discussion of piracy on fontleech.com

paul d hunt's picture

it's interesting to see what laymen think about the topic of piracy:

Forrest L Norvell's picture

I eventually got exhausted and had to bail out of that discussion, even though it was still really educational to force myself to do the reading and actually engage with people's arguments, rather than just arguing from gut principles. Also, I think it would have been inappropriate for me to try to follow up that last comment from Augereau. It seemed like a fitting last word on what a messy and complex discussion that question started.

I think Dan Reynolds got beat up, more than a little unfairly, simply for being a representative of The Man (albeit a pretty low-level representative of a pretty lowercase The Man, but that's how it goes). I like the Fontleech discussion questions, because they seem simple but really get to the heart of things.

I'm still not sure what was up with the Les Misérables references, though.

dan_reynolds's picture

Aside from representing "the man" (someday I'm going to have more fun with that phrase), I got beat up because of a EULA misunderstanding. St. Claude of Garamond (I just love anonymous posters) beleives that downloading a font and printing it without *installing* it on a computer first in not a EULA violation.

It is a EULA violation. Whether the action is morally correct or not is irrelevant, and is another discussion. EULAs can change, so can the whole industry. They probably should. But I just can't get how some people can say "according to the way the rules are now, I am not doing anything incorrectly. Not a thing. It is only those big foundries who are behaving improperly. I want their fonts under my conditions, therefore, I should have them."


dezcom's picture

Maybe I should call myself "St Chris of Leporello" :-)

I guess some folks still believe that if your business is bigger than a college dorm rom, you are the enemy and should give everything to them free.


Miss Tiffany's picture

The biggest problem, as I see it, with Mr. Claude's statement, is the fact that foundry's will and perhaps should take that into account and add it to the EULA. Anyone licensing the type will not be affected by it but those not licensing the type will automatically be violating the EULA whether they received a copy of it with their illegally acquired font software or not.

While it has been said by an amazingly jovial head of a huge foundry that he doesn't "bother with those people that illegally download because they wouldn't license anyway", if his hand were forced I'd imagine that adding some sort of activation code to his fonts wouldn't be a stretch. I hated having to activate my CS2 from Adobe, but I can understand that it is necessary. Oi!

capthaddock's picture

I work with several design firms, and I've observed that buying fonts is completely off the radar for small creative firms. They just accumulate the fonts that have gotten bundled with software over the years, sharing them with customers, printers, and other design firms as needed. And I'd be astonished if any small company cared about EULAs or was even aware of them.

Activation, in my humble opinion, is a pretty bad business idea (not to mention technically unfeasible) unless you have a monopoly on the market like Adobe has. Especially for type, trying to manage any kind of workflow between departments and firms with fonts that required activation would be anathema. No one would bother with those fonts unless they managed to acquire copies that worked without activation.

Nick Shinn's picture

>No one would bother with those fonts unless they managed to acquire copies that worked without activation.

An activation bonus would be a good incentive.
For instance, "Buy the new Garamond from Adobe, and get a free CS upgrade".

If there were an easy-to-use method for activation (part of the Font Info procedure in Fontlab) a lot of foundries would use it. We could offer stuff like T-shirts as a premium, or bonus fonts. The only activation the T's would need: approval from one's significant other.

eolson's picture

> And I’d be astonished if any small company cared about EULAs or was even aware of them.

The majority of my customers work for, or own small firms. I'm sure some small firms
don't care about EULAs, but many do and often take the time to call or email with
questions about licensing.

aluminum's picture

There's still this belief that activation actually prevents piracy. It does not. It just adds a hurdle to the paying customer and a slight (maybe welcome?) challenge to the prolific pirateer. The more restrictive a EULA becomes, the more likely there's going to be a larger group of consumers that will 'revolt' against that.

Chris Rugen's picture

I don't like the idea of activation, but I like the idea of activation t-shirts. They could say "Activation, ON!" in whatever font was licensed.

Or maybe it could be like the military's system of pins and ribbons. Then you could go to type conventions and show off all of your 'fonts activated' lapel pins, or something.

As fun as that sounds, I think activtion is a step too far for fonts.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I wasn't on the side of activation I am simply suggesting one problem that could arise from continued mass piracy. I disliked trouble-shooting my CS2 activation, very much in fact. But, I understand the need for it and so as I worked through it I tried to keep that in mind. All said it only took 20 minutes to figure out why it didn't work the first time.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Aluminum, I realize that the activation mostly gives some bored hacker a new little project. However, it isn't my choice either way. I don't create, I only license. So if a foundry adds activation to their fonts I can always choose to find another replacement.

