What if?

typerror's picture

Just went to a site and over 9K of one of my fonts was downloaded. Thinking about using it as a write off for tax purposes. Do you think it would get the asses in DC to start thinking if we all did it?

Michael

Khaled Hosny's picture

or it is 2010 grandpa...

oldnick's picture

or it is 2010 grandpa...

That's great-grandpa to you, sir...

SebastianK's picture

consequences for actions thoughtlessly undertaken

You're preaching to the choir here. Do I know making a good font takes months of work? Yes, I do. Do I appreciate your work, and do I think you deserve to make a living? Hell yes. (In fact, I really like your decorative type.) Do I pirate fonts? Nope.

The same goes for Khaled I'm sure.

But you guys are completely out of touch with reality when you say things like "Kids need to be taught that sharing digital files with friends is not sharing: it's stealing." There is a perceived difference, and that's what counts. If you want to babble on about EULAs and Intellectual Property, go ahead. Just look at what's happening to the CD/DVD industry (though they, unlike type designers, are cozy with politicians).

Also, don't forget that there are more and more free (or bundled) fonts around that make people question the price tags of commercial fonts (sorry for contributing to that).

I wish my posts were more constructive, but I don't see an easy way out of this. Ray is doing the right thing.

Then again, if you just needed to vent your frustration, sorry to interrupt :)

oldnick's picture

There is a perceived difference, and that's what counts.

OK: so some numbskull is tooling down the road, texting one of his numerous BFFs about nothing in particular and he perceives everything to be fine, totally unaware of the eighteen-wheeler whose path he is about to cross, which will mash him flatter than a pancake. But, hey, no problem: it's the perception that counts, right?

SebastianK's picture

And the eighteen-wheeler is your crusade, RIAA style?

I didn't mean to invalidate your frustration, which I entirely understand.

I am actually interested in this though: did you see a decline in sales with the advent of filesharing? Did anyone, really? Of course 9000 downloads feel like "the bad guys" stole 9000 × [insert price], but what do your numbers really say?

oldnick's picture

And the eighteen-wheeler is your crusade, RIAA style?

No: the eighteen-wheeler is stubborn reality, which cares not what others perceive it to be...

SebastianK's picture

What I meant was this:

You, Nick, care about working day and night and not getting paid. I'm with you.

Joe Numbskull, who finds a cool-looking font for his 8th-grade book report, doesn't see a "real" value in bits and bytes, since the supply is infinite, and no one watches him "steal". The value is as virtual as the font. Stealing metal type from a print shop would feel different.

What does that have to do with eighteen-wheelers? The worst that can happen to Joe is that you get another job and stop making more fonts. Tough luck.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't think of protection mechanisms, but are you willing to play cat-and-mouse with font pirates? With Ray's attitude, you'll live longer :)

Afterthought: I'd say leave it to/talk to the developers of OS's/rendering libs. Until they implement some sort of PKI for fonts, there's always a way around them anyway.

Still, I'd be interested in numbers.

oldnick's picture

Stealing metal type from a print shop would feel different.

I am quite confident that the average U.S. Southerner, before our Civil War, thought enslaving other human beings--as long as they were black--was perfectly acceptable. And, no doubt, the average Nazi soldier herding Jews into gas chambers thought he was doing his part--the right thing--to serve the Fatherland. Right and wrong remain quite separate, despite the prevailing ethos.

And, no: I won't live longer with Ray's attitude, although perhaps I would with his genes. My parents and grandparents placed a ticking time bomb in my chest: right now, the only real question is, will my arthritis make it impossible to work or will my progressive presbyopia make me go blind before my heart blows. Tough luck for Joe?

butterick's picture

I am quite confident that the average U.S. Southerner ... And, no doubt, the average Nazi soldier ...

analogy FAIL

oldnick's picture

analogy FAIL

The analogy stands: your comprehension fails. Please explain how one is supposed to know what is right if what one has been taught is right is, in fact, wrong.

SebastianK's picture

So what now, sir?

butterick's picture

Comparing font piracy to slavery and genocide overstates the issue enormously. (Do I really need to say that?)

