Piracy in the design community

minardi's picture

I'm doing research for an academic study on type piracy within the design community (designers who use pirated type), and was wondering if I could throw out a couple of questions:

How has piracy altered the profession of type design in the last 10 years?

What impact has type piracy had on releases?

(If there are any threads or other resources relating to this topic elsewhere, please let me know. Thanks!)

paul d hunt's picture

a thread on typophile that links to another discussion on a freeware site:
http://typophile.com/node/12493

Miss Tiffany's picture

minardi, there are quite a few threads throughout typophile. specifically in the release area.

hrant's picture

Toro Rosso, I mean Minardi, sorry ;-) first of all: I think your icon is really cool, the way it's between a hand and a foot. The study of this sort of ambiguity is as interesting as it is rare.

Effects of piracy:
1) You should go back to the beginning of DTP, not just 10 years.
2) I think the main cultural effect has been that more people spend more time making type simply because they love doing so, which speeds up evolution.
3) On the other hand, a certain high-end category of designer is now less likely to spend time making type (especially in the retail sphere).

hhp

Norbert Florendo's picture

> study on type piracy within the design community

Very interesting. I would be very interested in some of your findings, that is, if you are willing to share them.

I also am just beginning research on the usage of true cut versus freebie fonts from the graphic designers' perspective. After all, they would be the discerning buying market (but not necessarily the largest market) for typefaces.

Miss Tiffany's picture

In 2000 (or 1999) Anthony Cahalan was working on his PhD for the University of Canberra on Design and consumption: The proliferation of typefaces. I recall filling out a form which specifically asked questions about font piracy and the use of pirated fonts. You might track him down to see if he has any data. I believe he is now a professor at Canberra.

ben_archer's picture

Very interesting. As an issue this is certainly older than just the last decade. And it means that now people often design type just because they love doing it and they realise that it's very hard to control distribution of the end product once it's out there. I think widespread piracy may also distort the foundries' sales figures of the most commonly used fonts, because after all those are the ones that are being ripped/copied/borrowed/pirated the most.

This is such a widespread phenomenon that clients frequently question why they would need to budget for font(s) as part of a design project.

At the risk of sounding provocative in the present company, a recent academic conversation here in NZ suggested that investigating the whole of type development's history (Gutenberg onwards?) as an ongoing form of appropriation would be a worthwhile study. Looking at the family tree feature at myfonts might give an indication of what 'other foundries recuts/versions' does for releases, rather than sales.

Norbert Florendo's picture

Not to stray from the main topic of font piracy, PIRACY and ripoffs of products and fashions (mostly luxury or prestige items like Rolex, Kate Spade, Louis Vuitton) are now rampant in America.

I think the manufacturing ability to pound out $25 versions of a $350 Louis Vuitton bag has shaken up other industries as well. It has now become a consumer mind set to "look like a million for only $50 bucks."

minardi's picture

Thanks everyone for the responses and suggestions. This is sort of a mass reply to all of the postings thus far:

On some of the earlier promptings, I checked out more threads on typophile (and elsewhere), and found a good deal of the answers I was looking for. Thanks for the links and references (particularly the last one, Tiffany.)

As for the ten years statement... it's true that digital type piracy has been around a bit longer, but I feel that trends in technology (p2p filesharing, faster connections, greater access to computers worldwide, etc.) have created a unique mode of piracy. But then again, it was a bit "shortsighted" on my part. Does anyone think that there's a benchmark for "the modern mode of type piracy"? The emergence of desktop publishing? The publishing of type 1 encoding? Desktop printers?

Hrant, these two points are very interesting.

2) I think the main cultural effect has been that more people spend more time making type simply because they love doing so, which speeds up evolution.
3) On the other hand, a certain high-end category of designer is now less likely to spend time making type (especially in the retail sphere).

Do you think that this indicates a rise in non-retail typography (like custom designs for magazines and corporate usage?)

