Re: New work on fonts at W3C

2009/6/16 François REMY <>:
>>> Again, you don't look at 'Why do the copyrighters say we can't use
>>> the font on the web'... Because "there's no secured way to transmit it"
>>> seems to be the key word of their arguments...

There cannot possibly be a secured way to transmit fonts, video,
music, or any digital information. Its like trying to make water not

However, the Ascender proposal DOES NOT try to securely transmit fonts.

Tom Lord wrote a small paper about the proposal at which I append:

- - - 8< - - -

Most of the papers on this site were written in 2009, when some people
feared that the W3C was going to rush to standardize a form of DRM for
web fonts; specifically, EOT's requirements that root strings be
enforced by web browsers.

Recently Bill Davis from Ascender has published a new proposal for web
fonts. I kinda like it, but I would like to see some improvements and
generalizations before I can say that I really support it:

The proposal suggests that consensus might be formed around a standard
“web font” file format that:

   1. is distinct from legacy formats used for restricted-license fonts
   2. supports subsets and patent-free compression
   3. conveys copyright, patent, and other licensing information in a
way that client applications are encouraged to use to keep users fully
informed about the content

Stated abstractly like that: I agree with all of those goals.

The proposal further suggests that some non-free fonts might be
licensed for web use under terms that require licensees to serve those
fonts on the web only using existing “same-origin” restriction
mechanisms. Some, in comments above, have questioned how the customers
will feel about this. I think it is a fine idea in principle and a
good enough idea if the customers in question are willing to work with

Here is where the proposal loses me a bit:

The proposal is for a new font format specifically. I think that is
not quite right.

The same concerns motivating this proposal for a new font format are
shared by makers of non-free image files, video files, audio files,
text files, and so forth. That is the first key observation.

The second key observation is that a single solution for all media
types is quite viable: a “wrapper file format” that can convey
licensing information and, by virtue of changing the byte-stream -
differ from legacy formats. That is, we can take existing font formats
of all types and wrap them in a format that adds such things as
licensing information. The wrapper would be slightly redundant with
some features of existing font formats but not by much.

A wrapper format like that can in principle apply to any linked (or
“embedded”, if that is really a concept) resource. There is nothing
“font specific” about it. Clients such as browsers can be modified to
recognize and unpack such a wrapper in a generic way - not in
font-specific code. And thus we solve similar problems for all media
types, all at once.

I think that going that route is actually the best way to persuade not
only restricted-license font vendors but also browser makers to adopt.
The way to encourage that adoption is to reach out to people
interested in other media types (such as music and video) and get them
interested as well. For browser implementors, it is a small change to
handle this new wrapper format around any media type and to begin to
add features to, for example, give users convenient access to
licensing information for “embedded” media.

It is difficult (probably impossible) for W3C to accept in one gulp
the idea of a wrapper format across all media types - that’s a big
step for humankind, not a baby step. Yet it is practical to advertise
the intent of getting to that point while initially promoting a
generic wrapper as a solution specifically for the immediate problem
of fonts.

A third key point is that the benefits of such wrappers are not unique
to distributors of “non-free” media files. Those of us who produce
libre content are also often concerned to see that such things as
licensing meta-data is conveyed with the work and that users are
informed of that meta-data. A generic wrapper format will help libre
causes as much as it will help restricted-licensing interests. Thus,
it seems a good centrist position, to me.

I have sketched a proposal for how such a wrapper format might work in
the others essays on this site, "MAME: Multimedia Attached Metadata
Expression" - - and - "Resource Meta-data
and User Notices." -

Received on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 11:21:13 UTC