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

Re: Protecting WebFonts

From: Gary Ruben <gdr@cataneo.bitstream.com>
Date: Thu, 22 Aug 1996 13:05:52 -0400
Message-ID: <321C9370.167EB0E7@cataneo.bitstream.com>
To: Michael Bernstein <michael@cascadilla.com>
CC: www-font@w3.org
Michael Bernstein wrote:
> Gary Ruben put forth an interesting proposal:

[ my original post elided ...] 

> And what happens when the browser becomes the operating system, as some
> folks in OS design are suggesting?  Some fringe guy named Bill Gates is
> even taken with the idea, and he just might be able to convince a few
> other people to go along with him.  All of a sudden, there are no "other"
> applications, and the font which only the browser is allowed to use is
> completely available for everything you want to do on the computer.
I can't believe that Bill Gates is hell bent on liberating everybody's
fonts by ignoring or side-stepping the private font installation
facilities in Windows. Even if the browser *is* the OS, the user agent
for viewing HTML Web pages should still respect the font protection
mechanisms either proposed or finally agreed upon and implemented.
> Here's a variant, which addresses the actual rights of the font's copyright
> holder.  The only acceptable font references in a web page should be refs
> to the font distributor's server (or whoever holds the copyright to that
> font).  That server can then send out copies if the copyright holder wants
> to.  Adobe and Bitstream can give away their fonts, and I can choose not
> to give away mine.  And you don't give end-users the false impression that
> somehow they have the right to distribute copies themselves.
Well, I agree that we should not give end-users the impression that
fonts are free (except if they are specifically identified as such). But
we are not talking about end-users distributing the fonts. I am
suggesting that Web page authors and publishers who have purchased or
licensed a legitimate copy of a font should be able to publish with it,
without worrying that it will "accidently" fall into the hands of users
who did not pay for the privilege of publishing with that font, and that
we in the industry have an obligation to find a method that lets
publishers use the fonts they own without that risk.

I *do not* speak for Bitstream, but I honestly don't think that either
Adobe nor Bitstream, nor Microsoft want to give away all their fonts.
Nor do they want to force you to give away yours. You are free to write
your license agreements to prohibit electronic publication and
distribution, if you want. None of the major type foundries will look on
you as some sort of pariah if you retain that sort of control over your
> So if I want to use Adobe Minion, I can send out my page along with a
> reference to Adobe's site for where to retrieve the font.  I'd better
> expect that Adobe's site might not be working, or that Adobe might have
> decided not to give it away any more.  Such is life.  But if Adobe is
> still giving it away, great!
Are you saying that you would make a reference to Adobe's server, even
if you did not own a licensed copy of Minion, and if they were feeling
magnanmous at the time your Web page was read, and served up a free
copy, you'd be happy. And if not, no big deal? Or are you saying that
*if* you owned a licensed copy of Minion and it could be served from
Adobe's server you would make the reference point to Adobe's site?

What if you owned a licensed copy of Minion and the license allowed you
to publish any document using it over the Web. If you reference Adobe's
server for Minion and they happen to be down that day, or have changed
their mind about free distribution, wouldn't you feel cheated? Would you
sue for breach of contract? Wouldn't it be better to serve *your* copy
of Minion from *your* server?

> The font manufacturer can just send a bitmap instead, which will let the
> document be read (see, dingbat fonts can't be substituted very well).  So
> it doesn't have to be an all or nothing approach.  And for normal text
> fonts, substitution will work just fine if the manufacturer doesn't want
> to give away the font.
My proposal includes provision for font substitions. If you are
publishing using a font with restrictions, you _should_ use the matching
or synthesis references. I, for one, am not advocating that publishers
ignore the licensing restrictions on the fonts they own.

> Nobody except me has the right to distribute the fonts I make.  They can
> distribute bitmaps or printed output they've created using my fonts.  

If you re-read the proposal I think you will see that I am not
advocating the distribution of fonts. I am looking for a way to let
publishers publish typographically rewarding documents on the Web with
the fonts they own, and presumably have a right to use.

> But not the fonts themselves.  And conversions such as TrueDoc uses are not
> sufficient to void my copyright on the arrangement of characters in a
> dingbat font, or to void my copyright on non-alphabetic characters, or
> to void my copyright on typeface design in many countries outside the
> US, or to void a possible design patent in the US.  And all of Bitstream's
> protesting that they want to give away their fonts doesn't give them the
> right to give away mine, or to tell their users that it's ok if the
> users do.
Again, I don't think Bitstream wants to just give away its fonts, nor is
it asking you to do so.

> I'm very concerned about the erosion of perceived value in fonts.  That
> destroys the market for future fonts.  For current fonts, wide illegal
> distribution isn't as much of a problem as long as the sources can be
> traced (which AltaVista and server logs make quite simple), because I
> can recoup my lost sales through lawsuits.  And folks like Bitstream
> would appear to be liable for contributory infringement, which makes life
> even simpler.  I don't much like that approach to earning my income, but
> if Bitstream is going to keep insisting that it's ok for them to help
> give away my fonts, I don't see what alternative there is.  It'll be a
> little simpler when a bunch of wronged independent foundries get together
> to file suit a la SWIFTE...
> Yours,
>   Michael Bernstein
>   Cascadilla Press
>   michael@cascadilla.com

 Gary Ruben                             Bitstream Inc.
 Senior Software Engineer               215 First Street
 mailto:gdr@cataneo.bitstream.com       Cambridge MA 02142-1270 USA
Bitstream does not necessarily endorse any opinions expressed here.
       (Come to think of it, you might not either. 8-o)
Received on Thursday, 22 August 1996 13:16:37 UTC

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