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Re: Protecting WebFonts

From: Tim Rolands <trolands@truman.edu>
Date: Tue, 27 Aug 96 12:45:53 -0500
Message-Id: <199608271741.MAA25132@truman.edu>
To: "Michael Bernstein" <michael@cascadilla.com>, "Gary Ruben" <gdr@cataneo.bitstream.com>, "WWWFont List" <www-font@w3.org>
Greetings, all. I just decided to jump in on this discussion.

Michael Bernstein wrote:
>Hello?  Is anyone paying attention?  The publisher doesn't have the right
>to pick the fonts he wants to distribute to the world.  The font owner
>has that right.

I think what we need to do is define some terms and establish who has 
what rights. There's a lot of talk about "publishers" and "users" bot no 
clear understanding of what we're really talking about. For example, I 
qualify as a user, a publisher (not only of print books, but also web 
pages and digital fonts!). And actually, we're all users; it's a matter 
of how we're using.

Who do we have to figure into the fonts-on-the-web equation?

1) Electronic Publisher--the one who creates web pages and makes them 
available on a server

2) Electronic Document Viewer--the reader, the one who views web pages 
created by the Electronic Publisher

3) Font Creator--the one who creates fonts and makes them available to 
Electronic Publishers

Now, these terms are by no means mutually exclusive. Some of us play all 
three roles, many more play the first two roles. For the sake of this 
discussion, though, I think we can deal with them as is. Am I right about 
these three different types of "users"? Please offer other ways of 
defining "users".

The next question is, what rights do these three different types of users 

1) Electronic Publisher
The Electronic Publisher has the right to use whatever legally obtained 
resources are at his/her disposal to carry out his/her role. In print, 
the Publisher controls the distribution of his own finished product, 
which happens to make use of fonts provided by the Font Creator. There is 
a distribution of the results of legal use of the product supplied by the 
Font Creator, not of the product itself. In electronic publishing, 
however, there doesn't seem to be any control over the distribution of 
the Publisher's finished product, the web page. In theory, there could be 
control through a system of Viewers paying to access the Publisher's web 
server, but that's not practical in terms of security or competition 
(every other Publisher is serving its documents up for free). All this 
also makes true copyright of electronic documents quite problematic. 
Well, I guess the actual copyright is there, but what about the 
protection? Anyway, the Electronic Publisher does not have the right to 
distribute the Font Creator's product, only the results of his own use of 
that product. Does it then become the Publisher's responsibility to 
ensure this is the case? I'd say, yes. 

2) Electronic Document Viewer
The Electronic Document Viewer has the right to use whatever legally 
obtained resources are at his/her disposal to carry out his/her role. The 
Viewer can use whatever browser he has purchased or has permission to use 
freely to access freely available web documents. The Viwer does not have 
the right to see these pages as they were intended to look by the 
Publisher. This isn't really a right at all. It is rather the 
responsibility of the Publisher to make the documents work for the 
Viewers. Because, the Viewer does have the right to dislike any 
electronic documents and the right to avoid the server of such documents 
in the future.

3) Font Creator
Just as the Publisher has copyright of his/her finished product, so does 
the Font Creator have the copyright of his/her own finished product, the 
fonts. Again, protection is the problem. Is there a way to control at the 
Font Creation end how the font can be used later by the Electronic 
Publisher? Can copy protection be built into fonts? Even simpler, does 
the Font Creator have the right to tell the Publisher that his font 
product cannot be used in certain specific ways? Of course; whatever the 
license says. Just as with other software, the Publisher must follow the 
terms of the Font Creator's license agreement. There's still the problem 
of distributing the output image of the font without distributing the 
actual font, and that is the reponsibility of the Publisher. Naturally, 
the Font Creators are going to want to ensure the protection of their 
copyrights by helping to develop methods of using their fonts in 
electronic publishing. 

I offer no solutions in this post; I just want to clarify the problem and 
identify in particular some specific elements. I hope my observations are 
accurate, and I look forward to your response.


   Tim Rolands, Electronic Editor
   Thomas Jefferson University Press
   MC111L 100 East Normal
   Kirksville, MO 63501-4221

   Voice: 816-785-7299 or Fax: 816-785-4181
   E-mail: trolands@truman.edu or trolands@aol.com
   WWW: http://members.aol.com/trolands

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Received on Tuesday, 27 August 1996 13:45:59 UTC

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