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Re: Fonts WG Charter feedback

From: John Hudson <tiro@tiro.com>
Date: Mon, 06 Jul 2009 21:54:20 -0700
Message-ID: <4A52D4FC.5080407@tiro.com>
To: Thomas Lord <lord@emf.net>
CC: "www-font@w3.org" <www-font@w3.org>
Thomas Lord wrote:

> Are you trying to argue against having any standard
> for web fonts whatsoever?

> If not, how does this argument apply specifically to the
> case of TTF/OTF as one among more than one required format?

I have not accepted your basic premise of multiple required formats. I 
think a number of browser makers have unilaterally implemented something 
that can and perhaps should be rejected by W3C -- this is what we are 
discussing --, and I currently see all options as on the table.

My preference is for a single format, but one that is flexible in terms 
of the levels of bulkheads it provides against unlicensed use of fonts. 
I have chosen the term bulkhead carefully, because I understand people 
have ideological and practical objections to notions of security or 
protection, but I'm getting tired of the picket fence metaphors and I 
think, psychologically, something stronger than a picket fence is possible.

A bulkhead is something that no one expects to survive all pressures: it 
is expected to fail under certain conditions. But it has the benefit 
that one can determine what those conditions are, and one can build 
bulkheads in sequence, so that as one fails you still have time before 
the next one fails. Typically, as they start to fail, the rate of 
collapse speeds up, but together the bulkheads provide enough time for 
the people to get into the lifeboats (which they've been busy getting 
ready). Get the metaphor? A lifeboat might be a new business model, a 
third party online typesetting solution, or a new career.

My preference is for a single format that is able to flexibly meet the 
needs of the variety of people who make fonts, commission fonts and use 
fonts, in ways that encourage legitimate use. Dave Crossland mentioned 
that you and he had discussed the critical need to get licensing 
agreements before the users, in ways that they understand and 
appreciate. This is probably something on which we agree. This is one of 
the bulkheads. Other bulkheads are compression, single-origin checking, 
non-obligatory permissions statements or embedded electronic EULAs, and 
others that we haven't thought of yet.

If the format is flexible, i.e. if the font maker can determine which 
and how many bulkheads are applied, then we can get away from the crude 
and misleading dichotomy of TTF/OTF = free font and 'something else' = 
restricted license font. This dichotomy establishes a really bad 
precedence, since existing fonts are almost all TTF/OTF. This is another 
way of explaining the font maker objection to TTF/OTF linking, and one 
in which the existence of a secondary, special format for restrictively 
licensed actually contributes to the perception of TTF and OTF fonts as 
fair game for web serving.

I would like the same font format to be able to clearly communicate the 
free licensing model of one font and the particular licensing 
restrictions of another font.

Your wrapper idea is one of the ways in which this might be achieved. 
But right now we have this problem of browser makers unilaterally 
encouraging people to create de facto font file sharing when we know 
from past experience that this is going to mean widespread license 
breaking -- whether deliberate or accidental -- and unregulated 
distribution of our typefaces.

John Hudson
Received on Tuesday, 7 July 2009 04:55:05 UTC

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