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?


oldnick's picture

it sounds like the most likely element contributing to likely lost sales is within the design industry itself. Which is a real shame.

No shirt, Shylock. Out of curiosity, the other day I click a Google ad on logo design. The pitch: $189 for a logo, five different designers guaranteed, and unlimited revisions included in the price. Talk about incentive to scrounge, beg and steal anything you can get your hands on...

aluminum's picture

Another good point, nick...the proliferation of design contest sites are likely a temptation to cut corners on supplies (ie, fonts). If it's any consolation, they're cheapening the graphic design industry as much as the type design industry. :/

oldnick's picture


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?

Because of my genetic predispositions, it's not likely I will still be selling fonts 30 years from now but, regardless, I am not confident that anyone will be doing so, which is why I posted this thread...


...and am still waiting for replies. However, if in the meantime you insist on hard numbers, how's this one: my revenues are down over $10,000 a year from their peak. Perhaps that number puts a little perspective on my pique...

SebastianK's picture

Thank you, Nick. That's a startling forecast.

Ray Larabie's picture

The sales losses I was referring to only relate to personal vs commercial pricing. Customers were offered two price points. When I checked the domains of the personal use buyers, they tended to be design agencies, freelance designers or small business owners. Many people use a webmail account when purchasing fonts so I couldn't check those. Most of the buyers had unique domains and most were design agencies, freelance designers or small business owners. As I said, if I visited those sites a months later, I could usually find those works in their portfolios . . . so they're not just using them to create lost dog posters.

I didn't want to go into stalker mode and google the webmail addresses, I was just trying www.domain.com. Before I checked I would never have guessed that the personal use licenses would be so commonly ignored.

My wife thinks it's just human nature. When there are two identical looking packs of mushrooms at two prices, most people automatically grab the cheapest one without thinking. There's also less incentive to buy the expensive version. With a personal use license you still get fresh fonts, support and free updates.

I don't have any reason to believe that it relates to file sharing. I suspect there were losses because of it because those agencies would have probably ponied up the extra $15 to buy the same font.

My sales are pretty consistent. I don't find that I'm selling less fonts but in the last 5 years, I've noticed a change in the types of fonts people are buying. Text fonts are in. Serious display fonts are in. Whimsical display fonts are out. Retro themed display fonts like Soap used to shoot up the charts like butter. Now they tend to generate zero sales. I don't think the change in the market relates to file sharing because people were sharing fonts in the Reagan era. Now that fonts are cheaper, have flashier storefronts, friendlier licenses and are easier to buy, it probably gives people more incentive to purchase. Buying a font in 1993 was probably not as easy as buying a font in 2010 so agencies were more likely to seek out a illicit floppies.

It all works out. Sharing makes you lose some sales, it makes you gain some sales and there's sweet fuck all you can do about it anyway. So relax, make fonts and don't fret. If your sales are slow in 2010 it's probably because so many font categories are oversaturated.

aluminum's picture

"Sharing makes you lose some sales, it makes you gain some sales and there's sweet **** all you can do about it anyway."

Sums things up very well!

typerror's picture

Enough of this "they probably would not have paid for it anyway!" They STOLE it! Is that clear enough and what in the hell is wrong with the parents that they would raise children that way?

I did work and expect to be paid! The price of fonts is so low now days that it is almost laughable. Purchase the damn things and use them for commercial work. Don't share them!

blank's picture

I have an interesting idea for an anti-piracy system. Create OpenType versions of fonts that employ the LIGA feature to replace common letter pairs with other pairs, creating spelling errors in the work of people who use pirate fonts in commercial work. Then upload these fonts to all the common font sharing sites so that commercial designers stop trusting pirate fonts. The cost of losing a client or having to eat printing costs because of using a pirate font seems like a great way to dissuade people from pirating type.

dezcom's picture

Pirates don't care about spelling.

oldnick's picture

Pirates don't care about spelling.

Maybe not, but what if we removed all the RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRs...?

typerror's picture

I had this conversation with Ed Fella years ago. He thought all fonts should be free. It took four people to dissuade me from cleaning his clock! Dinner was lively at the AIGA lecture that year.

blank's picture

Pirates don't care about spelling.

No, but their clients probably do.

William Berkson's picture

Hmmm. A variation of James's idea. In those countries where they harbor pirate site, just have someone who knows how on the outside hack their site and wreck it. I wonder what the legal status of that would be.

