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Proposal: Font Use Modelling

From: Tiro TypeWorks <tiro@portal.ca>
Date: Fri, 09 Aug 1996 15:23:17 -0700
Message-Id: <199608092216.PAA09622@kefron.portal.ca>
To: www-font@w3.org
An awful lot of second-guessing seems to be accompanying the current
discussion of onscreen type, type embedding, etc. -- second-guessing of
developing technology, second-guessing of how people might want or need to
use type five years from now, or even one year from now. All this is
happening while many of the people developing the new technology, designing
fonts or simply dreaming up bright new ideas have little overall picture of
how type is being used today.

There is a tendency, of which we are all guilty, to look at type from the
perspective of our own corner of the industry (or related industries), and
not to fully consider what people in other areas might require of font
technology. Ever since type became a digital entity, distinctions between
different kinds of type, and between different kinds of people who use type,
have been largely ignored. The thinking seems to have been: 'Because all
type -- whether employed by graphic designers, computer programmers,
secretaries, or any of the other countless groups of people who 'need' fonts
-- is packed in the same software container, all type must be the same.'
This is an error of thinking that has affected type design, software
development, distribution systems and pricing structures.

I propose (and I'll let everyone else decide who is best placed to implement
such a proposal) that time should be taken to build a series of models of
current font usage, detailing how fonts are purchased and used by different
market groups, how fonts are likely to be used by such groups in the future,
and which smaller market groups are likely to grow in response to various
current technological initiatives. Of principal concern should be issues of
ownership, licensing, and data protection. Obviously these issues are going
to imply different things to different groups -- one thing to companies
commissioning custom typefaces, for example, and another to developers of
Web browsers.The point _is_ the difference, and we lack a model of these
differences suitable to informing the present debate.

I suspect, if such modelling were available, font technology developers
would see the need to control, within the font data, the ways in which a
font can be used. It is not that I am opposed in principle to outline fonts
being used, in some fashion, on the Web and in electronic documents; rather,
font designers, manufacturers and distributors should be able to determine
which of their fonts can be used in such a fashion and which cannot. Simply
rewriting licensing agreements and hoping for the best is not good enough,
it is not even adequate. It is unacceptable, as a type designer, to be
handed a new technology, told that it is going to be a world standard, and
then told that your work is unprotectable as a result. It is equally
unacceptable for a company commissioning a custom typeface to be unable to
use that typeface on their website without giving up the very exclusivity in
which they invested so much money.

John Hudson, Type Director

Tiro TypeWorks
Vancouver, BC
Received on Friday, 9 August 1996 18:17:38 UTC

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