New Letterhead Fonts antipiracy font lockdown scheme

zebrasystem's picture

Has anyone else dealt yet with the new method for installing/using fonts? I recently bought one of their new fonts since they converted their entire library over to OpenType in late December. And aside from the very nice font I must say I am quite dismayed. Here is what they've done:

1. You no longer receive an actual font file, at least not that you can see.

2. Instead what you download is an installer that installs an application called "Letterhead Fonts" (at least on Macintosh which is what I use).

3. The fonts are either embedded in this "Letterhead Fonts" application or somewhere else unknown/hidden from the user. No fonts are installed in the traditional Font folder locations.

4. Once installed, the "Letterhead Fonts" application activates the fonts permanently, at least as far as I can tell, like a font manager. You see them only in the font menus of your other applications, nowhere else. It also doesn't currently allow fonts to be seen or managed in font manager applications like Suitcase, Font Agent, etc., though LHF apparently plans to add this capability.

Aside from the obvious antipiracy objective, here are the biggest ramifications and problems I see for the user (myself, for one):

- You are completely prohibited from organizing the fonts like you want on your hard drive, such as for classification or other purposes. All your flexibility is taken away including any system or method that you might have had in place to manage fonts for your own needs.

- As mentioned, the LHF fonts can't be activated individually. It's an all or nothing proposition. (Unless/until they enable font managers to "see" the fonts perhaps, but maybe not even then, I haven't seen them say.)

- It means you can't add kerning pairs to a font, for example, or otherwise tweak the font yourself if problems are found or you have special needs.

- And of course, you can't really back up the fonts themselves. Your only recourse if something were to happen is a reinstall from the various installers you may have accumulated over time, or else go back to their site for the installers there. (They do make provision for downloading previous font orders you have made with their new shopping cart system.)

A real shame since this will probably make a lot of people think twice about buying additional fonts once they see how it works the first time. I know it has me, despite LHF's unique fonts. Lots of other good independent foundries around these days as alternatives. What do the rest of you think about where LHF has gone with this?

Stephen Coles's picture

Sergej - the reason its worth talking about here on Typophile is that type suppliers are interested in DRM techniques and their drawbacks.

malbright's picture

My experience with Chuck was entirely different. On the two occassions he's written me, he was polite, thoughtful, gracious and took the time to write lengthy emails explaining his position. In several ways, he bent over backwards to help me understand his position. He shared with me some disturbing links that really opened my eyes up to how pervasive and insidious this piracy thing really is. And all the while, he treated me like a valued and respected customer.

I am disappointed to hear that MzCatzMeow had a different experience. I can only guess that by now, Chuck must be really sick of fielding questions, even harmless and polite ones! No excuse, I know. But the guy must be at wit's end to write such an offensive email. Surely he is frustrated by all of this—he must love having all of us biting at him—and if he had found a better way to more fully protect his fonts I'm sure he would've welcomed it.

Meanwhile, the installer scheme truly is unworkable. And I agree that it's a bit misleading to call the fonts OT when they are actually the opposite of 'open'.

Si_Daniels's picture

>Sergej - the reason its worth talking about here on Typophile is that type suppliers are interested in DRM techniques and their drawbacks.

Likewise font customers are probably worried about the possible wide-spread adoption of these techniques by other mainstream font vendors. The complaints are as much a warning to other font makers as they are directed to LHF.

Stephen Coles's picture


Miss Tiffany's picture

As a user I don't mind the idea of serialization or activation of fonts. If a foundry wishes to know that I've de-installed a font and am re-installing it again--for whatever reason--that is there perogative. As is what Chuck has done for that matter. However, the thing that really frustrates me is not being able to control the font. That seems a little heavy-handed. I have a very precise--read anal-retentive--way of organization and working with my fonts. If I can't do that it would drive me batty which would, in turn, make me want to not use the font. It kind of reminds me of someone forcing me to live my life in a certain way when I'd much rather make my own choices and arrive at my own destination. Sort of.

DRM doesn't bother me. I suppose. If they choose to do it they will, more than likely lose a few sales or perhaps gain more conversation with the customers who wish to upgrade their licenses in order to do what is they need to do.

I'd hope before DRM comes into play some of the foundries will really consider some of the more problematic clauses in their EULAs and give the user a little more rope. Specifically embedding into PDFs. The PDF workflow is how we do business now. Without it the fonts either become useless or we, the users, must choose which parts of the EULAs we ignore.

