How do you approach “PDF Font stealing”?

Goran Soderstrom's picture

Hi,

I am very interested in how you genereally think when you are making those specimen PDF sheets.

I've seen that many foundries include a full character sets in the PDF, and we all know it is possible to break out the font from that. On the other hand maybe it is worth the risk.

I am pending between including all characters (for the buyers sake) to give people the possibility to see all characters and by that I think it is good for buying customers – OR to put up the full character sets on my webpage as pixelbuilt images. And by this let the PDF serve more as inspiration. The negative side of the later is of course that people cant zoom in on the characters etc and get a full picture of the whole font.

How do you all approach this? Thanks in advance.

twistedintellect's picture

Those determined to pirate your typeface will do so anyway (and do so by spreading the font file itself) - in fact, I think that not including the full character set in the PDF may even unintentionally promote piracy; as a potential costumer may pirate the font in order to get to the full-scale characters…

Better to show people what they're paying for; and make them want to pay instead of pirate, than to try and force them into paying…

Quincunx's picture

You can also convert the characters to outlines. Although I realise that can sometimes negatively influence the shapes, I think it makes ripping the PDF impossible or at least a lot of work.

Goran Soderstrom's picture

Thanks for your comments.

Outlining is not an option, it doesnt look good on screen. I want the hinting information etc to be there _if_ the glyphs are included.

Jackie Frant's picture

Goran - have you considered opening your pdf file in Photoshop and resaving as a "flattened" version of your pdf. Not the same as outlining - and it may suit your purposes.

I never understand why creators of fonts would want to embed their treasure in a pdf for the pirates to invade...

Don McCahill's picture

One thing to remember about piracy is that those who steal are not always lost sales, but often people who would not buy even if they had to. I have met people (online) who collect fonts, not to use them, but only to be able to boast that they have a large(r) collection. Many of these people will never use the fonts, just having them on their hard disk is enough for them.

And of course that does not deduct from the designers income the way that pirates who sell or otherwise distribute to actual users do.

blank's picture

Most foundries just encrypt their PDFs. 128-bit Rc4 encryption with a long, random password takes so long to brute force that nobody would bother, and that’s not even the strongest encryption method for a PDF. Anyone with enough money to crack such a PDF quickly has better things to spend it on.

Chris Rugen's picture

Won't all of the spacing data be lost if a pirate extracts the characters? As others have said, those who are that determined to steal likely wouldn't ever pay. I see no benefit to punishing legtimate consumers in an effort to stop the unstoppable.

Quincunx's picture

> Outlining is not an option, it doesnt look good on screen. I want the hinting information etc to be there _if_ the glyphs are included.

I understand, however no hinting is only a real problem if you have very small type in your specimens. Which people will zoom in on. Or they print it out.

If you embed a full font in a PDF, it will always be possible to extract it.

> Most foundries just encrypt their PDFs.

How do you mean? A password to open the file?
That would defeat the purpose of downloadable PDF specimens, wouldn't it?

aluminum's picture

Would 'pirates' buy your typeface otherwise?

'Pirates' tend to be in it for the game/hunt. Probably not your target paying customer anyways.

blank's picture

If you embed a full font in a PDF, it will always be possible to extract it.

That necessarily doesn’t make piracy of embedded fonts especially relevant from a business standpoint. People who have nothing better to do than extract fonts from PDFs probably aren’t ever going to be customers. At best it prevents people from running programs that download every specimen on a foundry web site, extract the fonts, and create new-but-screwy-versions that get released as large collections. But people do that with flash type testers already.

How do you mean? A password to open the file?
That would defeat the purpose of downloadable PDF specimens, wouldn’t it?

PDF encryption can place different limits on a file. One can encrypt a file that can still be viewed and printed, but not viewed as plaintext, converted to postscript, printed to another PDF, or embedded in other files. Reading the Acrobat manual would be an excellent idea for people outputting PDF specimens.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Goran, you could always limit the people who get the PDF if you are that worried. You could post a sample on your site and then tell them if they'd like a copy of a PDF they should email you — with a promise of their first child ;^) .