Norbert, I'll let you know when I have some results. I've been interviewing design students, non-designers, and "professional" graphic designers and was surprised to find how many use "freeware" fonts as an alternative to both buying fonts and stealing them.

I also created an online survey (anyone feel free to fill it out), but I'm not sure about people admitting to theft online. The ratio between how many faces people have on their CPUs vs how many they use is somewhat amusing (or apalling, depending on perspective).

Thanks again!

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Hey, I can be really honest about this: I ‘collect’ type. That means I have a lot of apparantly illegal software on my computer. BUT the fact is — I pay for the stuff I actually use. Same goes for programs. I'll try a demo (or if it's not available a cracked version) of a program and if I think it's ok, I'll pay up. Let me be clear: Software is the largest outlay my firm has, after the mortgage on our office and italian espresso coffee ; ).

That may not be the ‘proper’ way of doing things — but then there's the other side of the equation: I buy all of the music I listen to (I have never ever downloaded a song without paying for it), I have never burned a “back up copy” of any of the 120+ DVD's and 250+ CD's own (and payed for), BUT I do have to pay a surcharge on all of the media (CD's and DVD's) I use to make backups of work files, because some government appointed foundation here (in the Netherlands) has to wherewithal to just do that — I mean imposing that surcharge. The next item on their agenda is hitting MP3 players with a special fine, so go figure.

I have a PayPal account to pay for shareware, I support small foundries and software makers by paying for their stuff, even if I hardly use it, so I think I am on the right side of the track here.

And then there's the whole discussion about the big foundries ripping of each other stuff (ATF anyone?) — that's been going on for a century and more, because a lot of countries never ratified the Berne Convention… As long as there's no universal vision re intellectual property, you won't be able to get a clear picture on this (but you WILL be able to buy a seventies design German car in China for a really LOW price).

hrant's picture

> Do you think that this indicates a rise in non-retail
> typography (like custom designs for magazines and
> corporate usage?)

It seems to me that there's a lot more of that now
than there used to be, although partly because new
type styles can spread like wildfire now and become
commonplace -hence lousy for branding- very quickly.

Bert, to me you're doing fine, because overall
you're way above average in supporting type.

hhp

Norbert Florendo's picture

I checked out your survey, John and it's very direct and straight forward. But I think that if you get rid of the word "Piracy" in the title, you may get a more honest set of responses.

I don't sense that the majority of graphic designers using type truly understand what piracy of a type design is, nor do they relate a sense of "authorship" to designs and therefore a font is a font is a font.

I think most users of computers do understand the protection/licensing aspect of "pricey" software, like Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Quark, InDesign, etc. and they also know of potential consequences for distributing bootleg copies.

It is a very very common practice to search and download useful free-or-shareware, and in fact, the general software industry accepts and sometime even produce them. But the VALUE of the software is related to WHAT IT DOES and WHO DEVELOPED it, and to some degree, computer users attach a sense of "quality" to software produced by well known development companies (Intuit, Adobe, etc.).

So when your novice or everyday walk-around young graphic designer downloads a copy of the Jurassic Park typeface from a free site, I'm sure they are not even aware of the existence of Neuland Inline, or if they did, they just believe the "free" face is just not at the same quality of the "pricey" font.

To most designers piracy is the illegal use or replication of software, and if someone can find a nice looking or close match to a PAY font as a free download, to them it's NOT stealing.

Therefore your use of "Piracy" in your survey title sets up another set of responses from your average computer user, whether they are graphic designers or not. If your survey's title was just "Font Usage" your respondents would be less guarded.

A NEW FONT POLL
(I hate seeing the term font and typeface used interchangeably, but I guess it's already accepted.)