Khaled Hosny's picture

Even more effective, what about hiring a murderer how would go out and hunt them, after all they are thieves and helping thieves to steal our properties.

dezcom's picture

"Even more effective, what about hiring a murderer"

Great, let's kill people. That would show respect for our human race. How about a more humane solution?

toad42's picture

Dear Khaled Hosny and Aluminum,

Let's try two more constructive angles on this discussion.

First, can you agree that changes in technology have created a problem for typeface designers as well as the obvious benefits?

In the age of metal type, typeface designers were more certain that those who used their typefaces would contribute financially to them so they could make enough of a living to continue designing typefaces. This was because acquiring a designer's typeface without paying for it was actually quite laborious. Most people who wanted to use a designer's typeface would opt for the simpler solution of paying for it, thus contributing to the existence of a type-design industry. That is, in the age of metal type, both the designers and their customers contributed to their being typeface design in the future.

With the switch to digital type, typeface designers have a big problem. It is now easier for a customer who wants to use their type to simply take it and use it without any reciprocity, without contributing to the typeface designer's financial ability to go on creating type. As modern history has shown over and over, a person can only continue a career for exactly as long as it remains financially viable to do so. If people use a typeface designer's work without paying for it, they are effectively changing the reciprocity of the relationship. They are through their actions saying that they expect typeface designers to continue investing in typefaces but that they themselves do not wish to invest any longer in there being new typefaces designed. They are changing the relationship from symbiosis, in which both participants benefit, to parasitism, in which the designer does all the work and the "sharers" help themselves to all the benefits.

The alternative financial models you proposed rely on corporations with deep enough pockets who have a financial incentive to prop up the typeface-design industry by subsidizing the work they approve of. I don't see this as the positive alternative you do, because it takes the decision-making about which fonts will exist in the future out of the hands of designers and puts it in the hands of corporations. That is, anyone will still be able to design whatever they want, but the only ones who will thrive are the ones who cater to the financial interests of the corporations. To me and many other people, this seems a lot less like a utopia than a dystopia.

I would much prefer that customers and designers drive the marketplace, but that will only work as long as their relationship remains a symbiosis, that is, as long as customers are willing to be active and helpful participants who give back to the relationship.

In other words, the problem that Typerror, OldNick, and others are trying to describe may not fit some definitions of theft, but whatever you choose to call it there is a real harm done that will lead to the deterioration of typeface design in the future - and that disproportionately hurts the very small, independent typeface designers who I would expect a free software advocate to champion.

I write this, by the way, as a veteran software designers who has made his entire career writing exclusively free and open-source software for twenty-six years and counting. Typeface designs are very different from normal software, so it is dangerous to analogize from one to the other to argue that typeface designs should also be free. With complex free software you can and must sell the expertise to go along with it, but anyone can set a vaguely legible page of text even without expert advice, so what can typeface designers sell to support themselves if they are supposed to give away all their designs for free? I don't believe your analogy to the free-software movement works for typefaces.

Second, the other argument one can make in discussions about what constitutes stealing is the question of need. If I steal an apple because my children are starving, many humane people would argue that those exigent circumstances at least partially excuse the crime. But does anyone ever NEED to share a typeface? Of course not. There are plenty of free typefaces already available. When someone helps themself to one of Typerror's typefaces without paying for it, they are engaging in that act needlessly.

We may argue about the semantics of the act, but whatever kind of injury is done by taking someone else's design parasitically - without reciprocity, without giving back to support the continuation of the designer's work - that act is entirely optional and voluntary. It's unnecessary. There are plenty of ways to look at this issue overall, but by this one measure it is a worse kind of injury than stealing an apple, not because of how it affects the designer but because of how it affects the "sharer," who is engaging not in a reluctant act of desperation but in a casual and wholly unnecessary act of parasitism. This measure is not arbitrary; it's one of the measures universally considered during sentencing, when judges and juries are trying to decide how bad a person someone is, whether they are redeemable, whether the crime is excusable. Casual, calculated injuries are considered far more worrisome than those done out of need.

I don't think it's good for people to live their lives as passive dependents who take without giving back, the way small children have to. We are biologically wired to develop out of that infantile psychology (dependence) toward autonomy, first toward meeting our needs ourselves without as much help (independence), and then toward giving back to the world (interdependence), to paying back the investment our parents and communities made in us by paying it forward to our children and communities. As we approach those stages, we spend less time asking what we want and more time asking what we can do to help create the kind of world we believe in, to help shape the future.

If we want there to be typeface designers in the future, then we need to think about how we can contribute to their work. For the nondesigners among us, it seems to me that paying for new typeface designs is the simplest way we can do our part to protect the flow of new designs.

William Berkson's picture

Rick (toad42), very nice analysis!

dezcom's picture

AMEN! Frederick D. S. Marshall.