Si_Daniels's picture

Well, I'm sure when font DRM is rolled out the font vendors will lower their prices and broaden the rights given to customers - in exactly the same way as the music industry did. ;-(

Miss Tiffany's picture

Yeah. I'm sure you are right.

jlt's picture

Maybe this *should* go in another thread, but since it does seem material to this discussion:

how much has piracy hurt type sales? For those vendors that have been producing for many years, how much have their sales fallen with the increase in piracy? Would be interesting to know. I'd suspect quite a bit. I don't mean a falling off from projected numbers, but an actual decrease in historical sales.


jlt : : rnrmf!

Grot Esqué's picture

how much has piracy hurt type sales?

My gut feeling says that professional people, working with type, designers and so on buy their fonts. There are cases in the news in Finland, though, where some company (usually smallish a press) has had pirated fonts. There are only about one of these cases in two years or so.

About Letterhead Fonts, it’s a good thing you can still buy many of their best fonts from Myfonts. That is fonts by Charles Borges, .

pattyfab's picture

What makes you sure piracy has increased? I think it's been around as long as computers have. At my old job (in the 90s) we dumped all the fonts we bought onto a big server and all had access to them. I'm sure they weren't paying for licenses for more than the standard 6 devices even tho we had at least twice that many. We shared them, used them on personal jobs, and burned CDs of them for our home computers. I'm more educated and responsible now and buy my fonts, but I still have alot of those old fonts I grabbed, including some that are no longer available like Fontographer fonts.

Not to mention we sent them off to printers along with the jobs.

Anyhow it seems misguided to go after a small press in Finland. I'm sure there are bigger culprits than that.

blank's picture

As a user I don’t mind the idea of serialization or activation of fonts. If a foundry wishes to know that I’ve de-installed a font and am re-installing it again—for whatever reason—that is there perogative.

I would sure as hell mind it. I buy software for my own use, not to do whatever makes the software vendor happy. I don't like having every different application vendor installing license daemons that eat up memory and slow down my boot times. I don't like software taking extra time to startup because it's checking for updates that don't offer anything especially useful and are just covering for secretly revoking keys that got leaked onto the internet. I don't like having to keep track of serial numbers or copy-protected CDs or dongles or whatever else it takes to keep my software running. And I really, really get ticked when I can't use a program if I'm not connected to the internet.

All DRM is good for is inconveniencing legitimate users and making money for the snake-oil salesmen who create the DRM schemes. Creating a DRM system that actually prevents piracy is only possible in fascist states whose government force DRM into all computer systems and actively police all users for violations. This has been proven again and again over the last twenty years; every license management tool, every music and video protection scheme, every game console has been cracked and it takes less time with each new scheme. Successive DRM systems attempt to become stronger by being more complicated, it hasn't worked, but it has created crazy DRM systems like Windows Genuine Advantage, which is notorious for not working right.

aluminum's picture

"how much has piracy hurt type sales? For those vendors that have been producing for many years, how much have their sales fallen with the increase in piracy? Would be interesting to know. I’d suspect quite a bit."

This is the big question that needs to be asked in all realms of DRM. Alas, it's a really, really hard question to answer.

While "piracy" may have increased with the internet, that isn't really the key question. The main question is 'have more people that traditionally have valued and purchased typefaces decreased because they have decided they'd rather obtain the fonts for free via other means?'

Personally, I think one way to combat increased 'piracy' by the masses is to price your product to appeal to said masses...provided that's who you want to market to. If that isn't your market, then I'd say don't worry about the 12 year old with Photoshop making his MySpace account. But that's just me. I don't sell type directly nor depend on it for a living, so what do I know? ;o)

Miss Tiffany's picture

Yes. Put that way, I don't like keeping track of serial numbers either. :^/

zebrasystem's picture

For those who are interested, Chuck Davis added a new page to the Letterhead Fonts website a few days ago explaining in somewhat more depth his thinking and views on the LHF antipiracy font installer and font theft:

Miss Tiffany's picture

It is a thoughtful, well-written piece that probably represents, generally, how many type designers, foundries and vendors feel.

However, I think a few statements are gross generalizations and he forgets to mention something.

Chuck has gorgeous era specific typeface designs for display typography. He should be able to protect his work, all type designers should.

1. "More fonts and better quality for you" -- I think this isn't fair to the amount of type designers that are out there who are spending time on their fonts.