I've developed a set of twenty questions that are presented in a tone that is particularly suited to the information I want to gather. Some of the questions are related to free vs. pay, some to purchasing habits, and others on awareness of new type designs. I don't plan to use them all at once in a single survey. At the moment I am planing to take smaller sets of questions and post them as polls on various designer sites. Some of my questions are very similar to yours, such as:

Do you know what a font EULA (End User License Agreement) is?
__ no
__ yes, but never read it
__ yes, and ocassionally read it
__ yes, and always read it
__ yes, but don't care

I'll will from time to time post some in-progess results, that is if I even get any replies.

dezcom's picture

Do you know what a font EULA (End User License Agreement) is?
__ no
__ yes, but never read it
X yes, and ocassionally read it
__ always read it
__ yes, but don’t care

ChrisL

Norbert Florendo's picture

Thanks, Chris, for your reply.
BUT it's NOT an active poll yet and it's NOT intended to be directed at a type savvy person such as yourself. It will be one of maybe a group of 4 -- 5 questions directed to the general graphic design community. Capiche? :-)

jupiterboy's picture

Some pirates came by my office last week. Stole all my type and left me and my kitty tied to a post. I'm still cleaning up parrot poop. Argghhhh!

paul d hunt's picture

BUT it’s NOT an active poll yet

it is now: http://typophile.com/node/16239

and it’s NOT intended to be directed at a type saavy person such as yourself.

i thought it would still be interesting...

Norbert Florendo's picture

Cool, Paul.
Let's sit back and see what happens.

Eric_West's picture

jupiterboy was pillaged. Arrrrgggg!

dezcom's picture

"Capiche?"

I have a Poll popping addiction:-)

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

"jupiterboy was pillaged...."

Or pillcrowed:-)

ChrisL

jupiterboy's picture

Right mates, we was pillaged. The post we was tied to were deep in the bowls o’ the pillcrowery. Kitty and me had to wait 16 points ’fore we could escape. There’ll be no pardon for those pesky pirates or their putrid parrots.

dezcom's picture

Arrrrrgh! Matey, yee better keelhaul the ravaging rascals 'afore the perturably putrid Parrot PooPoo piles to yahr mains'il Mr Hatley!!!

ChrisL

jupiterboy's picture

To the pillory!

(That’ll be a peg leg in Dick Cheney’s pants.)

Miss Tiffany's picture

Piracy isn't funny. But, Talking like a pirate is.

jupiterboy's picture

http://www.thepirateshoppe.com/

And dressing like a pirate.

dezcom's picture

"And dressing like a pirate"

I find all my pirate attire in Davy Jones' locker :-)

ChrisL

minardi's picture

Wow, I thought this thread had withered away... glad to see it had a little steam left (though most of it appears to be pirate jokes.)

    But I think that if you get rid of the word “Piracy” in the title, you may get a more honest set of responses.

You're probably right Norbert... I think I was charmed by the idea of "designer pirates". Like the ones who hang out here. I think I may alter it accordingly. I'll post the results in a few days if anyone's interested.

Good EULA question, too! How can I license it? (emoticon)

dezcom's picture

Sorry 'bout the pirate humor ther' lassie };-/

ChrisL

Norbert Florendo's picture

> I think I was charmed by the idea of “designer pirates”

Haarrr! But m' hopes not a one has scurvy!

dezcom's picture

"Scurvy", the new typeface that has no C in it!

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminC/

ChrisL

Norbert Florendo's picture

Avast, Dezcom!
If it had no "C" it would be called "S'urvy" ;

dezcom's picture

Blymey! Foiled again!
But what would a pirate sail on if there was no C?
Perhaps we need a font with 7 Cs?
Hmmm, Cap, small cap, lc, swash, and 3 alt Cs?

I'll bet that font would cost $100 bucks! (You know what's comin' right? a "C" note)

ChrisL

Norbert Florendo's picture

I don't "C" the point of going on anymore... I've been out-C-ed!
I con"C"ed. ;-]

Eric_West's picture

He ain't sorry for nothin. Squawk!

Si_Daniels's picture

Oh my god they've killed Dezzy!

dezcom's picture

"Oh my god they’ve killed Dezzy!"

Don't worry, he'll be back for next week's show :-)

ChrisL

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