Throughout the history of humanity, people have survived by the concept of exchange. If we remove exchange and replace it with one way acquirement, we are just rationalizing ourselves to be the only entity with any needs. What would the world be if it were very easy to not pay people for there work without getting caught? What if graphic designers were never paid for their work because clients thought they were entitled to free graphic design? The only people who would continue to get paid were those violent criminals and mobsters who would send a VERY convincing bill collector. There is no typeface design mafia (thank goodness) so it is like taking candy from a baby. I guess taking candy from a baby is not a crime then but taking drugs from the mafia surely is. Oh, and there is no law against taking drugs from the mob so you don't have to worry about prosecution--you might not want to start your car though.

Khaled Hosny's picture

Nice read, but not convincing :) Free software (including fonts) are far from being driven as you make it look like, just look around and see how many free fonts are there and what percentage is corporate driven. I, myself, did all my font related work out of passion, just because I love it, the fact I sometimes get paid is always a "later development", now people are using my fonts freely, are they "passive dependants who take without giving back"?, no, they certainly are not, they gave me many "wows" and "thankyous" that gave me more incentive to work, they gave me advices, corrections and suggestions that helped me improve it more and more, they convinced their employers to pay me to develop it more, they even paid from their pockets to financially support me. Now I did the opposite, I'm using a completely free software stack that I didn't, directly, pay I cent for, am I a "passive dependants who take without giving back"? I hope I'm not.

I don't know about anyone else here, but if the only way to use computers is to help building a divided world where children are taught in schools not to help their friends because it is piracy, a world that handing a CD to my neighbour is a theft, world where I pay for things then I don't own because it is someone's precious IP, then I'd rather quit using computers, after all I spent the first 20 years of my life without computers and I think I can survive the rest without one.

It is a matter of principle, if you don't think drug smuggling is legitimate way to make a living, then I don't think you care much about drug dealers being upset of diminished revenues (well, back to not-so-well-perceived analogies, but at least I neither mentioned Hitler nor any other genocides).

aluminum's picture

"Enough of this "they probably would not have paid for it anyway!" They STOLE it! "

Enough of this "they STOLE it!". They copied it.

"Purchase the damn things and use them for commercial work. Don't share them!"

I agree. That sentence would make a great EULA, btw! Simple and to the point.

aluminum's picture

"Even more effective, what about hiring a murderer how would go out and hunt them, after all they are thieves and helping thieves to steal our properties."

Ah! That's a script right there. George Clooney in "The Type Avenger". Coming this fall!

aluminum's picture

Hey Toad:

"First, can you agree that changes in technology have created a problem for typeface designers as well as the obvious benefits?"

Oh sure. We can take that statement even further...we can agree that changes in technology from the beginning of time has introduces huge benefits and huge problems for both creators and consumers of media.

I agree with pretty much all you say. There's no doubt that it's frustrating for those in this industry. But the reality is that it's changing, just as it always has. Some will adapt, some won't.

Netflix thrives, Blockbuster is entering bankruptcy. 'tis the cycle of industry.

My only nit-pick is trying to use analogies as there are a plethora of analogies for nearly every angle of the debate that we can toss back and forth ad nauseam. It's a fun game, but doesn't really address the issue directly.

Copying files without permission isn't the same as stealing a Ferrari and robbing starving kids nor is it the same as shiny happy bunnies and rainbows. ;)

I think there's a gut reaction on Typophile (that is understandable) that unless you are 100% for DRM and life sentences for pirates, then you must be against the industry and are for economic anarchy.

William Berkson's picture

>100% for DRM

Nobody here has been arguing for extensive technological barriers to sharing fonts, which is what I understand is the implication of the term "DRM".

What has been advocated, and is now being implemented with WOFF is a "garden wall" that will let people who want to respect copyright what is copyrighted and of restricted legal use, and should not be copied for other uses. I guess those opposed to any copyright will also think this is a terrible idea, but it is going forward, and I'm very happy about it.

aluminum's picture

William...out of curiosity what is that garden wall? Why is that needed for folks who respect copyright?

William Berkson's picture

The WOFF format, as I understand it, has a "wrapper" around it, so that when the font is downloaded to the desktop of the user it cannot be used for other purposes. The wrapper is pretty easy to defeat, but it is supposed to prevent inadvertent use by people who want to be honest with fonts.

If a "naked" font were downloaded into the font folder, then the user would see it in his or her font list, and be able to use it, maybe never knowing it came from a server and was intended for viewing only.