2. "Lower prices" -- I think this is only fair if he were to compare his pricing to other foundries that specialize in display type design. Even then his fonts aren't that much less expensive. The more expensive type families are those which are more complicated, offer more glyphs, and offer more weights. You cannot compare apples to oranges.

3. "No embedding in PDF files or other file formats" -- It is important to understand that his fonts aren't used, or at least in my opinon shouldn't be used, in large blocks of text and so it is easier to turn those few words to outlines. I would never recommend turning a brochure to all outlines. That is ludicrous. The PDF is a boon to the design industry and shouldn't be discounted for what it has done for the designer. With "print and preview only" embedding it has enabled those of us who do strive to follow licensing the ablity to NOT send our fonts to the printers and service bureaux.

Stephen Coles's picture

I commend Mr. Davis for his transparency, addressing the issue head-on with a message direct to his customers. This is how a company should make any major change, with open disclosure.

Perhaps those customers who are inconvenienced will cut Letterhead some slack. Unfortunately, I find many of the arguments for his new font installer software tenuous, and often grasping at straws.

"I don't think it's fair to you, the honest designer, who pays for his fonts to be competing against Joe Blow down the street who gets all his fonts from Russian websites. Because Joe never pays for his fonts, he can afford to cut your prices and steal away your clients."

Graphic design clients are gained and kept for many reasons, chiefly due to reputation, quality of work, and the relationship between designer and client. Desirable clients don't jump from one designer to the next to save a few hundred dollars.

If the fonts can be protected against theft, more font designers will be willing to spend the time necessary to create quality work for you.

The font makers I know (and I know many, including those who are vehemently anti-piracy) do it because they love to draw type. Of course they should be paid for their work, but it's highly unlikely that any will suddenly spend more time creating type because they know there is a protection scheme.

The dirty little secret is that in order to make up for lost revenue associated with theft, font foundries pass the cost on to you.

If proponents of font software protection schemes want to make a convincing argument, they really must stop referring to font piracy as "lost revenue". The vast majority of pirates will not buy software, period.

Finally, I ditto Tiffany on the embedding.

Hackers will find a way to cheat the installers, and in the end, the new system will only penalize and inconvenience Letterhead's legitimate customers. I think it's the wrong way to go and I hope other foundries don't follow. I doubt they will.

aluminum's picture

While I understand his POV, there's just some plain faulty logic.

"Anti-theft protection for the fonts is really a good thing-- for you, the user."

That's only true if it works. And DRM has been proven, again and again and again, to NOT actually work as anti-theft protection. It just doesn't work.

So, in the end, it's only BAD for the paying user.

I think LetterheadFonts is trying to more convince themselves that DRM works moreso than convincing the customer. ;o)

stągiew's picture

The topic is quite interesting, because it somehow touches the much wider problem, that is nowadays widely discused in the music area. With the difference that font industry is maybe 1 year behind them.

And what about that? We have to look how all music industry and community deal with that. What will be the next step. Will DRM success and what will be the impact on consumers and sales.

Unfortunately, DRM has hard time right now. And voices of critique is heard from everywhere. Now including Apple - owner of the biggest digital music store. And also yahoo:

He [Dave Goldberg, Yahoo Music General Manager] says sales would increase by 15% to 20% without DRM.

Isn't it interesting?

k.l.'s picture

Reading, my impression is that Mr Jobs is so generous as regards DRM because he's not dealing with Apple's properties, but otherones' ...
Since, except for OSX, I don't use any other Apple applications -- maybe someone can tell me whether these need activation etc?

Stephen Coles's picture

Be careful with the music industry analogy. Fonts aren't MP3s.

aluminum's picture

"Reading, my impression is that Mr Jobs is so generous as regards DRM because he’s not dealing with Apple’s properties, but otherones’"

OSX CDs don't have any DRM either.

"Since, except for OSX, I don’t use any other Apple applications — maybe someone can tell me whether these need activation etc?"

Their other products require a serial #, but not activation.

"Be careful with the music industry analogy. Fonts aren’t MP3s."