Perspective, please. We are talking about the mechanics of the free market. Nobody has the right to make a living off their work. (Not type designers -- not creative artists generally -- nobody.) The only right anyone has is to participate & compete in the free market. Every corner of the free market has benefits. It has costs. And if you don't like that particular corner, you have the right to do something else with your time and effort.

"Right" vs. "wrong" and "legal" vs. "illegal" are discussions that eventually get trumped by "fact" vs. "fantasy". Every piracy-protection system is broken sooner or later. People who don't want to pay for the product don't have to.

I completely agree with Typodermic that in rational economic terms, type designers are usually better off putting the "mall cop energy" into designing more type & better type.

William Berkson's picture

"the free market." Ah, but the free market only exists because of law and its enforcement. The government defines and enforces what is private property, and without that there is no market. In the case of intellectual property, it is the government that authorizes copyright and patent, and enforces contracts (including the EULA), which enables creatives in the digital realm to sell their wares.

Pro-piracy Vikings fail to notice that there is a multi-billion dollar market for software, which would not exist if there were no IP protection. So while it is not wise to exaggerate the harm done by piracy, advocating it as the rule, and "no harm done" as a general rule is really a failure to understand the situation.

ps. Love your refutation of "perception is reality," Old Nick.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

The trend in computer-usage being towards ‘cloud computing’ the whole issue of paying or not for software will be resolved in a couple of years (or maybe decades). And that will include fonts. Everyone will pay for sw then, or be left behind…

My point: we are in the early stages of this industry and as historic examples show us: robber barons, crooks, ran and feather, etc. etc, all around.

Khaled Hosny's picture

Pro-piracy Vikings fail to notice that there is a multi-billion dollar market for software, which would not exist if there were no IP protection.

And there also "a multi-billion dollar market" for free software, indeed free software has copyrights (or copyleft) but its notion of "IP protection" is radically different than yours. I personally think any IP protection beyond the moral right of being credited to owns work, is a draconian measure that should be abolished.

Everyone will pay for sw then, or be left behind…

I don't have to pay for software (including fonts) now and I'm using 100% legal (mostly copyleft) software, so I don't buy-in the idea that corporate-controlled so called cloud computing is going to take over software market. Free (as in freedom) is as old as computers and I don't think it is going away any time soon.

butterick's picture

the free market only exists because of law and its enforcement. The government defines and enforces what is private property, and without that there is no market ... government that authorizes copyright and patent, and enforces contracts (including the EULA), which enables creatives in the digital realm to sell their wares.

The essence of a market economy is exchange, not private-property rights. Items are successfully exchanged all the time in our economy that are not property, or not private.

There is a difference between "enabling" a market and "enforcing" it. By and large, the govt only takes a role in enforcement when it's a criminal matter. For copyright, patent, and contract, the govt makes private parties enforce the law. This is not a merely academic distinction. Economic incentives would be distorted if private parties did not internalize the costs of enforcement.

(PS Has any font foundry ever sued a nonlicensed user for copyright / EULA violations? I haven't heard of it happening, though it may have)

Pro-piracy Vikings fail to notice that there is a multi-billion dollar market for software, which would not exist if there were no IP protection

I am not pro-piracy (nor, last I checked, a Viking) but software markets DO exist without IP protection. For example, the iTunes store. For the last couple years, all songs have been sold in unprotected MP3 format. Has that impacted Apple's bottom line? For the better, apparently.

Example #2: fonts. There is no meaningful IP protection for fonts in the United States. Entire companies have been built around the premise of legally cloning existing fonts. But the market hasn't collapsed. That's not a pro-piracy argument. That's just pointing out that whatever is holding up the font market in the US, it's not private IP rights.

William Berkson's picture

>Has any font foundry ever sued a nonlicensed user for copyright / EULA violations? I haven't heard of it happening, though it may have

Yes. Adobe vs SSI established that you can't just copy and resell software from another company.

There have been several law suits against companies for violating font licenses. The de facto situation is that private individuals can use pirated fonts privately with impunity, but publishers and other companies cannot.

>its notion of "IP protection" is radically different than yours.

