Re: questions for a page layout program

I'm sorry, this is quite a long reply, and more on this topic
probably doesn't belong on the gnome-development list.  At the
end of the message is an outline for a simple techincal approach,
under the heading "Here is an example" :-)

Robert Wittams wrote:
> As to the copyright protection system, I really don't think this is
> something gnome can be expected to "solve". A font is stored as a stream
> of bytes, and as such it is easy to duplicate.

Technically, this is correct.

> I would say that this is a matter best left to the courts. If a font
> designer/publisher has reason to believe that someone is infringing
> their copywrite, they can sue. 

Copyright infringement for typefaces is more complex than that.
The GPL has not, as far as I am aware, ever been tested in a US
court, but font protection has.  The courts say that where fonts
or hinting techniques have been patented, they can have protection.
Relying on American courts for protection means that it may become
difficult or impossible to have free fonts.  Outside the US, fonts
do have copryright protection.  In the US, font *names* have trade
mark protection, which is why Helvetica is owned by Linotype, for
example, the font design patented under license by Adobe, and the
outlines not protected by US law.

More importantly, there is an ethical question: how would you feel
about yuor GPL'd software being sold without source?

At any rate, I do have a proposed technical approach which does not
prevent or impede free fonts.  There are very few people who can afford
to spend a few weeks making a font and then givie it away, and
even fewer who are typographers.

It's actually very difficult to design fonts well, and requires a rare
balance of skills.  Helvetica took months (although then the bold and
oblique went fairly quickly) but Monotype's Ariel took many many
person-years.  Part of that is that TrueType fonts are *much* harder
to make wel than Type 1 fonts, and also that they aer programs, not
declarative outlines, so you need both designers and programmers.

You are correct that it is difficult or impossible to enforce, but
that does not abdicate developers of responsibility.  If we can't
do even minimal protection, we should not support outline fonts.
The ethical argument is very important.  Font piracy is so high
right now that it's difficult for font designers to make a living,
so most of them do contract work to make ends meet.  To some
extent this is similar to the free software situation, except that
universities and large companies don't tend to employ typographers:
typography departments like those at CalArts and Reading are rare
exceptions.  As a result, it's difficult for type designers to
free-load or to be sponsored (depending on how you look at it!)
in the samw way as programmers.

Type 1 fonts do not have copy protection flags.
TrueType fonts do, but they are usually set wrongly because of
a bug in Fontographer, since Windows didn't check them anyway.
The Weft program for IE5 does check the bits.

> Of course we can make the system obey the copy protection flags in the
> font file. This will lead to determined copywrite infringers editing the
> font in a font editor, or just hacking it out of the font system and
> recompiling, so I don't know if it is worth while. 
Supporting morals, copyrights and written contracts is worth while.
Being seen to support other people's copyrights sounds pretty important
to so-called champions and advocates of free (in the FSF sense) software.
Being seen as a bunch of people who want to avoid paying for software
and are happy to condone stealing, that's not so good.

There *are* type designers working on the idea of giving some fonts
away under something like the Artistic Licence usedby Larry Wall.
But that won't happen if they feel that the Gnome project is not
working with them.

Here is an example of a something that might work:

I want to support a way of purchasing fonts online dierctly from
foundries, with distributed (gnutella-style?) resource discovery.
The fonts would include a digital watermark (not entirely robust) and
a unique key, both of which can be traced back to the unlocker.
The gnome font renderer would work if neither watermark nor key
were found, but if either was found, they would both have to match.
If they didn't match, an error, "this font has been damaged, or is
a pirate copy" might be produced.  If they match, a message such as
"This font was purchased by Robert Wittams" might be printed.

The purpose is to remind people that fonts are copyright, and to
encourage people to behave honorably, and also by supporting purchase
directly from the foundry, to reduce the prices of the fonts.

It might be possible to store fonts with a simple rc4 encryption,
too, so that they can't so easily be taken and used on other platforms.
Yes, any unscrupulous immoral programmer could write a program to
decrypt them, I know.  Sometimes being seen to be doing what is
right is the best that can be done, and, indeed, very often that is

I'm sorry to have written so much, on a topic that is perhaps very
peripheral to gnome-development.  But I think that it is important.

Robert, if you still don't agree, or want to discuss it further,
feel free to email me privately.  Or we could start a separate list
if others want to join in, in which case I could invite some type
designers to participate for a while, too.



Liam Quin - Barefoot in Toronto - -
Ankh on
Co-author, The XML Specification Guide, Wiley, 1999
Forthcoming: The Open Source XML Database Toolkit

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