True. But DRM is DRM. ;o)

Castleman's picture

Here's MY take on it, after an ugly and incredibly frustrating bout with Chuck over this issue.
I use Illustrator 9 about 95% of the time. I have so many plug-ins that were never updated that I really need. Chuck told me to "install it on the OSX side". Obviously Chuck knows very, very little about Macs. He told me the fonts would work if I did that. He then told me it's "my fault for not using CS2". Even though he advertises that his fonts are compatible with Illustrator 9. He expects me to change my entire design process and dump some 1500.00 worth of plug-ins to use HIS fonts? I've got a half dozen fonts that I've bought previously from him and LOVE them, they're really nice, but I'll never spend a penny again with him if he's going to be so obstinate. Let me see, EVERY OTHER FONT VENDOR IN THE WORLD doesn't use some hare-brained scheme, but HE'S the one that's gonna solve all the problems with his half-assed protection?
Bite me, Chuck.
When I want cool, retro fonts, I'll buy from House or Font Diner.

seanglenn's picture

I've been a fan of LHF for a while now, and have been making purchases from them here and there on projects. Nothing big, mind you, so I'm sure my opinions as a customer don't really matter to Chuck.

However, I will not buy fonts with DRM. Period. It screws up my workflow (what if I use a font for running heads in text? I can't convert those to paths before creating a PDF X/1a). My day job is art directing a magazine, and we can't have a font that needs to be converted to paths at every instance, because our entire workflow is PDF, and keeping editability is very important.

This type of draconian DRM only serves to encourage piracy. Someone, somewhere will want to crack it. Then, the cracked fonts get distributed, and the very thing you were trying to prevent becomes true.

If Hoefler gave up their bizarre hidden font install scheme, and if Emigre stopped chasing every 15 year old who downloaded a copy of Exocet, and even Apple is pushing for non-DRM music in the iTunes music store, what possible reason does LHF have for making such a ridiculous protection scheme? All it does is irritate the end user.

Sean Glenn
Art Director

rattybad1's picture

Even though this thread is a bit old, I'd like to report in on it. Like many who've posted here, I have a HUGE problem with the "installer"—after a few months, my fonts no longer showed up, and I had to reinstall several times. Their system's not all it's cracked up to be, let's just say. I will no longer buy from LHF even though I love their fonts. With the installer, they're basically telling the customer that they do not trust them. If I'm purchasing a product, I don't expect the guy I'm giving money to to look over my shoulder when I use it. It lacks professionalism.

However, the other day I went back to the site (the other day = mid July) and got into my account and was able to download the .otf files for my two purchased fonts separately, though up 'til now had only been available with their awful installer app. I don't know if I found a glitch in the system or if LHF has sensed the error in their judgment and is creeping back into "regular" font downloads. Anyway, I was pleased. If they go back to font files instead of installer apps, I'm sure to spend money there, but if LHF continues to disrespect their customer by disallowing me to use what I've purchased, i.e. it's *mine*, in my font management software or simply to organize my font libraries, then I'll have none of it, and I wrote them a few emails telling them so.

I just can't see the point in the installer. They say they'll lose money if they don't, but there are several sites that *TRUST* their customers and are doing a fine business. You know what I do now instead of buying LHF fonts? Go to other foundries and buy theirs. Wow, that installer really works, huh? It makes the fonts AND customers disappear. Show some respect, LHF.

Jackie Frant's picture


In the early days of Mac in the office, I had a font collection that I spent wel over $15,000 on in the first few months of owning a computer. Adobe loved me... (10,000+), URW's library was $700, Bitstream had a special offer to typesetters, their whole library $300 - and the rest went to OPTIFonts, FontFonts and the Font Store.

Well, let's put it this way, one of my employees decided it was okay to steal the entire font library and give it to a photographer down the street from me - who started advertising to my customers he could do everything I could - even had my "exclusive" fonts... (Several fonts were "customized" for different publishing houses - like Belwe becoming the old typositor font Elizabethan).

So as an owner and person that has paid her dues... I appreciate any effort to save them.

Like you, I was weary of Chuck's latest -- and you are absolutely right to have your own opinion and say you don't want to use LHF any more.

I feel that would be your loss. I love his fonts. I just did a poster for The Wizard of Oz and used LHF Chunky Block. Everyone who sees it loves the type.

BTW - I am on a MAC. I find I don't like using his fonts in Quark - because if I need a pdf - I have to take an extra step and save each page as an .eps and then distill. However, since I seem only to use LHF for display type (never body copy) I tend to use it in Photoshop and illustrator.

Works for me.

Robert Trogman's picture

Jackie T
I am from the same typographic period as you are. I switched over to a studio operation to survive. There no typography plants operating in the L.A. area any more. I watched the typography disciplines go down the drain. I consider myself a digital dinosaur
and fortunately I have been blessed with clients that know the difference between good and unacceptable typography.

blank's picture

With the installer, they’re basically telling the customer that they do not trust them.