You are being presumptuous in thinking you know what my notion of "IP protection" is. I don't know myself, as I'm not a lawyer, and haven't studied this complex matter.

I do think a few things: 1. if Adobe had lost to SSI instead of winning, and similar suits were defeated, it would have hurt the font industry. 2. If you download and use my font without paying for it, you are depriving legitimate income to both me and Font Bureau, who both worked on it--a lot. It is particularly nasty if you make money using the font without ever paying for it.

Matthew: The Font Bureau recently went after NBC for violating a EULA: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/10/font-bureau-clashes-with...

The point is, the vikings (promoters of piracy) don't seem to be aware that while private piracy is overlooked, public piracy is not, and this is a commercially important fact.

There is a difference between IP protection and what is known as DRM, which tries to use technology to defeat piracy. Your example of Itunes is off the mark, because the music is copyrighted, and there have been suits for violation of copyright. If you don't think copyright matters commercially, just try and download the Beatles from Itunes.

Your point about the parties accepting the rules of exchange voluntarily is correct, but I think, that if the rules were never enforced by government, then the parties would not respect the rules. You just have too look at poor countries to see where the rule of law is much weaker, and commerce is as a result harmed. Poor countries are poor partly because of the lack of rule of law, and particularly the enforcement of contracts. This stuff actually matters a lot to the wealth of a country.

Khaled Hosny's picture

I've never been a pro-piracy (I don't even support the term piracy, anyway), I'm rather anti-copyright pro-copyleft, and until the current copyright system is dismissed, I advice everyone (who shares my opinion, that it) to avoid copyrighted material, used (and produced) copylefted material instead. What I was opposing here is pro-copyright's attempt (or wish) to intoxicate education systems with their propaganda, the thing that also RIAA and its friends are trying hard to do.

I don't know what exactly your idea about "IP protection", William, but you had said enough for me to know it differs from mine (and free software proponents'). I'll continue to ignore your calling me a "viking" (which I find highly offensive) for a second time.

oldnick's picture

@butterick: Comparing font piracy to slavery and genocide overstates the issue enormously

That was not what I said. As I said, the analogy stands; your comprehension fails. Too much time spent dealing with lawyers, I suspect...

William Berkson's picture

Khaled, "viking" is my attempt at humor--obviously unsuccessful :)

Renaissance Man's picture

I like Ray's fonts. I like his philosophy, too. Kudos!

oldnick's picture

What I was opposing here is pro-copyright's attempt (or wish) to intoxicate education systems with their propaganda, the thing that also RIAA and its friends are trying hard to do

Forget the "I" part of RIAA. Most of us are not talking about an Industry here: we are talking about independent (mostly one-person) foundries, the garage bands of the font business. So, good sir, please be so kind as to explain exactly what the creators of works which other people use as tools to generate income--or simply to enjoy--are entitled to as compensation under your view of things?

Khaled Hosny's picture

@ William Berkson
Different cultural backgrounds may be, but it wasn't obvious to me it is a joke.

dezcom's picture

The free market is meant for exchange of goods and services in both directions, not just one.

aluminum's picture

We seem to keep confusing theft with copyright infringement with piracy with file sharing with physical product with digital copies with murder with hobbies with...

Always fun, though!

aluminum's picture

"And, no doubt, the average Nazi soldier herding"

Oh...sorry for that last post. I wasn't aware that the debate had already reached Godwin's law status.

dezcom's picture

"Free Market" is defined by some who feel entitled as: "When YOU put it on the market, I get it for free"

William Berkson's picture

*And* you are a greedy bastard for wanting to get paid.

But not a viking :)

oldnick's picture

*And* you are a greedy bastard for wanting to get paid.

It's not so much me as my landlord, the utility companies, my local grocer and gas station owners, and a few other venal sorts. I'd be just as happy living in Hosnyland where, evidently, manna falls from heaven, the weather is always temperate, palm fronds are the latest in haute couture, and no one ever has need of doctors and--even better--lawyers...

Khaled Hosny's picture

I don't know about, but I have been making enough money from free software (and eventually free fonts), enough that I'd seriously considered switching career, so may be it is not only "Hosnyland" where "manna falls from heaven".