This is now going to be a basis for new system of web fonts, if it works. That will provide more diverse fonts for the web, and some excellent new ones. It wouldn't be possible under the "free only" idea.

aluminum's picture

Gotcha. That makes sense. Heck...just from a user/security perspective I wouldn't want a browser installing stuff into my system folders based on a particular site I visit. ;)

butterick's picture


Your argument has emotional appeal but some of the factual premises seem a little rosy-hued.

In the age of metal type, typeface designers were more certain that those who used their typefaces would contribute financially to them so they could make enough of a living to continue designing typefaces.

Is that really true? Seems to me that typeface knockoffs have been around as long as typefaces. It's certainly not a digital-age phenomenon. Do you think Bauer / Paul Renner were happy about Spartan and Vogue? No, it diverted buyers who probably would've bought Futura. Whole foundries have been built around cloning other designs. The only difference in the digital age is that the end user can do the cloning themselves, by making an illegal copy of the real font. But the effect is analogous.

As modern history has shown over and over, a person can only continue a career for exactly as long as it remains financially viable to do so.

Nobody has a right to make a living off of what they do. Corollary: some careers cease to be economically viable. Again, this is not a digital-age phenomenon or a creative-professional phenomenon (just ask the buggy-whip repairmen).

Who knows? Typeface design may eventually go obsolete as an economically rational activity. But after 20 years of digital fonts, the type industry in the aggregate seems pretty healthy (certainly, there are a lot more people getting paid to design fonts these days than there were when I started out).

corporations with deep enough pockets who have a financial incentive to prop up the typeface-design industry by subsidizing the work they approve of … I don't see this as the positive alternative you do, because it takes the decision-making about which fonts will exist in the future out of the hands of designers and puts it in the hands of corporations … this seems a lot less like a utopia than a dystopia.

A huge catalyst for type design throughout history has been work directed by corporations. That hasn't changed in the digital age. Look at Adobe, AGFA, Monotype, and Linotype, which are big corporations in their own right (I know, they all merged, but even before that, they were big). Or look at the Font Bureau library or the Hoefler & Frere-Jones library -- many of those fonts originated from custom jobs done for corporate clients in the publishing industry. They were not the product of designers "design[ing] whatever they want". There are foundries whose output is more along those lines (e.g. Emigre). I'm glad we have both kinds. But this "dystopia" you speak of has been responsible for keeping a lot of type designers employed, and resulted in a lot of nice fonts that didn't exist before. A type-design industry that was entirely driven by customers and designers would be, frankly, a lot smaller financially and a lot narrower creatively.

butterick's picture

Oh, and there is no law against taking drugs from the mob so you don't have to worry about prosecution

Huh? There are plenty of laws against taking things that don't belong to you from other people. Bad people get the protection of those laws, just the same as nice people.

I know that was a peripheral comment, but it exmplifies the habit of misstating the law that runs through a lot of these discussions among type designers. False premises lead to false arguments and then false conclusions. The truth is out there --- why not start with that?

dezcom's picture

Name one case where someone was prosecuted for stealing illicit drugs from the mafia. It never happened and never will. The mob would never call the cops but they would "take care uh duh problem" if you get my drift.

William Berkson's picture

I read a book agents' account of how he regularly had to bug the publishers to get his authors paid on time, in full.

There was only one author who never had that problem, not once. That was author of the autobiography, "Joey, the Hit Man." When Joey met the publisher, he told him, with his special "hit man" sincerity, "If you are ever late paying me, I will marry you to a plate glass window." For some reason, Joey never had problems with late payments :)

russellm's picture

that's just a different form of prosecution, Chris. :o)

In many ways, I think that trespass is a more accurate analogy than theft when it comes to intelectual property.

dezcom's picture

I know, Russ, and a much greater deterrent than the legal system could ever provide. Withe the police and the criminal justice system, you roll the dice and many times walk away scott free. With organized crime, punishment was a certainty, and if you were lucky, swift.

Bill, yes, the lady who wrote Harry Potter does not look as threatening as "Joey the Hit-man". I think Sonny Liston also got paid very quickly :-)

toad42's picture


I would not argue that no one ever stole typefaces before the digital age, only that copying a file is several orders of magnitude easier than either hauling off a case of metal or meticulously imitating someone else's work and casting it to create your own version. Since a digital file the size of a font can be copied in seconds, I'm surprised anyone would think it was even remotely as easy to "share" typeface designs before the digital age, which seems to be your argument.