Given the rampant nature of piracy in the design industry, especially when it comes to fonts, it makes good sense not to trust the customers :(

Stephen Coles's picture

You're confusing me, James. I thought you were anti-DRM.

dberlow's picture

"Given the rampant nature of piracy [...] when it comes to fonts, it makes good sense not to trust the customers :("

This is what I call the "stay small" philosophy.

pumpkingod's picture

Not sure if it's appropriate to go after the bigger issue in this thread, but I was talking about it with someone the other day and we got onto the topic of libraries. Everyone takes them for granted these days, but if the concept didn't exist already, would someone be able to get a public library system going?

Look at the reactions to google's book search. People were screaming bloody murder and saying that google was profiting off of authors' hard work. Personally, I use google book search to search for books, and then if a book looks suitable, I'll order it from amazon. Similarly from a library. There's something nice about owning a book, just as there is with owning anything, including fonts, legitimately. I don't think, however, that nowadays most content producers would see it that way, and I really doubt public libraries would ever have been allowed in this day and age.

Ultimately, I think that people are applying IP law in a rather one-sided manner. It is there to protect the content producers, but also the consumers. The wave of DRM schemes that have been popping up recently is a knee-jerk reaction from people scared of development. It is too simplistic to compare file sharing with physical theft. It's been said a thousand times before, but computer copying is not a zero-sum game. My taking a file from someone else does not hinder their use of it. It also does not necessarily equate to lost sales, as I might never have bought the file in the first place, or never have even been exposed to it, and through the so-called piracy, might have even decided to buy it. I have certainly borrowed CDs from friends, and in some cases decided to buy a copy myself because I liked it enough.

The digital world brings many benefits with it, but the paradigms are ultimately different. Gone are the days when a customer needed to walk into your shop(pe) and engage in conversation with you to get your product. It means less infrastructure is needed to be successful, but also inherently means significantly less control over where your product goes. Unless people start trusting EULAs or the government imposes "trusted computing" on the world, I see no way to gain any more control over distribution of anything digital. DRM schemes are as flawed as EULAs, really. Instead of asking you not to do bad things with the font, they ask your computer not to let you; you (assuming no trusted computing) have full control over your computer, and with some technical expertise, it is rather trivial to overcome most schemes.

Anyway, that's just my 0.02 on the topic. I must say I've never used any Letterhead fonts, but judging from the website, they do look rather attractive. I hope that over time Chuck will realize that his good customers will remain good customers if he listens to them, and removes the DRM. As it stands, he's sticking it to the pirate but his legitimate customers are becoming "collateral damage." He really needs to evaluate if 1 pirated copy equates to 1 lost sale.

Well, I'm usually just a lurker so I'll go back to lurking. Apologies if this post is rather straggly and (I hope not!) off-topic... I've been up for way too long.

blank's picture

You’re confusing me, James. I thought you were anti-DRM.

I am, but I also understand that, contrary to some paranoid fantasies, not all DRM exists as part of oddball conspiracies vendor lock-in conspiraciess. The simple fact is that, in design circles, pirated content of all sorts is passed around like joints at a Phish concert. Fonts, due to their tiny file sizes, seem to be the most conveniently and commonly pirated item around. So while I certainly do not like, or want anything to do with, DRM, I can understand why some businesses distrust their customers enough to deploy it.

cuttlefish's picture

Indeed, one does not necessarily have to agree with another's action in order to understand, and even sympathize with, their motivation for that action.

fontplayer's picture

I am curious if the Letterhead fonts are able to be managed by the common font managers, so they can be batch installed, and uninstalled with others of their style. If not, that sucks, because I often find that I like to try several script (or whatever) fonts until one has an overall look that appeals to me, or fits the space alloted.

So, in the end, it’s only BAD for the paying user.

I wouldn't be surprised if some ingenious person could get one OS or the other to spill the beans, and extract a font from the exe. At which point, it is only the paying users that are discomfitted.

I am tempted to see if there has already been some success in that area, because I remember being surprised more than once by the abilities of the Usenet group. Apparently some of the font-collectors (or pirates, as they are known here) are programmers.

I believe font-collecting is an addiction. I managed to kick the habit when I realized that I didn't have time to organize bazillions of fonts, and my addiction to playing with fonts, was suffering. In the end, I probably have more empathy for the 'collectors' than most people here, although I certainly see, understand, and agree with (for the most part) the point of view of the people who make their living with fonts.

