W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-font@w3.org > July to September 2009

Re: format changes as false protection

From: John Hudson <tiro@tiro.com>
Date: Wed, 29 Jul 2009 13:32:18 -0700
Message-ID: <4A70B1D2.5020109@tiro.com>
CC: www-font@w3.org
> Thesis: As web fonts come into popular
> use, publicly licensed (libre) fonts will be
> the most widely used fonts, *by far*.

Used by whom?

The market for commercial font licensing for *any* medium is 
professional designers and their customers. The same people who are the 
principle market for commercial font licensing for print are the same 
people who are the principle market for commercial font licensing for 
the web. This is why I am unmoved by the suggestion that there is some 
kind of vast potential untapped market in licensing fonts for the web: 
there isn't, it is the same market that exists for licensing for print 
design, a professional market of design professionals looking for 
professional design tools to use in professional work for corporate, 
governmental and other clients who can afford professional design 
services and understand the value of them. I no more expect individual, 
non-commercial web authors to pay for professional web font licenses 
than I expect scrap-bookers to pay for font licenses for print. There 
may be some market for 'fun fonts' for such users, as there is in 
desktop fonts, and the web equivalent of 500-super-cheap-font-CDs, but 
the quality and suitability to the medium will be low.

But even outside that professional markey, I disagree with you that the 
most widely used fonts will be publicly licensed fonts. They will be 
whatever fonts users happen to have on their systems, which they will 
assume to be licensed for use on the web, especially if the format is 
compatible, just as they assume today that they can email those fonts to 
their friends and family. Given that these people are not the market for 
commercial font licenses, some people wonder why we care about such 
license violations: the 'If they wouldn't pay for it anyway, is it 
really theft and what is the foundry losing?' argument. As discussed 
previously, in the professional commercial or custom font licensing 
market, fonts are tools that add value to the design work that the user 
produces, and part of that value is the relative or absolute exclusivity 
of the font, which is why the most successful graphic design 
practitioners also tend to be the first customers for newly released 
typefaces: they understand the value of using a typeface whose 
distinctiveness is not diluted through over-use. So this is why we care 
about easy unlicensed use of fonts, because it undermines their value to 
paying customers. Further, it contributes to a negligent attitude to 
font license agreements that is not confined to the amateur community.

Sadly, even within the professional design environment, font licenses 
are broken daily. Fonts are copies by designers who then take them home 
or take them with them to new jobs at other agencies, fonts are 
downloaded from pirate websites because some designer who needs to meet 
a deadline can't get a budget expenditure approval from his boss who has 
gone home for the night, and so forth. On the positive side, though, 
when foundries approach design agencies and offered to help them clean 
up their font licensing, they tend to jump at the opportunity. Monotype 
even made a font audit tool that companies can use to check the fonts on 
their networks and cross-reference with licenses and payments. At least 
at the management level, design companies want to keep their noses 
clean, as do their client, and they appreciate things that make it easy 
for them to do so. This is why, as Richard says,

	Using a different file extension seems to me a
	reasonable precaution, a "safety latch" of sorts
	that helps keep me and any clients I work for,
	out of trouble.

As you say, Thomas, someone is going to come along and make a tool that 
scours the web, finds linked fonts in any format, converts them to 
desktop compatible format, and maybe goes the last step and installs 
them on systems. A different format is not going to prevent deliberate 
unlicensed use and the minimal protection against casual misuse that it 
provides will be easily undermined by such a tool. No one has denied 
this or suggested otherwise. But in aggregate with better font meta 
data, this minimal protection is still more attractive to font makers 
than naked font linking, is more attractive to our clients for custom 
typeface design, and makes it easier for actual customers for commercial 
font licensing to monitor their license compliance.

> That means that Dirk is right when he says that
> a new format with no greater rationale than to
> be a new format is an objectionable idea for 
> a Recommendation.

> I'd observe that that leaves us about where
> we are, though:

> EOT-lite is not a new format for its own sake,
> it is a new format with a potential for retrospective
> compatibility.

> .webfont is not a new format for its own sake,
> it conveys a new form of meta-data which UAs 
> SHOULD process and present according to certain
> rules.

Quite. In this sense, the debate about whether that font makers want as 
minimal protection is actually protection is, ahem, orthogonal to the 
question of the appropriateness of these proposed formats.

> The mime wrapper proposal shares a rationale
> with .webfont but is more careful in describing
> what that new meta-data can contain and how it 
> should be presented.  It also proposes a format
> more in line with web architecture generally
> and with greater opportunity for generalization to
> other media types.

I for one like your mime wrapper proposal -- and made sure that it got 
mentioned during the TypeCon Q&A -- but there seemed to be zero traction 
on this list, perhaps because it was seen as something way above and 
beyond the scope of a possible web font working group.

Received on Wednesday, 29 July 2009 20:33:01 UTC

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