I also would not argue that anyone has a right to make a living off what they did, only that those of us not engaged in that career need to consider whether we want typeface designers to make a living. If we want there to be doctors, we should probably ensure that it's possible to make a living as a doctor; the same applies to typeface designers. The economy isn't just something that happens. It's something we make happen through our actions. If we want there to be professional typeface designers in the future, then in the present we should not personally act in ways that destroy the economic viability of that career. As an aside I'm not sure there ever were dedicated professional buggy-whip repairmen; the obsolescence metaphor you're alluding to is usually about buggy-whip manufacturers.

I also would not say I didn't want corporations involved in the decisions about which typefaces get created, only that I don't want that to be the only economic option for typeface designers. I want there to be a thriving market in which anyone who is motivated and passionate enough and has the resources - both corporations and individuals - can find professional typeface designers to help them create new designs. That's why I don't think it's unreasonable to pay for typeface designs, why I don't agree with Khaled Hosny when he writes that those designs must necessarily be free but that making them free wouldn't destroy the industry because companies might later approach the typeface designers and offer to pay them. I don't doubt that that has worked for him, but I wouldn't want it to be the only model. If we did ban it for ideological reasons, I think as far as the typeface-design industry was concerned the results would be dystopic rather than utopic.

As for my post being emotional, counter-factual, and rosy-hued . . . well, even upon rereading it doesn't seem that way to me, but if it seemed that way to you then this wouldn't be the first time in human history that things seemed different to two different people. I'm sure there is much in my post that could be improved - for example I should have written that I do support Mr. Hosny's right to create free fonts and I'm glad there's an active community supporting and sharing those fonts - and I like a good argument as much as the next fellow, but I prefer it when people argue with what I actually write.

toad42's picture

Building on Aluminum's argument when he wrote "Copying files without permission isn't the same as stealing a Ferrari and robbing starving kids nor is it the same as shiny happy bunnies and rainbows. ;)" . . .

I agree that sharing the files that define digital typefaces does indeed stand somewhere in between those extremes. I also agree that it is too easy in these discussions to polarize, as though instead of searching for the truth we are taking sides in a sporting event, and when we polarize we distort what we are supposed to be trying to understand.

Taking your request for nuance a little further, stealing a Ferrari is also somewhere between robbing starving kids and shiny happy bunnies and rainbows. It also isn't neutral, though, like eating lunch or taking a nap. It's bad, but it isn't as bad as stealing from the starving kids. Stealing from someone who has a thing, likes a thing, and uses a thing, but doesn't actually need that thing is different from stealing what people actually need to survive. They're both theft, but they aren't the same degree of crime.

When someone mass-produces things based on their own original designs, stealing one of their products is different still. Specifically, stealing a Ferrari from a Ferrari factory does less damage to the factory than stealing a Ferrari from a Ferrari owner does to the owner. It's not as bad because the Ferrari factory can make more Ferraris (conditionally - we'll come back to this), but the Ferrari owner may not be able to afford another Ferrari, or that particular Ferrari may have had special emotional value to them. Either way, it's easier for the factory to get another Ferrari than for the owner, because the owner can't make Ferraris but the factory can. Using the apple metaphor Khaled Hosny alluded to earlier, stealing an apple from a starving child is worse than stealing an apple from an adult who'd planned to eat it for lunch, which is worse than stealing an apple from an apple orchard. The issue defining this scale is: how badly did our victim need that specific thing we took? The more badly they needed it, the more damage we've done by helping ourselves to it.

However, only a thief will rationalize that committing a lesser crime counts as doing something good. Just because an apple orchard has more apples and can more easily replace the one we took, that still doesn't make it okay to steal from the orchard, because we do a different kind of damage to the orchard that the hungry child and the adult don't suffer - they don't have to make their living by selling apples. The child should be supported by its parents and community, and the adult by some other career, but the apple orchard needs to sell those apples to make enough money to keep growing apples. If enough people take the apples instead of pay for them, the orchard will go bankrupt, the grower will have to do something else for a living, and the land will (usually) be sold off for some other purpose.

That is, we're talking about two very different kinds of damage here. There is a damage that comes from depriving someone of a thing they need or want, and there is a different kind of damage that comes from depriving someone of the means to make a living. Granting Butterick's argument that no one has a right to make a living at what they do, nevertheless when we personally intervene in their lives to reduce their ability to make a living, that isn't the abstract forces of history judging their career as obsolete - that's us personally hurting them unnecessarily, but in a different way than the simple, direct deprivation of taking a thing from them. However we try to dress it up, it's economic sabotage.

Our problem in this digital age of typography is that sharing files is so easy that anyone can see that taking a copy of a digital file can't possibly count as depriving anyone of a thing they had - after all, they still have the file; we just took a copy of it. Zeroing out the deprivation damage gives people the rationalization they need to help themselves to any font files they can lay their hands on - regardless of the other form of damage they are doing, the economic sabotage.

