    
> enough    for    online   use.

Possibly.  But then again, bitmap fonts are tightly wedded to a resolution
and are not easily portable.  X11 assumes 75 or 100 dpi, 
Windows assumes 96 and the Mac assumes something like 72.  This 
complicates things.  

That is not to say that bitmap fonts don't have a use; they probably do,
in graphics and headings.  But they're not much good for displaying text

> We can use alternatives (perhaps pixelfonts) until the day there is a 
> reliable method of dispersing fonts without giving them away. Safety 
> precautions are best taken before going up, as there is not much one can 
> do on the way down.

The problem with precautions is that to be secure, they would depend on
proprietary formats, a concept which is opposed to the principles of
HTML and open systems.  The browser will need a key for decoding the font
to display it; however, if the user can obtain the key, e can rip the font.

> Developments like Truedoc won't do the trick: the reasoning is (by IMO 
> dubious interpretation of _US_ copyright law) by making a lower quality 
> copy of the font, people won't be interested in pirating it. But: the 
> font was good enough to use it in the orginal Truedoc document, so why 
> raise you standards?

To keep up appearances.  While the average Joe Sixpack may be satisfied
with poorly proportioned knockoffs obtained by the hundred on CD, 
professional designers would not.  And there is an evident difference
between the appearance of professionally designed documents and those
knocked up at home by an amateur.  In either case, professional type
designers get very little money from such amateurs, whether because of
knockoffs or piracy.  Professional fonts are somewhat of a prestige market.

> >That is an idea; mind you, a corpus of "free" (subsidised) fonts for
> >online publishing is not always the answer.  What if a site needs to use
> >a particular font which is not free?
> Indeed. Actually, it will be the non free fonts that people will be 
> continue to be interested in, and not because Matthew Carter and Tom 
> Rickner didn't do a good job, the fonts are great. But having a different 
> typeface on your pages than your neighbour makes you stand out and get 
> attention (bluntly speaking). Though free fonts will please a lot of 
> people just because it is free, the fact that everybody has access to 
> them, the thing that stands out will be more intersting. More free fonts 
> will only make it more interesting to use non free fonts, and the 
> embedding tech makes no distinction.

Yes;  if fonts are subsidised by companies and made available for free
online use, they should be those which are sufficiently generic that,
while they add to the range of typographical expression, they do not 
give away anything new.  Times and Helvetica would be the most obvious
candidates (indeed, I believe Microsoft have licenced the TrueType versions
of their lookalikes, Times New Roman and Arial, for web use).

  http://www.zikzak.net/~acb/       "`HAVE A NICE DAY' died for your sins."
           <acb@dev.null.org>                                  -- Mumbles
Received on Friday, 9 August 1996 06:29:02 UTC

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