Perhaps the smaller foundries should be cheering on activation as it will most likely only happen at the larger foundries first. Thus, when it does happen, perhaps there will be a boost in sales at the smaller foundries. ::wink::

Nick Shinn's picture

> it will most likely only happen at the larger foundries first.

The biggest foundries are Microsoft and Adobe, the bundlers. It's unlikely they will ever require activation for their fonts, as the whole point of their distributing them by the million, without cost, is to make it easy for people to use their other software, the stuff they make their income off.

But I would certainly consider activation for my fonts. I figure the people that bother to buy them in the first place are the decent sort that do things right on principle. Besides, my EULA allows copying to service bureau, so what possible difficulty could freelancers and small agencies (the major pirates) have -- unless they want to provide free copies of the fonts to their clients and friends.

hdschellnack's picture

Activation just plain sucks. Period. The more copy protection a software has, the stronger my tendency to BUY it and THEN dwnload a cracked version, as it is getting easier to install and use the crack than the full legal version, Oh, the fun I had with a recent system crash and Office. After the online system of course denied the installation on a different machine I had to go through their phone system, and then again after the repaired machine was here again. Sucky Sucky Sucky.

One of the reasons I quit QXP was the annoying dongle. Activation is a MAJOR gripe or me with Adobe. Won't stop any cracker (actually, there are seemingly already some cracked US-versions of CS2-products available, weirdly enough) and is an annoyance to regular customers. As if serial numbers weren't worse enough.

HD Schellnack

Miss Tiffany's picture

:^/ Ok, so this all of this has me discombobulated ... Nick, for some reason you are the last person I expected to say you would use activation. Your EULA is a model citizen of all EULAs. Do you have known problems of your fonts be pirated?

In a way Adobe did require activation to get access to their Garamond Premier. On the one hand, I'm giddy as a school girl to have that type family, but on the other hand I was shocked that it was the bonus prize for upgrading to CS2.

The dongle was a pain in the tuckas. I don't disagree about activation being equally painful. But, HD, did it keep you from upgrading to CS2?

hdschellnack's picture

I kept me a looooong time from upgrading to CS1. Long time. I'll upgade to CS2, of course. But Adobe, alas, is a monopolist and there are no two ways around using photoshop or InDesign for me. With more subsitutable products, activation and paranoic security measure keep me well away from then.

As I said, my new method seems to be that I actually buy the stuff and THEN get a crack. This whole Office ordeal really wrecked my nerves.

See, I wanna be a good customer, I really do. But right now I get the massive feeling that the companies do their level best to micromanage me to death with their upfront mistrust. Don't eben get me started on f***ing DRM on MP3-TRacks. As long as that exists, I ain't gonna buy even one track from iTunes & al. I stil buy CDs and make my own MP3.

HD Schellnack

Nick Shinn's picture

You're right Tiff, maybe activation isn't such a good idea for fonts.

I think piracy is a bit of a red herring, as an intellectual property concern for "the type industry". For most foundries, font bundling by the oligarchs -- Microsoft, Adobe, and Apple -- is the questionable practice which is most detrimental to their business. For two reasons. First, as Capthaddock observes:

"they just accumulate the fonts that have gotten bundled with software over the years, sharing them with customers, printers, and other design firms as needed."

This practice has become established for all fonts, not just "free" bundled fonts. Meta as shareware.

Secondly, of course, by providing most of the fonts most people need, bundling marginalizes the retail font market.

"The type industry" is not, as one contributor at FontLeech seems to think, monolithic. Although we do all get together and sing from the same book for typefests such as TypeCon and ATypI, the interests of the independent foundries are not the same as those of the software oligarchs, who call the tune.

hdschellnack's picture

I think, what it comes down to, with software, music, videos and all that alike, are some points like these.

– People who have money will spend their money on legitimate product, if they deem it worth it. This has always been the case and will remain true, even in the digital age.

– people who have no money will find ways to get on prated versions, no matter how much the data is protected. This has always been the case, even before the internet. And frankly, a school kid downloading stuff he could never have afforded to buy in the first place is not costing anybody money. Some student or third-world-small-scale-designer designer who maybe couldn't have afforded the Meta family in the first place, also is NOT costing FSI money. God, LET those people use pirated versions, it's just sharing wealth. In he end, the wealth probably WILL come back to you.