This is the crux of the moral issue here. It's not enough not to hurt people in one obvious way. To be good people, we must refrain from hurting people in any unnecessary way.

That it's easy to copy the files does not give us moral permission to do so; it's also easy to steal candy from children, or to drive away a car if someone's left the keys in it. Just because copying a font file doesn't deprive them of their copy of the file, that does not give us moral permission to copy it; it's also easy to copy trade secrets if someone leaves them on their desk, or to copy someone's medical record if you come across it in a hospital, or their diary, or their logo or packaging style.

Aside from the legal issues of ownership, which clearly are not fully persuasive to some of us, there are moral issues of ownership that ought to be. When someone creates a typeface, they have more moral rights to that design than we do; they thought of it, they invested in it, they made it, they understand it, they care about it, and they want to share it with us, and all they ask in return is that we invest in them so they can go on making typefaces and that we don't sabotage them economically. If they want us to share the files and we do so, then that's free software as defined by the Free Software Foundation. If they want us to use the files but not to share them but we do anyway, then that's not free software, it's economic sabotage.

So where does sharing font files without the designer's permission fall on our scale of right and wrong?

It isn't as bad as taking a thing someone needs, nor as bad as taking a thing someone wants, but it's every bit as bad taking a product from a producer. Here's why. Even though it's harder for a Ferrari factory to produce another Ferrari or for an orchard to produce another apple than it is for a foundry to produce another copy of their font files, the economic sabotage of stealing a physical object is more restricted, because the person we share that stolen car or apple with is only going to use it, whereas some of the people we share the stolen font file with will doubtless share it with more people - the damage increases over time by increasingly driving down people's willingness to invest in the designer since more and more of them have his work for free. The increasing damage over time offsets the ease of replacement, so it's about on a par as far as the scale of the economic damage goes.

Sharing font files without permission is by no means neutral or good. It's bad, not the worst thing by far, but definitely a species of economic injury. Like all kinds of injury, it creates negative consequences that we suffer whether we want to or not, whether we recognize them or not, that result directly from our actions.

I'm sure this could be gauged with more precision and nuance, but at the moment that's my most careful take on the moral species of sharing font files without permission.

For what it's worth. Your milage my vary and all the usual disclaimers and caveats.

dezcom's picture

Toad42 posted my sentiments exactly.

While I agree that Mr Hosny and others who share his opinions certainly have right to make and download legitimate original free fonts, I don't think he has the right or entitlement to prevent those who choose to making a living selling fonts from doing so. Most people have a sense of honesty and integrity, they would feel guilty about performing acts which are either, criminal, unscrupulous, or even just of a dubious nature. What Mr Hosny and his ilk are doing is repeatedly giving support to notions that unlawful taking or sharing of commercial typefaces is not only normal and expected, but ethical and desirable. This is in effect propaganda. As per Joseph Goebbels's, "If you say it loud enough and long enough, people will assume it must be true."
The effect on the typically honest person is to progressively dissolve the feeling of guilt and make "acquiring" typefaces which you have no right to, seem "normal" or even chic.
During the Vietnam War, and I am sure all other wars, there were incidents of rape of village women. There were guys not only doing it but rationalizing it as a patriotic duty--after all they were not humans, they were just "Gooks" and their husbands and brothers were probably "The Enemy". It was easy to do and extremely unlikely to bring punishment, therefore, if you could, you should. Dehumanizing Vietnamese women or decriminalizing unscrupulous acquisition of property not in your ethical domain may seem at opposite ends of the spectrum of immoral acts but none the less, they are BOTH immoral and illegal. All of the rationalizing propaganda on earth will not change that fact. It would be truly "naive" and self-serving to think otherwise. I am sure Mr Hosny and his like-minded band of thieves will respond as usual with either further rationalization to refute their criminal behavior or character assassination of those who think and speak to the contrary. It is the basic Rush Limbaugh technique--he always has the microphone and the airways so repeating the propaganda and dehumanizing the opposition is simple and profitable. Purveyors of "stealing type is OK" are just another example of how low humanity can sink when the only persons they feel is human and has rights are themselves.


toad42's picture

Dear Chris,

Mr. Hosny's posts show that he is working according to a moral code and he has thought about the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. If we want to engage him in a discussion about whether there are additional moral factors he should be considering, we probably shouldn't introduce Goebbels, Limbaugh, or wartime rapists into the discussion. Those examples are too extreme; they will tend to add too much heat and not enough light. The points underlying them are worth making - like the problem that people tend to follow common examples, even bad ones, which can normalize otherwise unacceptable behavior - but they need cooler, clearer examples to advance the discussion.