I just wish I had made better printouts from when I (allegedly) had tons of fonts, because my eyes are strained by the small samples I have, and they are a good resource for the ID group.
: )

aluminum's picture

"Given the rampant nature of piracy in the design industry, especially when it comes to fonts, it makes good sense not to trust the customers"

It makes no sense.

"The simple fact is that, in design circles, pirated content of all sorts is passed around like joints at a Phish concert."

Very true. But then there's the simple fact that DRM does nothing to stop that...just as a few security guards do nothing to stop people from getting high at a Phish concert.

"I can understand why some businesses distrust their customers enough to deploy it."

Paranoia. Frustration. It's there. It's likely a normal reaction. People tend to believe technology can fix a lot of things that it just really can't.

pumpkingod...don't bring up the concept of public libraries. It causes DRM folks to get brain aneurysms. ;o)

Jackie Frant's picture

As much as I dislike what Chuck has done - it is not difficult to work with. I just used one of the fonts - and yes, I'm sad I cannot make an pdf from Quark (please remember - I've reminded you enough, that there are folks out there that extract embedded fonts and toss them all over the net) because the new font will not allow itself to be embedded. However, I can make .eps and turn those into PDFs without problem and only adding a few moments onto any one job.

Since the nature of Letterhead fonts is for DIsplay purposes only - I also tend to make my "logotype" in Illustrator or Photoshop and then import it into my page layout program From that I can make PDFs...

I think I may be repeating myself - but it is worth it. Letterhead Fonts are unique and enjoyable to use for the final designs I produce. This is just a small snag - and one I'm getting use to working with. Why? Because I like the finished product -- and better, so do my customers.

aluminum's picture

"This is just a small snag"

While not limited to Letterhead, the inability to embed typefaces in PDFs is a rather huge issue for anyone using PDFs for their intended purpose of electronic data management.

If you have to convert type to EPS to make a PDF, then the PDF is no longer text and impossible to parse via screen readers, search engines, document management systems, etc.

Jackie Frant's picture

Aluminum If you have to convert type to EPS to make a PDF, then the PDF is no longer text and impossible to parse via screen readers, search engines, document management systems, etc.

Little Ol' Me :-) I still keep my main Quark document to make ALL changes - and I have NEVER given one of those to a customer. I am still giving my customers PDFs - and if there is a correction -- I make it with a smile.

Fontplayer I am tempted to see if there has already been some success ...

Little Ol' Me :-) I have had many assure me that there isn't a font that can't be gotten into -- and I'm sure someone somewhere has attempted this.

Fontplayer I am curious if the Letterhead fonts are able to be managed by the common font managers...

Little Ol' Me :-) The fonts are installed through a program that Letterhead Fonts developed. And they are open all the time... So they are not managed by my Suitcase program. However, they appear open in all the programs I am presently using. Hope that helps, and, sort of answers your question.

aluminum's picture

"I am still giving my customers PDFs - and if there is a correction — I make it with a smile."

There are two primary uses for PDFs...prepress production, and the storage of useful content.

For prepess, yea, who cares if it's text or outlines, as it ends up on paper anywyas.

But for storing actual information, it's useless if you convert everything to outlines.

An example is that perhaps a corporation retains all of its sales literature in PDF format and a sales person needs to do a quick search to find a particular brochure. If all the content is outlined, it's impossible for their internal search engine to index any of it. And, as such, makes for a rather useless repository of information.

Just pointing it out as I think it's something a lot of people fail to consider when producing PDF files.

patternmaker's picture

Letterhead Fonts is currently licensing regular Opentype fonts. The installer and the server are gone. The downloaded OTF file can be managed any way you prefer.

From their site; "Redistribution of Letterhead Fonts in any manner is strictly prohibited. Each Letterhead Font is embedded with special encryption allowing them to be traced back to the original purchaser. Letterhead Fonts does not hesitate to seek criminal or civil prosecution of any offenders and damages concerning lost profits, attorney fees and/or statutory damages. The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Section 1204) allows for fines of up to $100,000 or 10 years imprisonment for distribution or use of copyrighted software."

That's much easier on the consumer.

aluminum's picture

That is much easier, though still illogical. It's still a 'you are guilty until proven innocent' line of thinking.

What's wrong with the good ol' "here's the software license you purchased, please note it's copyrighted"?

We already have a legal system in place. No need to try and trump it with crappy technology.

fontplayer's picture

For those that say that protection is a slap in the face to the consumer or even hint that we are less friendly to our customers now— You obviously have never purchased anything from us or called us.