- Brand image, personal sympathy and identification,quality, service becom more imporant than ever, asurdly at a time when most bigger companies try to save money in these areas. You don't steal mp3s from a band you really like, beacuse you want them to make a living of their art. I guess you'd have less compunction downloading a Madonna song, but most people I know would never ever hurt a band they «know» and like. You don't steal from a friends house. Along the same lines you don't use pirated fonts from people you like. It's that easy. What we need isn't paranoia, as this hasn't kept piracy at bay since the 70s... but rather, as strange as that sounds, a feeling of trust and friendship. The digital availability of music, video and font will either demand an Orwellian DRM-System, and I'm very concerned that such systems will in the long term absolutely hurt the system at large. Maybe I'm wrong here. People actually use iTunes and the iPod... and seem to have verylittle problem with the fact that Big Brother is controlling their iTunes-bought music for them. On tghe other hand, we have a chance that companies just effing trust their customers and engage in a dialogue and simply ask nicely for their money. I think, in the end, they will earn MORE that way. Large comapnies such as Adobe and Lino and even FSI shoul work at becoming approachable, personal virtually smaller-feeling and more personal firms. They need faces. Smaller companies, such as Thirstype, already have the personal touch, and frankly, I think they have not that much to worry about.

HD Schellnack

aluminum's picture

But I would certainly consider activation for my fonts. I figure the people that bother to buy them in the first place are the decent sort that do things right on principle.

Then there's absolutely no reason to consider activation. Activation only annoys the decent sort of folks that do things right on principle.

One thing I like about iTunes is how easy it is to strip the DRM from their files. I gladly purchase music from iTunes, because I konw I won't have to deal with the DRM...unlike the competition. ;o)

hankzane's picture

I don't read licenses.

mike gastin's picture

Activation sounds like gun control. It only has an impact on those who follow the rules. Criminals will always get firearms, regardless of the laws surrounding gun control and software pirates will always have free fonts.

I wonder, what kinds of effort go into enforcing font licenses and dealing with acts of piracy? I have to imagine that it is very hard to enforce a font license.


James Gareth's picture

The next version of DVD may require online DRM authentication, in which case I won't buy it even though the thought of HD-DVD is intoxicating. DRM, activation and all the other schemes that make it painful for a user to use are just stupid. They don't work. Piracy will always exist. If my beloved fonts start with the activation schemes, I'm liable to go postal. What's next, TV shows that won't play unless you watch the commercials? Shoot me now.

mike gastin's picture

The really sad thing is consumers that follow the rules are the ones who pay. Any company that gets ripped off consistently has to build that cost into their pricing. So, you and I have to cover the expense of lost revenues for things like software and fonts when we purchase them.

There has to be a better way. Whoever figures out how that better way works will be quite wealthy.


canderson's picture

There is a slight upside to piracy, which is that when people steal your font, they're more likely to use the original font with it's real name. I've heard that in the photo-typesetting days, most Helvetica wasn't Helvetica at all, but one of many knock offs. In the hot-metal part of the 20th century, Fred Goudy saw his Californian distributed under names like Berkely Oldstyle. Note: This may be a bad example, since I'm not certain which, if any, is the knockoff. When I google both fonts, they both seem to give Goudy credit.

dezcom's picture

It was one hell of a lot of work to knock off a hot metal face. Today, a digital font can be snatched in minutes.


Norbert Florendo's picture

> I’ve heard that in the photo-typesetting days, most Helvetica wasn’t Helvetica at all, but one of many knock offs.

The copying or creating subtle look-alikes during the hot metal and cold type (phototype) period was particularly prevalent where the "font" was mated to proprietary typesetting equipment. There was no official LEGAL protection of type designs and it became more a matter of ethics regarding piracy.

You must remember that the business stakes were much higher for font/typesetting manufacturers as opposed to current open ended device independent type fonts used today.

FYI -- I can vouch for nearly ninety weight versions/variants of Helvetica when I worked for Compugraphic-Agfa (Helios, Helios II, CG Triumvirate).

canderson's picture

Perhaps Helvetica is a bad example, since it was so pervasive, and copying it seems relatively begnign. If it were a face like Zapfino, renaming it really robs the artist in a way that is less common in other art forms. In the end, people also may tend to associate the most common version of a face as authentic.