William Berkson's picture

Ok, Khaled, teach us how to make money by free software.

And I don't mean "freemium", where some are given away to encourage people to buy others, which is already done.

And I don't mean where a big company pays you to produce fonts or software for them, which they eventually give away as part of a product they make money from.

Have you found another way? I'm all ears.

By "eventually free fonts" do you mean that you haven't yet done these? How do you plan to get compensated for giving away your fonts for free?

flooce's picture

Interesting discussion here.

Of course there is the legal side and the moral side.

The legal side again is in some countries divided in how much an EULA is actually worth. I can tell you for Austria (and Germany) that an EULA is worth nothing if you are not able to have a look at it before you give your consent to a buying contract (=paying). I guess this might be in many EU countries, this is why many "rules" so not apply.

Sidenote

On a sidetone, I am always fascinated how vigorously people try to enforce the idea behind an EULA and think it is a moral rule to comply. It is not, it is a contract, which is only legal if the conditions under it came to happen are making an EULA binding. This might be different for every person who buys software (depending on country, shopping online/offline, which shop/vendor, etc…). If an EULA does not apply, normal law applies. The producer does not establish universally applicable rules or even a moral code with an EULA. Particularly I am fascinated - as Mac owner - how brainless Mac- and iPhone users defend the "right" of Apple to decide how to restrict their systems. (Mac OS only on Macs, Jailbreaking), while the right comes from the law, as the EULA does not apply, nor from Apple.

Back to topic

So the legal side depends if the EULA applies, and if not, how are intellectual property rights are protected by domestic law.

Sharing among friends and family actually is legal in my country in a limited way, I think. That was called "right for a private copy". But uploading something online in the anonymity of the internet, is not.

So even if one sticks to the law, legality can be a mixed bag.

For the morals, I do think that the creators of fonts should be rewarded for every font that is actually commercially used, not only those officially sold. So yes, font users should pay for their licenses. One should not obtain fonts without permission.

BUT

There is no stealing involved. The act of using and obtaining a font without permission is not theft to me, it is a breach of market rules and intellectual property rights. The IPRs are not stolen, they are broken. I do agree something that is virtual can't be stolen, only unlawfully duplicated.

When it comes to the MARKET, there is no market with the exchange of free software. There is value of labor of the community which created all the code. There is a MARKET for services around free software. As well more and more big companies use the previous development for their own software, because the quality is just convincing and the costs for developing something new can be radically reduced. Thanks to the genius GNU license they need to give back their developed code to the public. Free software is winning right now especially in the mobile OS market.

But when I say there is no market with the exchange of free software, then I mean that there is no market where a piece of free software is being exchanged for a price, which is good. There is anyhow an immense value created by free software, by the services around them, and by the possibilities to develop certain products they open up for other business.

But similar there is no market for shared fonts as such, as who shares a font does not get anything in return. Font-sharers are actually participating in the normal font market, as they simply do see the price higher than the value of a legal license would create for them. Now of course that does not say anything about the morals of it. Does it hurt the market? I guess it depends. In a market setting where there is one threshold where there are people who buy fonts based on the value a legal license has for them (and the risk an illegal font includes) and there are people who do not buy them, on can only change the ratio between the two fractions by:
(a) introducing new differentiations at different price marks
(b) by increasing the quality of the official good (increase language support, Open Type functions, special characters, etc...)
(c) or by increasing the risk an illegal obtained font poses.

The first two things are something you guys can do. Thinking about the creation of "amateur versions" I can imagine here it is hard to find the threshold what should be cut, what not, and give it a price tag. Would it make sense? Depends on how big the market is. Depends if those people who are font-sharers would be convinced enough by the price and feature set to reach into their wallets. Here it is hard to say, as some font-sharers maybe will for ideological reasons refuse to pay any kind of price?

Anyhow what Ray said, which is option (b), makes a shared version (and I assume a fonts gets shared in the beginning, updates then not so much, as for the first version the availability would be higher so the update-share would not compete) less attractive to those people who are likely to pay: professionals. So improving a font might be a good option.

