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 22:29:41 +1000 (EST)
Message-Id: <199608091229.WAA25880@silas.cc.monash.edu.au>
To: evb@knoware.nl (Erik van Blokland)
Cc: acb@cs.monash.edu.au, tiro@portal.ca, www-font@w3.org
[Erik van Blokland]
> >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.
> But even if the breaking and entering is a crime, it is still wise to 
> lock your doors and put valuables in a safe.

Up to a point;  beyond the point it becomes an inconvenience.

> >Aren't most of them dodgy TrueType knockoff fonts of the "1,000 fonts 
> >for $19.95" variety?  
> Actually, my fonts pop up there regularly (>$300). Even after repeated 
> (sometimes heated) discussions on the legality of it.

Then mail the postmaster of the offending site;  many sites pull accounts
for that sort of thing.

> >> 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.  
> Indeed a problem, but not worth sacrificing typefoudries for. Before 80% 
> of the world's computer screens have resolutions over the 100 dpi we'll 
> be 3-5 years further, even with a major breakthrough in LCD technology. 
> When that happens, screen resolution becomes a serious issue. Before that 
> however, there is enough time to develop a secure way to distribute fonts 
> over the net without risking exposure.

Even now, the difference means that there is no way using one bitmap font
to display text identically on different window systems, unless you do some
(ugly) stretching of the font.

> >Aren't most of them dodgy TrueType knockoff fonts of the "1,000 fonts 
> >for $19.95" variety?  
> Well, yeah, Knockoffs of my fonts. Only adds to the efficiency of piracy, 
> and propagates the idea that fonts are free, or really cheap and anyone 
> paying good money for type is out of his mind. That is just damaging to 
> the fontmarket as direct lost sales.

Would the people who use knockoff fonts purchase legitimate fonts if
knockoffs were unavailable?  I doubt it.  For legitimate fonts, one is
paying at least as much for quality and reliability as for the appearance
of the font.

> >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.
> Not necessarily. For instance by building applets or objects or whatever 
> you want to call them, active executable code, that function as fonts it 
> will be possible to monitor usage of fonts, and based on that, get money 
> for it. This is not unreasonable. The publisher of a certain web document 
> wants the user to see his pages in a particular font, user doesn't really 
> care. User reads page, font signals foundry, foundry invoices publisher. 
> If font cannot signal the foudnry it'll lose feautures, or stop working 
> altogether. It can be done and makes sense. If font usage (and basically 
> any piece of intellectual property) can be monitored in a reliable way, 
> prices will go down dramatically. If font usage cannot be monitored at 
> all and risk of exposure increases, font prices will go up: expensive 
> multiuser licenses etc.

Java applets for implementing fonts are an interesting idea, and better
than bitmaps.  Although I suspect that people would crack them soon 
enough (perhaps even for sport alone, as with games in the Amiga days).
(There is a recent technical report from IBM, showing how Java (because
of its portability and network security constraints) may be easily
decompiled.)  They'll help, to be sure, but like many door locks,
they're more a symbolic measure than a practical safeguard.  Education and
enforcement will do more to stop piracy.

> >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.
> Indeed. But there still is massive abuse of fonts in the professional 
> world. Though it would be nice to be able to wish it away, it won't. 
> Every single ad agency, student and music magazine in the world seems to 
> have Trixie,  but I only sold 1200 copies in 5 years. That hurts. That's 

I'm sorry to hear that.  Is that an actual copy of Trixie, or 
another typewriter font made in the same style (such as Harting)?

> the reason I'm not optimistic about fonts on line. It's a daily fight, 
> over and over again to get people to pay for the things that they use. 
> The fact the current font formats make copying very easy does not mean we 
> should give up on it and do something else. It means we have to develop 
> better means of protection, and prevent the situation from getting worse. 
> That is not too much to ask.
> The internet won't go away, webpages won't go away, and perhaps 
> unfortunately to some, typdesigners and typefoundries that want a fair 
> deal won't go away either.

Understandably so.  But the need for scalable fonts for text and such 
won't go away either.  A fair deal may be easier to achieve by 
education and enforcement than by technology.  If we can persuade the
professional users of fonts that publishing with unlicensed fonts is 
too great a risk, that may eliminate many cases of font piracy.
(If one publishes with a pirated font, one may get caught; if one has a 
pirated font but does not publish with it, it is not of much use.)
That would also cause fewer technical problems.

  http://www.zikzak.net/~acb/       "`HAVE A NICE DAY' died for your sins."
           <acb@dev.null.org>                                  -- Mumbles
Received on Friday, 9 August 1996 08:30:47 UTC

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