I just now noticed that LHF responded in this thread, and I will vouch for this statement. This thread probably hasn't done Letterhead much good, so I wanted to at least verify that what he says is true.

I once called to complain that the font I was thinking of buying didn't have a full character set, and he offered to fill in the character sets of any fonts I bought. In the end I didn't buy it, because I didn't want him to go to that trouble for just me if no one else was complaining about it. But I have always remembered the offer. (I do wonder if the sets have been filled in through the years?)

Jackie Frant's picture

Patternmaker - ... does not hesitate to seek criminal or civil prosecution of any offenders...

When my Adobe font collection was stolen and being used by a company down the street from me -- and I was very close to Adobe in those days and let them know, they first wanted to know how I knew it was my library. When I explained I altered and renamed some fonts and that no one else would have them that way but me -- they listened a bit more. The Adobe library alone at that time was a $15,000 investment. Know what the outcome was - it wasn't enough in be worthy of a lawyer, and they never pursued it.

So do you think any foundry losing a font here or there could afford the legal expense it entails - for a $29 or a $449 font?

The only company I know for sure that went after someone was Quark. A New York marketing person had sold about 15 or 20 Mac computers to a corporation when computers were first going in... Each computer was outfitted with programs - all with different serial numbers. Then the marketer went to another corporation, got them computers -- and outfitted those with the same serial numbers as the first company. I don't know how many times the marketer did it -- but he lost one of the companies about 2 years later - just in time for the latest Quark update. Well, needless to say, the serial numbers were already accounted for and that compnay was not the one that they were registered to. You see, they were all registered to the marketer, and he'd go from company to company upgrading to the latest software as part of his service. Don't think he ever expected to lose an account, or have an account bright enough to update on their own. And yes, Quark went after him - and yes, they won.

In that case, yes financially, it was definately worth going after legally.

fontplayer font I was thinking of buying didn’t have a full character set

Fontplayer, almost everyone of Chuck's fonts has/had a Betafont put out for a select group to try the font and give their opinion. The Betas never had the full character set. I wonder if that is what you were referring to and maybe, didn't know it. I own a few LHF fonts and they are all complete, and some even more so with alternatives.

Chuck still uses human beings to answer the phones and talk to custumers (even those of us who aren't purchasing at the time). It's a nice way to do business -- and see, makes people like you have a soft spot for him, and keeps his regulars calling back. The last time I spoke to LHF it was about 8pm EST and it was about a font. Not only did I get all the information I needed, I could not believe how busy everything sounded -- their phone seemed to ring off the hook.

I hope LHF survives and thrives through this modern age. They have some wonderful fonts - different from the every day stuff -- and not going into the square san serif look that is coming out of Europe these days. They are strong, bold fonts with a hint of femininity (my opinion of the ones I own) and the other foundries do not have anything like them.

Did this thread hurt Chuck? Honestly, I don't think so. For those of us that want those distinctive fonts for display type - I doubt it. What has hurt are people who get their hands on the fonts and pass them all over the internet. That really hurts.

P.S. aluminum If all the content is outlined, it’s impossible for their internal search engine to index any of it.

One thing you may consider is using your display type (LHF) in vector format - then bringing it into your page layout as a graphic -- then all your body copy would still be in a font that a search engine could get to... Two minutes more work for you -- but you'll have the design you want and still have a large percentage of your page as you want it.

You are right - for me - I just use the pdfs two ways. One to give to a customer that I do not want them touching it in any shape anyway. (All corrections made in a master file) and Two - to the printer (who I do not want touching it either...) if they run into a problem, let them tell me so I can fix it -- and keep it fix from that point forward.

Thank you for letting me speak up early in the morning - I should get to work now. Later :-)

fontplayer's picture

The Betas never had the full character set. I wonder if that is what you were referring to...?

I don't think so. This was back around the turn of the century, give or take a year or two, back when I had money to throw away on fonts, and I remember him being surprised that anyone would want international characters, while I was incredulous that anyone would have commercial fonts that were incomplete.

I guess something probably reinforced my view and he got the fonts completed. So, you can partially credit me for that.
; )

Adriano Santi's picture

I too am a designer and I don’t use any font management program. I would rather spend the time designing than turning fonts on and off. If I don’t want a font, I don’t install it in the first place.

That might be the case for a few out there, but there are some of us who deal with several different clients, with different identities and brand guidelines, using different fonts. I have different font sets in Suitcase set up for different clients, so I don't have to have Client A's fonts taking up memory when doing stuff for Client B.

