Re: Fonts WG Charter feedback

Thomas Lord wrote:

> I also understand that the font vendors object to
> licensing their fonts for the web in TTF/OTF format
> because they perceive that that would lead to rampant,
> unauthorized use of those fonts.  If my understanding
> is incorrect, surely you can point out why.

> I interpolate, reasonably I think, that such unauthorized
> use would be objectionable to these vendors because it 
> would lower the use value of renting a font from them.
> If that is not the main concern, let me know.

Thomas, there are different kinds of font vendors, and I doubt if they 
share a primary concern in this regard. Font resellers are likely to be 
primarily motivated as you describe, but then these resellers have in 
their turn devalued fonts by treating them as commodities, so I don't 
have a lot of sympathy for them. The closer you get to the people who 
actually design the typefaces, the more complex the concerns become, 
because something other than disinterested money-making is at stake.

Let's talk for a minute about what a font is. A font is a carrier format 
for a typeface design; depending on how tightly the design is tied to 
its implementation in a font, we can say that the font embodies the 
typeface. A typeface is a tool that adds value by articulating and 
enriching text. A typeface adds value to typographic design, to graphic 
design and to publishing, regardless of medium. That individual 
typefaces add value through their individuality is obvious: if they 
didn't, we wouldn't be having this conversation because Verdana would be 
all anyone needed or wanted. Through this added value, typeface 
designers make creative contribution to other kinds of design, to 
typographic communication and to publishing. [I prefer this notion of 
creative or intellectual contribution to the more common idea of 
intellectual property.]

A little while ago, on this list, someone raised the old analogy of 
music downloads. I've never been convinced that this is a good analogy, 
whether one is making it to argue for or against DRM. Music is a 
consumable; it exists primarily for people to listen to and enjoy. Fonts 
are not consumables, they are tools, and only serious dweebish 
collectors want fonts just to look at. People want fonts so that they 
can use them, and when they use them that adds value to the things that 
they are making.

So what pisses me off, as a type designer, when I see fonts being used 
without license is not the loss of revenue -- which might not have 
existed since these people might never have paid -- nor the reduction in 
the market value of the fonts, but the knowledge that someone is 
benefiting from my work, is enjoying the value that my work adds to 
whatever it is that they are making, is exploiting my creative 
contribution, and is giving me absolutely nothing in return, not even 
respect. That this person is quite probably profiting financially from 
the work to which my typeface design is adding value makes it worse.

Now, it seems to me that browser makers are also looking to benefit from 
the work of typeface designers while offering nothing in return. It's 
easy for them: they add a bit of code to their browsers, present cool 
new features to their users, and let the font vendors and owners carry 
all the risk. Actually, it isn't even a risk, its an 'unintended effect' 
about which our opinions are 'pragmatically irrelevant'. The use of 
fonts on the web is going to turn the web into a giant font distribution 
system. Of the browser makers, only Microsoft (and to a much lesser 
extent perhaps Apple) has reason to be concerned about this, because 
they're the only company that both makes a browser and has invested very 
large sums of money in fonts to add value to their operating system and 
applications. Where are the Opera fonts? Where are the Mozilla fonts? 
Where are the Google fonts? These browser makers have no stake in fonts, 
so it is no wonder that they, plainly, don't give a damn about what 
happens to fonts.

John Hudson

Received on Monday, 6 July 2009 22:04:02 UTC