Khaled Hosny's picture

Aside from the legal issues of ownership, which clearly are not fully persuasive to some of us, there are moral issues of ownership that ought to be. When someone creates a typeface, they have more moral rights to that design than we do; they thought of it, they invested in it, they made it, they understand it, they care about it, and they want to share it with us, and all they ask in return is that we invest in them so they can go on making typefaces and that we don't sabotage them economically.

And nobody denied them their moral right, and I don't think file sharer who remove author credits from the files they share, which what their moral right is all about. But that right doesn't extend to denying me the right to copy, which is right restricted by copyright law because of the illusion that it would "encourage a dynamic creative culture, while returning value to creators so that they can lead a dignified economic existence, and to provide widespread, affordable access to content for the public.", which I don't believe in, to the contrary I believe that both copyrights and patents on mere ideas (like software patents) have been holding us back and are, generally, doing harm than good, and by all means it does not "provide widespread, affordable access to content for the public."

Khaled Hosny's picture

Well, you can call me a thieve, compare me to rapists, whatever, this will not make your point any valid, you still don't have the right to deny me my inherited rights because you think you, type designers, making a living is more important than me, type user, expressing my inherited right. I already "voted" with my money, but not helping or paying any one of this kind, and by asking every one not to do so.

dezcom's picture

Yes Rick, you are certainly right, a new moral code where we simply do the revisionist thing and pronounce all of our own personal acts as righteous and desired while we unilaterally condemn the nay-sayers as either unworthy or even to blame. It is great when "some animals are more equal than other animals" (that was my kinder, gentler euphemism for the Arian Supremacy Moral code which is clearly much too extreme indeed--kinda sound too much like "the final solution" euphemism. Maybe Karl Rove is a better metaphor than Goebbels or a fine American like Dick Cheney even?

I am so sorry, Rick. I won't let it happen again, even if I don't think Mr Hosny, et al, are the least bit interested in "engaging in a discussion", he just wants to "have the Conch" or the mike all to himself so he can discredit the opposition with innuendo and repeat ad nauseam his mantra that type stealing is OK because it is just not half as bad as baby starving. So, OK, we can just let everyone out of prison who has not committed child murder yet since what they did isn't as bad as the worst crime.

;-) Chris

dezcom's picture

Let's see, said Pontius, "Who do we set free? the man who stole a 1973 Chevy Vega valued at $100 from a women who needs it to get to her job cleaning toilets or the guy who stole the Testerossa valued at $1,000,000 from the wealthy guy who "needs" it to get babes?" Now there is a moral dilemma for you. "Ah, screw it!" the crowd says, "Just give is Barrabus and get the hell out of the way"

butterick's picture

@Khaled Hosny

You are mixing up three ideas that should stay distinct:

1) The value of copyright law in the abstract.

2) The choice of a consumer to use noncopyrighted software instead of copyrighted.

3) The choice of a consumer to use copyrighted software illegally.

If you think copyright is a flawed system, fine. If you want to use noncopyrighted software as an expression of that principle, fine. But you can't say that principle gives you (or others) a basis to break the law. That's just a rationalization.

Even free-software guys like Richard Stallman support copyright. Their major objection is the ever-increasing term of copyright protection (a legitimate concern). Past that, they support free software because they think it's a superior way to develop certain types of software (and the market has agreed).

both copyrights and patents on mere ideas (like software patents) have been holding us back and are, generally, doing harm than good

In the US, copyrights and patents "on mere ideas" don't exist. If you start with a false premise, you can prove anything.

toad42's picture

Dear Mr. Hosny,

I do agree - and I think you'll even find a surprising number of attorneys agree - that something is wrong with our copyright and patent laws. The original intent was as you say to protect and encourage creative endeavors, but we all know of cases where those laws are instead used to suppress creative endeavors - for example buying up the rights to competing innovations and then shelving them. It is ironic that these laws can been perverted to do just the opposite of what they were intended to do.

Nevertheless, it does not follow that no one ever uses the laws for their original, intended purpose. On the contrary, plenty of creative people use copyright laws to protect their ability to do creative work. The use of civil disobedience to challenge unjust laws is perfectly legitimate, but only if it is used selectively, against those who are causing the problems. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. broke laws carefully and selectively. If you instead always condone sharing files, you are punishing everyone indiscriminately. That doesn't count as legitimate civil disobedience because it isn't targeted enough.