Jackie Frant's picture

I too am a designer and I don’t use any font management program. I would rather spend the time designing than turning fonts on and off. If I don’t want a font, I don’t install it in the first place.


Peter van Rosmaien suggests we try FontExplorer from Linotype.


They have downloads for both Mac and PC...

And it has a section once installed called ACTIVATED FONTS - and the LHF fonts show up there - and you can click them off if you so please.

Just had to come back and let you know...

malbright's picture

Can someone please point us to the place on the LHF site where they say they have dropped their copy protection scheme?

After reading this ...

"Letterhead Fonts is currently licensing regular Opentype fonts. The installer and the server are gone. The downloaded OTF file can be managed any way you prefer."

... I looked everywhere to confirm but couldn't find a word.


malbright's picture

I think patternmaker might be in error. According to everything I've seen on the LHF site, including the licensing agreement referred to by patternmaker, the copy protection scheme and installer are still in place.

zebrasystem's picture

malbright, I checked the LHF site a couple weeks ago after patternmaker's post to see what was up, and again a few days ago. With LHF's revamped shopping cart system instituted at the beginning of 2007 you can redownload fonts you have previously purchased. So I did that with the locked font I bought earlier, and when I download it now, patternmaker is right, it's a regular .otf font file, not the black box installer thing. However, there is also this notice above the button for downloading your fonts:

"IMPORTANT! Each of your fonts has been encrypted with your unique account information. Please do not share them with friends or colleagues. Instead, encourage them to purchase their own copies so that we may continue making new fonts for you. Thank you."

PDF embedding is still not allowed, however. Although you can now open the font in FontLab and turn the embedding restriction off if you wish, that wouldn't seem smart. Aside from the ethics of that or lack thereof, by doing so and embedding fonts in PDFs that can in any way be traced back to the font licensee (with or without encrypted account info), that's inviting getting caught violating the license.

As an .otf file the fonts can now be managed with font managers of course. But if your workflow or permanent document needs depend on PDF embedding (to support searchable PDF archives, etc.), you may not regard the situation as much better than before.

I do wonder about the encrypted account information put into the fonts, and how that's done. I'm not an expert and not of course recommending this, but couldn't fonts simply be opened with FontLab and regenerated anew to lose the encryption? I would assume that type of encryption has to be added after a font is generated and isn't something supported by FontLab/Fontographer. If so, it would seem to be useless for catching any but small-time pirates who didn't know better. Otherwise, assuming the encrypted account info doesn't breed potential software glitches of its own in use of the font, this might be a livable system for combating font piracy.

It is interesting that there has been no public notice of the change on the LHF site. It's reminiscent of the original institution of the protection scheme several months ago when the limitations of the installer were not spelled out fully (at least not IMO). Or maybe LHF is just attempting to quietly test the waters to see how users and sales respond to the new change without biasing it with a public announcement. Also, if this is not just a temporary glitch in LHF's system, maybe Chuck is gunshy now and just doesn't want to say anything hoping the brouhaha will quietly go away and be forgotten with time.

Again, if not a glitch, it is encouraging in that it would seem to be an effort on LHF's part to meet font users halfway. It would have been a difficult emotional decision on Chuck's part, given he said earlier here more than 2 years work was invested in the installer scheme. Or maybe it wouldn't be so difficult if sales were negatively impacted and left little choice but to drop the scheme or close up shop.

I believe Chuck previously gave that as one of his options here, if his effort to combat piracy didn't prove out. If he ended up closing things down has actually been one of my biggest concerns with the whole thing. If you buy installer-only fonts and LHF later decides to close up shop, then once the Windows or Mac OS's have changed enough over time that incompatibilities arise, the fonts become unusable.

Curious what others think about the new change...

Typography.Guru's picture

Now that the LHF installer is gone, I have an idea to recycle it.
I also don't like a DRM system for fonts that I have bought and need to work with. But I would love to see such a technology for try-outs! Since the installer controls the activation of the font at the system level, it would be very easy to limit the use to a try-out period, say three days and the fonts would be deactivated and deleted after that.
So the users could try the fonts in their usual workflow, for example in InDesign. They could check how a font can be combined with different styles and other fonts, apply OT features and so on. Everything the usual type testers on websites cannot offer.

TBiddy's picture

How about you start a new thread about it? I wonder if you might get others interested in this idea.

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