Seriously though, I agree that the pirates aren't the ones who will be buying your fonts to begin with. Don't let fear run your business.

I don't think a flattened PDF is a good idea. It is just as bad, maybe worse, that a limited set. I want to be able to zoom in on the letters. In order to make it high res enough for zooming that PDF would become a monster.

Goran Soderstrom's picture

Thanks for all comments!

PDF-encrypting is of course a must, that I will do no matter what is in the PDF.

If there are even more options on how to encrypt a PDF than giving it a password in InDesign for what is "allowed" I will definately reap up on that too, didnt know more could be done.

A flattened PDF is not so good in my opinion – it must be the real font, and hinting does more than just give small letters a sharper attitude and push up the overshoots to the alignment zones, so the hinting must definetely be there.

I believe one really should focus on the potential buyers, and not the potential pirates :)

Quincunx's picture

> PDF encryption can place different limits on a file.

Ok, that can be handy.

and hinting does more than just give small letters a sharper attitude and push up the overshoots to the alignment zones, so the hinting must definetely be there.

Yeah, I wasn't taking the overshoots and such into account. Then the real font should be in there.

aluminum's picture

"I believe one really should focus on the potential buyers, and not the potential pirates"

Then don't worry about encrypting the PDF at all.

AGL's picture

"Save" and pray. I have been spending lots of time looking at some old specimen books and the old guys wouldn't include the full set of characters. I remember once I found DTL web site and downloaded some specimens. Actually I was chocked to see all in there. He doesn't seen worried about. Save and Pray.

¡ awesome !

EK's picture

What is it exactly that is "stolen"?

AGL's picture

"You could post a sample on your site and then tell them if they’d like a copy of a PDF they should email you — with a promise of their first child ;^) ."

Genial: Low res pdf (encripted) for immediate download. For high res with your font, email required. Delivered to email address with some EULAstik testing. :) Sounds like a formula?

Quincunx's picture

Hmm, the internet, PDF and flash preview engines are supposed to make things easier. If you have to e-mail before you get a PDF, that would be a step back in that sense.

k.l.'s picture

J.P. -- PDF encryption can place different limits on a file.

It does not prevent font extraction.

G.S. -- Outlining is not an option, it doesnt look good on screen.

What about a middle-way? Embed fonts with subsetting. And convert only the glyph overview to outlines. So the embedded/extracted fonts are at least incomplete, in addition to lacking kerning and OT layout tables.
I would think that someone who is interested in a typeface will print some pages. Even the glyph overview converted to outlines should be fine for evaluation with standard high-res printers.

nicholasgross's picture

I'm with k.l.

Easy. Two sentences:

"For security reasons the characters in this font have been outlined and may appear a bit awkward on screen. For a more faithful reproduction print out the character set on a high-resolution printer".

Thomas Phinney's picture

Problem with that is, what if the whole reason the user wants it is either for use on screen or in PDF? They'd have no way of getting a preview of their actual usage.

I strongly recommend embedding the "real font." If you're really worried about piracy from the PDF, subset it and leave out at least one or two important glyphs.

Obviously we at Adobe are not very worried, as we make and post PDFs showing every glyph in each font we sell. I have no reason to believe that piracy via ripping fonts out of the PDF is a significant portion of all piracy of our fonts. If it were 10% or more, I'd start to be concerned about doing things differently. But I have no reason to think it's even 1%. It's just so much easier to get the "actual" font from pirate sources.

Cheers,

T

Goran Soderstrom's picture

Thanks for all useful comments, it feels good to get this out of my head, so to speak.

HaleyFiege's picture

Ripping fonts from pdf is such an archaic way of pirating.

Jackie Frant's picture

LOL Halely - but it doesn't stop them.

And then there are the guys out there (I call them the Russian Sites) that take pleasure in trying to pinch that which is encoded too! They let the readers know - if there's a will...there's a way. Just the hunt, I guess.

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