Norbert Florendo's picture

> In the end, people also may tend to associate the most common version of a face as authentic.

Sometimes we lose perspective on the font buying public (the "people" who BUY and use type) since most of us (typophiles) are so immersed in type design and typography.

We know who Morris Fuller Benton is and his designs, but believe me, the majority of graphic designers don't have a clue, so ANY version of Century or Franklin Gothic is OK in their book.

Here are some recent quotes from Design:Talkboard, one of many forums for budding graphic designers (your new type buying market):

I like frutiger for a body font. Franklin gothic for headlines. And I have a real problem stopping myself using gill-sans at the moment.

Univers is a nice clean serif font. I also like Gill-Sans (I'm very traditional). Plantin is an interesting font for sub-heads.

As for the serif variety, I tend to go with Garamond. Simple, and it's a treat to set.

i'm so traditional. for a really bold heading i usually go with about 27px georgia (pretty much only if it's black on white...doesn't look right in any other colors...). otherwise for body work i'm generally stuck on verdana/helvetica/geneva/etc...

Playing Identify the font???
Ye Gods, and I thought us programmer were geeks! That totally takes the biscuit!

I've been using Univers a bit recently. It's kind of a relaxed Frutiger... or something

I like simple, clean sans serifs, like Univers (oh my favouraite for years now) Helvetica (and neue), Frutiger, Swiss, Simplex, Din. I always seem to end up with Univers somehow.

One of my favorite fonts is Century Gothic. It's very clean and it looks professional. I use it for tons of my designs. There is another new and cool font that I just started to use. It's Kabel EF. I used it for a logo design and I think it was a good choice. This is because, just like Century Gothic, it looks clean and professional.

Out of the mouths of babes (infants NOT hotties).
None of these graphic designers seem too up on the current typefaces as viable alternatives.

dezcom's picture

Man, is it really that bad out there in young designer land?
Present day design schools can't be that naive. Maybe today's design teachers are so young that they don't even know better.


Norbert Florendo's picture

I don't think it all THAT bad, but we should keep in mind that the potential type buying market is MUCH larger than it was 10 -- 15 years ago.

If you do the math, you must sell over ten times the amount of a current $25 font than when a proprietary font (film/digital) sold for $250!

Big bucks when it's a small market and small bucks when it is a large market.

dan_reynolds's picture

We know who Morris Fuller Benton is and his designs, but believe me, the majority of graphic designers don’t have a clue, so ANY version of Century or Franklin Gothic is OK in their book.

This is a big problem… every revival of an old design is different. Just look at Garamond (I know, not exactly comparable, but easier to use to make a point) or Bodoni. ITC Garamond isn't really a Garamond. Neither are many other fonts with "Garamond" in their name. Since your average designer doesn't know this, he might get the wrong idea about what actually makes a font good and legible.

Many graphic designers think that legibility is quite pliable ("I'm what makes typography legible or illegible, not the font's design…").

To confound matters, you have the problem of bad interpretation. Bauer Bodoni was probably the most legible metal Bodoni book face. But the digital Bauer Bodoni only works in display, despite what so many designers think. If they would use their eyes, they would see that the digital version just doesn't live up to its forbearer. But the metal's reputation is so strong that people refuse to believe that the digital is so different.

Miss Tiffany's picture


But Dan, some designers do cause the problem


hrant's picture

> the metal’s reputation is so strong that people
> refuse to believe that the digital is so different.

That's because they're still not aware of optical scaling.
We need to fix that ASAP.


dezcom's picture

"...still not aware of optical scaling"

And ink spread on the Bauer Bodoni hairlines.


Nick Shinn's picture

>Out of the mouths of babes

Yeah, there's a lot of fogey-design out there, by people of all ages.
Ironic that when it comes to typefaces, so many young geezers' "modern" is as retro as their "retro".
But the hot young type designers of 10 years ago, now the establishment, are pointing in the same direction, ennit? You don't see Mr Hoefler doing too many Fetishes these days, or a "Mohamed luvs ya' from Mr de Groot (although Mr Barnbrook is still flying the flag).

BTW, who is today's typographic anti-establishment?

I'm philosophical about it -- the present era is a stepping stone between the days of deconstruction and a typographically-informed design community. It's not like designers are steeped in the classics, but they're getting their feet wet, and once that's permeated, many will become more informed and move on to using more sophisticated, contemporary reinterpretations of the classics, and serious new stuff.

dezcom's picture

"BTW, who is today’s typographic anti-establishment?"

