RE: New work on fonts at W3C


Two thumbs up for this post! You summed up the issues better than anyone ever before.

Commercial font vendors DO want to be able to license their fonts for the web use. However, allowing raw TrueType and OpenType fonts be used with no protection whatsoever presents too much risk that font vendors and foundries are not willing to take. The problem can easily be solved by deploying a font wrapper like EOT that simply reduces the risk of font piracy.

Monotype Imaging has recently modified its EULA to allow web use for all fonts in our libraries. Web use rights are free for non-commercial websites, and there is a small fee for using fonts for commercial websites. The caveat - as of today, fonts can only be used in the EOT format as it's the only existing web format that offers an ability to 'put a fence with "no trespassing" sign' around a font. However, the press release clearly states that our goal is to establish a universally supported web font format. It could be EOT or another format with similar capabilities - I believe this is the only thing we need to have in place to immediately benefit from high-quality typography on the web.

Thank you,

> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On
> Behalf Of Adam Twardoch
> Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 10:07 AM
> To:
> Cc: Mikko Rantalainen
> Subject: Re: New work on fonts at W3C
> Mikko Rantalainen wrote:
> > I'll repeat the parts that I feel were important:
> >
> > (1) Commercial font vendors do not want to license their fonts for
> web
> >
> > (2) Effective DRM system does not exist
> The problem is neither that commercial font vendors do not want to
> license their fonts for web, nor that there is a need for an effective
> DRM system for fonts.
> The problem with fonts, as perceived by the commercial font vendors, is
> that digital fonts are highly usable across various media, and that
> they
> are highly re-usable.
> You may try to dismiss the following, but please try to take my word
> for
> it: fonts are much more re-usable than any other kind of digital
> content. Text, images, music, film or other graphic content is mostly
> only useful in one particular context. This kind of content often makes
> sense just in connection with other kinds of content that is of similar
> kind.
> There are exceptions, of course: news headlines and short news reports
> are very useful in a variety of contexts, and this is why companies
> such
> as Reuters are objecting to services such as Google News to the point
> where they seem to regret to having themselves invested into
> technologies such as RSS. Now they think they shot themselves in the
> foot, because it is the aggregators such as Google News that are
> cashing
> on the content rather than the content originators.
> Those kinds of content I mentioned are also of limited use across
> different media. For print use, high-resolution CMYK-based PDFs are
> images are useful, but on the web, you will rather find low-resolution
> RGB images.
> In addition, content that is directly consumed and directly takes
> screen
> real estate (such as text or graphics) can be refinanced to some extent
> by the inclusion of ads.
> With fonts, it *is* all different. In this regard, fonts are more like
> software than they are content. Fonts do not represent content
> themselves, but are rather highly flexible, repurposeable digital
> assets
> that assist in content presentation -- much more like ActionScript or
> JavaScript used to "drive" a website. But then, lots of complex
> software
> is highly tied to particular website implementations or runs on servers
> altogether, so it's rather difficult to repurpose it in an unauthorized
> manner.
> But fonts are small, enclosed, yet highly performant digital files that
> take months or years to design and develop, and once done, can be used
> to style the content in a vast number of different contexts. With
> non-Latin writing systems, the complexity even increases, and
> well-developed, highly-complex fonts so much as allow proper rendition
> of text that was previously unreadable (so it's not just about
> stylistic
> variety but about the question of orthographic correctness).
> And, the digital fonts in OpenType format are as performant that you
> could see them more like the "studio master tapes" for music than the
> compressed MP3 files.
> What the commercial font vendors want is not really a technical measure
> to completely prevent others to obtain the font file and re-use it (in
> other web contexts or in different media). In most cases, they do not
> want an impenetrable wall. Much rather do they want some simple way to
> put a fence around their property and put a label on it that says "no
> tresspassing". Jumping the fence is doable. The fence is a
> psychological
> and legal barrier, rather than a viable technical one.
> Simply speaking: commercial font vendors do not want that any user
> grabs
> their font from a website that uses it, downloads it and uses it for
> his
> own purpose (install on his desktop system and use it in a text
> processing application such as Word, or graphic design application such
> as InDesign or Photoshop). Commercial font vendors would prefer if
> desktop fonts stayed desktop fonts, and web fonts stayed web fonts.
> Also, commercial font vendors would like to be able to put a label into
> a web font that says "this font belongs to this website". Nothing more.
> The EOT font format submitted to W3C by Microsoft and Monotype Imaging
> ( ), and implemented in Microsoft
> Internet Explorer for Windows since version 4.0 delivers just that: it
> uses a different container package (.eot) that is not directly usable
> on
> a desktop system, and it uses a simple way to label the website which
> the font has been licensed for.
> It's not a technical copy protection mechanism. It is technically
> trivial to convert an .eot file into a .ttf file that is usable on the
> desktop. But the different packaging prevents "accidental misuse" -- it
> is like the fence. And the labeling that ties the font to a particular
> website is like the "no trespassing" sign. If a user decides to jump
> the
> fence anyway, he or she will be aware that they are crossing a social
> or
> legal norm. It's this low-hanging psychological barrier that the
> majority of the commercial font vendors wants, and would be happy with
> it.
> Best proof for that is that just two weeks ago, one of the largest
> commercial font vendors in the world (Monotype Imaging, that controls
> the Monotype, Linotype and ITC font libraries, with some 4,000 OpenType
> fonts in their combined assets) has introduced a new font license that
> allows users to use any of their licensed fonts on any non-commercial
> website -- but only if they do so using the .eot web font format rather
> than using the .ttf or .otf desktop font formats directly.
> Here's the announcement:

> As I explained, most commercial vendors don't want an "effective DRM
> system". They want a simple psychological barrier that makes
> unauthorized font reusal "just a bit less than trivial". EOT delivers
> that. It is publicly specified, ready-to-use, and already implemented
> in
> one of the major web browsers.
> Regards,
> Adam
> --
> Adam Twardoch
> | Language Typography Unicode Fonts OpenType
> | | |
> The illegal we do immediately.
> The unconstitutional takes a little longer.
> (Henry Kissinger)

Received on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 14:43:23 UTC