Just because our current legal framework is broken, that doesn't mean the prior situation was any kind of paradise we ought to be striving to return to; it was worse. The laws were passed in the first place because the original, unprotected situation in America resulted in widespread theft and deceit that led people to wonder why they should ever both creating anything since it was only going to be stolen from them, with the thieves taking credit for the invention. If all we do is ignore or repeal the copyright and patent laws, we are not replacing a bad situation with a good one; we are replacing the current bad situation with the original bad one. If we want a good situation, we should accept neither alternative and push for something different, a third alternative that will truly protect and encourage creativity. I would love to discuss what that might be.

Also, I'd like clarification on something you wrote. When you wrote

"And nobody denied them their moral right, and I don't think file sharer who remove author credits from the files they share, which what their moral right is all about"

are you saying removing the author credit is a good thing or a bad thing? It wasn't quite clear, and it makes a big difference to how I read your post.

toad42's picture

Dear Chris,

The crowd might want Barrabas, but I think you and I agree that what hope there may be for humanity's future lies in helping one another work through these kinds of moral dilemmas. Justice is not easy to define, and once defined proves not easy to bring about, nor when it fails are we clear on how to make things better, but the struggle to understand it, bring it about, and repair it is a worthy task.

russellm's picture

Perhaps justice is most difficult to define for those who'd like to play with it's boundaries.

dezcom's picture

Exactly, Rick--this was my cynical way of trying to address the falseness of the crowd mentality. Today, "The Crowd" is shouting "give us the fonts for free" instead of "Give us Barrabus!" or "Free Barrabus!" Please forgive my indulgence in word-play and tendency toward the dramatic :-)

dezcom's picture

"...those who'd like to play with it's boundaries" have an agenda far different than the achievement of true justice. Justice for them is only for their own personal benefit. They know exactly where the boundaries are because they constantly test them in an attempt to push them closer to their own preferred position. They want you to taste the Apple for them since the consequences will not be theirs if you are caught.

dezcom's picture

Caution, Sermon by an Atheist to follow:

You must have moral fiber in order to weave the cloth of Justice. If all that you have, you have stolen from others, you have no self-worth. If you loose what you have stolen, you only need steal it again (something in your comfort zone anyway). If you have some value within yourself and can generate things others may value, then you value the things generated by others and are willing to make exchanges of your creation for those of others.

Once upon a time:
Through the sweat of your brow, you could grow food and make shelter for yourself, make clothes to keep you warm, stand watch to keep your family safe, find medicine to cure your ills, teach your children how to go about fulfilling their lives, build a fire to cook, and every other task that life requires—you can do all of these things by yourself for yourself but this is a very hard life and you may not be very good at most of the things. Otherwise, if you are a very good farmer, you can trade your food for someone else’s well made clothes or medicine. In this way, everyone can find at least one task of value to others that they excel at and concentrate on that alone to be even better and more efficient at doing it. You can trade your service or product for something else that you need by exchange. The peoples of the world have done this since the beginning of time, some in a very basic way and some in a complicated network of more obscure ways (as exist in our modern society today). It is more complex that the ancient times and our “needs” have a fuzzy definition—our “wants” still exceed our needs, though. We therefore have odd professions like Movie Actor” football player, lawyer, urologist, school teacher, policeman, structural engineer, and even typeface designer, that were unheard of before civilization took place.
The point is, everyone can find a means of support that they are good enough at to be a means of exchange for others. It seems I have left out one important category that has existed since the beginning of time. The modern day version is much adapted to modern life and very adept at his ancient skill—even if the ways and means have greatly evolved. The problem is that nobody from outside that group wants anything to do with them or certainly not be a party of their trade. This group of people are the ones that produce absolutely nothing of benefit to others, they are like a parasite that clings to your intestinal walls and secretly absorbs all of their needs and wants from your body with either permission or your request. These are the thieves, con men, takers who have nothing to give or to trade. They survive by making other people miserable and are proud enough about it to think they are entitled to do so under some code which only they have invented to rationalize their existence.
True, some are less heinous than others and only prey on the greedy or, at best, naive hosts to extract their pound of flesh. Still, even the least of them is not a contributer, a maker, a doer, a helper, or even an entertainer. Perhaps we should just pity their lack of ability to contribute and allow them to continue their life-long attachment to our innards and allow them to drink our life’s blood until we faint from lack of nourishment. Of course we have to work twice as hard so that they not need to work at all, but, that is just the price you pay for your fellow man’s self-proclaimed right to continue unabated.


typerror's picture

Chris, Was that from the Sermon on the Fount? :-)

dezcom's picture

LOL! Yes! kinda like the story about the stone tablets with writing on them thing :-)

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