(c) would be the discussed mall-sheriff politics.

my two euro-cents. ;)

Khaled Hosny's picture

@ William Berkson

Whenever I say free software, I mean free software as defined by the free software movement, so as long as the fonts (or any other software) meet these criteria, I'm fine working on it, whether voluntarily or paid.

There is no single way to make money from free software, however it usually works like this for me: I start working on some free project for fun, for learning or scratching an itch, then some company would approach me and offer paying me for doing what I was essentially doing for free because they have some specific need and wants me to give it a higher priority. And that is win-win game, for me, for the company and for the community. Some times the money gets from some NGO or other non-profit organisations that wants to support certain developments that fits with there goals, and free software projects are usually better candidates for such organisations. The same, more or less, applies to my work on fonts.

William Berkson's picture

Khaled, you are being paid to produce this software, so that's my second category, above. I think that's great. In the font world, as in the rest of software, this is a segment of the market. But I fail to see how that is morally superior to producing a font essentially without knowing whether it will pay you anything, and then having people buy it.

In either case you are being supported by the market place, either directly or indirectly. Of course the group paying you may be government or a non-profit corporation, but I still don't see why this is morally superior.

So I would ask: is it immoral for a farmer to invest and produce an apple, and sell it in the market place, for which you need rule of law (the police need to stop thieves from raiding the market)? Is it immoral for a designer to produce a font and sell it in the market place, for which you need IP protection?

Very few high quality fonts are free in the sense of the free software movement you cite. Most fonts used by computer users are now bundled fonts, which cannot legally be shared with those who don't have a license for the software they are bundled with, such as Microsoft Office or Windows, or one of the Adobe products. So I don't see how you can argue that the 'free software' movement will produce all the fonts that people want.

In the case of Web Fonts, we right now see this moving forward as a test case. Raf Levien, who frequents Typophile now and then, has been an advocate of the free software movement, and has led Google's effort to put up free web fonts accessible through Google.

I'm sure that will be a piece of the pie. But also FontFont, Adobe, and FontBureau and Ascender have got on board with web fonts. If history is any guide a lot of those with web sites will find these commercial fonts better for their purposes than the free web fonts that Google is supplying.

The point is, the market place is not in itself immoral, and helps people.

I think the anger against it is misguided. Who am I hurting if design a font on my own time, and offer it on the market place, for those who are willing to license it and not share it with others who may also want to buy it?

They have lots of other options, including free ones. The market place helps develop more and often better options.

Ray Larabie's picture

I'm glad we don't have the font equivalent of the RIAA. I want the sharing world to exist. It's always going to be a few font versions behind, it lacks tech support which ends up providing incentive to buy. That's the stick that encourages people to consider the option of buying it.

I used to sell personal use licenses the they were ignored. I used to go back to check the domains of who was purchasing the personal use licenses. About half were ad agencies and a look through their portfolios would reveal my fonts being used for commercial use. More than half of the personal use licenses I sold could be seen in commercial use. I'm not exaggerating. I think it's human nature to just buy the cheapest version and ignore the fine print. If you release amateur versions, they will be used for commercial use anyway so it just ends up being a way for commercial users to "cheap out". I used to believe that another price option could be offered but I've since learned that ad agencies always go for the cheapest option, even if commercial use is prohibited.

So how about we keep selling fonts, the file sharers will do their thing and everything's cool.

Khaled Hosny's picture

@ William Berkson

Apple analogies aren't working (at least we don't all agree with it), so lets get over that. Every one is free to produce the fonts he likes, sell them the way he likes, give them for free or do whatever he want, again I've no problem with that. What I've problem with, as far as this thread is concerned, is the continuous effort to stigmatize file sharing, equate to theft, declare it immoral. No, it is not, it might be illegal under certain jurisdictions, and that what is all about. Illegal is not equal to immoral.