The hot metal boutique printers of today.


Norbert Florendo's picture

> the present era is a stepping stone between the days of deconstruction and a typographically-informed design community

I agree Nick. We are caught in between rampant tech development and the "first-to-market" mission of business giants and entrepreneurial start-ups in many industries.

Many recent product and software developments in production and distribution have truly shaken up the way many traditional markets do business -- music, film, transportation, cosmetic enhancement, miniturized portable communications, consumer image and video capture devices, consumer video/music replication/editing/remix software and devices, "on-demand" anything, and so on.

The production, integration and distribution of "fontware" is pretty much mated to technology as it has been from the beginning of movable type.

Combine that with the new and various ways we are adapting ourselves to reading and writing (I still can't effectively type fast enough on a cell phone for text messaging) and it's difficult to decide what to design for an ever evolving environment.

So maybe things will look pretty crappy by our earlier standards until the dust settles a bit and concern for the READER becomes a priority again.

hrant's picture

> the hot young type designers of 10 years ago, now the establishment

I don't think most of the "hot designers" of the 90s are
still with us, much less the establishment. People like
Hoefler were never really "hot", not in the way I see the
term being useful, not in the way of a Keedy for example.

On the other hand, you're right that most type designers
who did any decon stuff do a lot less of it now. I guess it's
the zeitgeist, with human behavior being contagious,
and most people being susceptible to "fashion" on some
level (not necessarily aesthetic).

> who is today’s typographic anti-establishment?

I would say anybody who persists that
the mainstream is doing it wrong. I try. :-)

> The hot metal boutique printers of today.

You mean the guys over-impressing over-layered stuff
in day-glo inks? To me that's the crystallization of the
current mainstream.

> concern for the READER becomes a priority again.

A big hug to you from this left-coast Armo.


dezcom's picture

"You mean the guys over-impressing over-layered stuff
in day-glo inks? "

No. I mean today's version of the real old school craftsman who make a living doing real quality handset invitations.


hrant's picture

Or better, books.
I agree - it's just that those people are not on anybody's radar at all.
To be anti-establishment you have to be heard.


dezcom's picture

"To be anti-establishment you have to be heard"

So maybe the only way those guys would be heard in the media is if they dropped their pants in public or something. or got kicked off the island.


hrant's picture

It is in fact a feature of contemporary mass media that it shuts out dissent.
And this is integral to the illusion that is Freedom of Speech.


KR's picture

If you find or hear about the person who does figure this out...will ya' let me know?

It's not honestly the private collectors so to speak that I am really bothered with here. They are not the ones causing me headaches. So many people have taken KR files right off my website, installed them and then made money off them. How? Would you believe that the most common group of offenders that I have had in the last two years (let me know if this surprises you, it did me!) ... digital machine embroiders! Try a yahoo search for 'machine embroidery fonts' or the same on eBay. I've had to send Cease & Desist letters along with a demand for payment too many times. It's not just the big boys like Adobe or big (another 'get this moment') scrapbooking font sites either. Many other 'my office is in my living room' types like me are seriously up against a wall here. I can happily say though, I have had many people settle right up, be responsible, pay what is owed me, went back to using the file again and started to make money for themselves again. You have no idea, or do you? - just how many of these offenders think that taking down the money-maker (designs made SOLELY by a KR file) should make me happy - and place them no longer responsible. You don't want me to get into the threats, some even personal - and the unwillingness to take responsibility for their actions.

(Check the 'royalties and licensing' forum for my other post)

For me, the simple and clear-cut here issue is - if you're making money off the file, then so should I.

My favorite 'lines' from the past ....No I didn't - I didn't do it - oh, you have proof - bad me - watch the items for sale disappear from their site or store and they think they are done - or here, let me send you a note asking how much licenses are and then when I don't hear back from the person I check their site later down the road and I see, you guessed it, a bunch of items made for sale made solely from my file - for approximately 2yrs. now -or- what happened today - a woman I have been trying to make settle up - for a problem she created - took down her old site..put a new one up... shoots me a note I guess trying to look all legal n'such saying "I don't have anything of yours' on my site" - well duh lady..you took down that one - the problem didn't go away simply because you changed domain names!

It's amazing how much info/proof one can get just by using 'internet archives'- also called 'time machines.'

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