Also, people need to understand that you can give your fonts for free and still make profit, right here right now in this world, not in "Hosnyland" where "manna falls from heaven", and it is not only for crazy free software zealots, but also "traditional" foundries .Droid fonts, Liberation fonts and the upcoming Ubuntu font, all are free software (though usually bundled with other free software, can be legally distributed alone) and all were produced by professional foundries that got paid for their work. I'm not suggesting that every one should follow that model, though I'd certainly be happy if every one did, I just want type designers and foundries acknowledge the existence of different economical models than what they are used to, and not quickly dismiss, and laugh on, the idea of free fonts whenever it is brought on.

William Berkson's picture

>the continuous effort to stigmatize file sharing, equate to theft, declare it immoral.

Legality and morality are not identical, as you say. But in the case of illegally sharing font files, yes it is immoral as well, because the law is legitimate. The IP laws give designers create one legitimate way to earn money from their efforts, and to violate the law is to do to them harm, and unethical theft.

If you want that expressed more colorfully, just ask Michael or Tomi, above :)

aluminum's picture

"and to violate the law is to do to them harm'

Not necessarily.

"and unethical theft"

If we're going to debate laws, let's use the right terms, then. IP infringement is *not* theft.

oldnick's picture

@aluminum

Please be so kind as to explain these blanket statements...

SebastianK's picture

Could we please hear some numbers? I find unsubstantiated self-pity not exactly helpful.

– By how much did your income drop over the past years?
– Ever see commercial use by someone you know didn't pay?
– How many of the file sharers, you think, would've paid for the font if they hadn't found it online?

William Berkson's picture

Sebastian, it is the nature of this situation that it is hard to tell how much is lost, because it is a counter-factual. You have to estimate what would have happened.

Ray Larabie above gives the first solid evidence I've seen: "More than half of the personal use licenses I sold could be seen in commercial use."

There the fonts were sold, but in use in violation of the EULA. That would also be the case if Font Bureau wins its suit against NBC, or it's settled.

Ray's numbers suggest the losses are considerable, but it is still really hard to say.

Yes, Darryl, infringement is different from stealing apples, because the software producer doesn't lose the apple--the software--when it is illegally copied or used. But it amounts to theft when it deprives the creator of income. While the losses are hard to estimate, for pirates to assume they are zero is self-serving and not credible. Ray's experience testifies that they are real and significant.

oldnick's picture

I find unsubstantiated self-pity not exactly helpful.

Well, I find snot-nosed cavalier comments not particularly helpful either, so are we even?

SebastianK's picture

Sebastian, it is the nature of this situation that it is hard to tell how much is lost, because it is a counter-factual. You have to estimate what would have happened.

Exactly, so would you give it a guess?
My hypothesis is simply that fonts are way less important than we think. "Normal" people never bought fonts anyway: fifty years ago, maybe you had a typewriter. Twenty years ago, maybe you had a computer.
Today, you can buy a type family for $200 on myfonts. I know a handful of people who "steal" fonts mostly for their personal entertainment. If they can't find what they're looking for in 5 minutes, they use Times and forget about it. They're not your potential clients anyway, so stop worrying.

Ray Larabie above gives the first solid evidence I've seen: "More than half of the personal use licenses I sold could be seen in commercial use."

This, however, may become a problem; especially with my generation now leaving design schools. And I would really be interested in some numbers. Maybe I can do polls somewhere?

aluminum's picture

@oldnick

To violate the law by copying a digital file without the IP holder's permission is not, in and of itself, harming the IP holder. It may. It may not. To say it does with all certainty is an incorrect blanket statement.

Theft, legally, is the taking of someone's physical property. It has nothing to do with copying digital files. This would be in the context of US Law. It may differ elsewhere.

aluminum's picture

"But it amounts to theft when it deprives the creator of income. While the losses are hard to estimate, for pirates to assume they are zero is self-serving and not credible."

And the converse is true as well. To assume that they are devastating an industry is only self-serving and not credible.

I understand that POV from within this forum. After all, many folks in here make a living selling digital files. So I don't fault folks for that gut-reaction. But it doesn't really serve the greater debate outside these walls to perpetuate them.

To be fair, perhaps this is less of a debate and more of a venting session, which is perfectly understandable.

SebastianK's picture

To be fair, perhaps this is less of a debate and more of a venting session, which is perfectly understandable.

That was my guess earlier. I think I'm out of here :)

oldnick's picture

@sebastian_k

What may have consistently failed to grasp in this discussion is that fonts, not unlike fashion accessories, often have a limited shelf life. Is Comic Sans really such a terrible font? Actually, no: it’s well-done and useful in the proper context. The reason that it is so reviled is that it’s used far too often, and used wrongly, far too often, as well.

Fonts come into and go out of fashion and, the more often a font is used, the sooner its popularity will wane. The freeloaders who download from file sharing sites aren’t potential sales lost: the cheap bastards won’t pay for anything they’re not forced to. But each time an unbought font is used, it cheapens the font overall. Here, loss of income isn’t the point: loss of value is.

For example, back in Ye Olden Hippie Days, the folks who began the trend of wearing bellbottoms bought their pants at the Army-Navy store: surplus woolen (real, not Old) Navy bellbottoms with a drop-flap fly fastened by thirteen buttons (note to beer drinkers: not the right apparel choice if you’re planning on hoisting several brews with your buddies). Eventually, niche retailers started offering their versions but, once Sears started selling them, the trend was officially dead.

butterick's picture

@aluminum

To violate the law by copying a digital file without the IP holder's permission is not, in and of itself, harming the IP holder.

In US law, that is not true. A copyright holder who registers their copyright is entitled to pursue statutory damages from an infringer, ranging from $750 to $30,000 per work infringed. These statutory damages exist because harm from infringement is presumed.

Theft, legally, is the taking of someone's physical property. It has nothing to do with copying digital files. This would be in the context of US Law.

In US law, that is also not true. "Theft" is not limited to physical property. Theft of services, for example, is still theft. Copyright infringement is also theft. See the No Electronic Theft Act of 1997, which expanded criminal prosecutions for copyright infringement.

Here's an article on "Intellectual Property Theft" published by the US govt:

http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=998

@William Berkson

FB settled its suit with NBC in March 2010.

aluminum's picture

"harm from infringement is presumed"

Legally speaking, very true.

But that's simply a presumption (one that was helped along with heavy lobbying for things like the DMCA). In reality, the harm is as likely to not be there as it is to be there.

Which is why true debates on these topics can get complex. The legal arguments don't necessarily always parallel ethical arguments.

"Copyright infringement is also theft. See the No Electronic Theft Act of 1997"

which states...

"Criminal intellectual property theft offenses include copyright and trademark infringement and theft of trade secrets. Civil intellectual property suits include copyright, trademark, and patent infringement."

So, alas, now we're getting into a debate that, sans a law degree, I'm woefully out of my league on. Debating legal semantics sounds like fun, but I'm simply not well versed on it.

Key point, though, is that it's not really that helpful to use analogies to physical property theft. They are such different concepts, both ethically and legally, that I'd argue the use of said analogies only harm the debate rather than help it along.

@oldnick...that's a valid point on the dilution of the value. A fake $50 Prada bag sold on a NYC street corner isn't likely a direct financial hit to Prada, but one can certainly argue that it has lessened Prada's value overall.

That said...an already popular font that is now popular and over-exposed due to file trading is a likely as scenarios as a not popular font that has now become commercially successful due to exposure due to file trading.

What mostly irritates me, though, is your point combined with what Larabie brought up...it sounds like the most likely element contributing to likely lost sales is within the design industry itself. Which is a real shame.

SebastianK's picture

What mostly irritates me, though, is your point combined with what Larabie brought up...it sounds like the most likely element contributing to likely lost sales is within the design industry itself. Which is a real shame.

What he said.

Nick, I never meant to flame, snot-nosed or not. I just think it's unwise to try to turn back time (cf. perception vs. reality). I can walk away from this discussion unharmed, but if it's as bad as you say, then you have to make a decision: stay in business – or not. I care about indie type designers – as opposed to the music/film/software/news giants, who begin to actually annoy me with their complaints about IP theft.
That's why I'm asking for numbers – the way your sales are developing, do you think you will/would still be selling fonts 30 years from now? If you take Ray's attitude, will illegal downloads ruin you before the market over-saturation will?

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