New Letterhead Fonts antipiracy font lockdown scheme

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zanseattle's picture
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I bought a Letterhead font last night and did not know about the brouhaha over restrictions, and quickly wrote to them for support. It was only then that I started Googling and found all the discussions about their DRM move.

This morning, I got a reply from Letterhead letting me know that they are removing the PDF-embedding restriction from ALL of their typefaces (it will be done in "2-3 days") and to log in on the site and redownload the font I purchased. I think this is a very good move.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Trogman's picture
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Jackie T
I am from the same typographic period as you are. I switched over to a studio operation to survive. There no typography plants operating in the L.A. area any more. I watched the typography disciplines go down the drain. I consider myself a digital dinosaur
and fortunately I have been blessed with clients that know the difference between good and unacceptable typography.

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

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

That's much easier on the consumer.

James Arboghast's picture
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You can go on and on all you like about whether a pirated font equals a lost sale or not. That argument is circular, and it is hard to see the point of it, if there is any point to it at all. The answer is immaterial as we are talking about hypothetical sales.

Stephen Coles: Letterhead has responded to this criticism, but I don’t think the post really answers the key question: how do price increases reduce piracy?

Where does this idea come from? The idea that LHF's price increases are supposed to reduce piracy of their fonts?

I've read most of this thread, and I have read what Chuck has written in response. The purpose of the price increases, as far as I can discern, is to compensate LHF for the lost production time incurred in cleaning up the mess pirates make in stealing LHF font products. I also presume the price increases are not intended to reduce piracy of LHF fonts.

I referred to "cleaning up the mess" in my first post on this thread. The point is, every time LHF's fonts are pirated, some of the type producer's time must be spent removing the pirated material from circulation. Fonts are labour-intensive things to make. The "lost revenue" compensated for by the LHF retail font price increases is, I presume, the revenue not earned due to their reduced capacity to make fonts caused by having to take illicit material out of circulation.

There is a basic problem with this discussion thread. It started on the topic of the anti-piracy lockdown scheme, then the topic of LHF font price increases cropped up, and somewhere along the way some commentators who should know better have confused the notion of "anti-piracy" with the price increases.

j a m e s

patternmaker's picture
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Letterhead fonts are embeddable as of May 21st, though you need to re-download previously purchased fonts to have the embedding bit changed. The announcement is at http://letterheadfonts.com/news/index.shtml?a=blog&id=35.

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

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

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

Adriano Santi's picture
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Joined: 12 Jun 2002 - 5:39pm
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I too am a designer and I don’t use any font management program. I would rather spend the time designing than turning fonts on and off. If I don’t want a font, I don’t install it in the first place.

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

darrel's picture
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Clearly the solution is to get the IRS to allow theoretical losses due to piracy as a tax write off.

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

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

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

Simon Daniels's picture
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Zan, welcome to typophile.

When did you get out of the plumbing business?

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

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

Stephen Coles's picture
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You're confusing me, James. I thought you were anti-DRM.

jonathanhughes's picture
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Piracy issues aside, there's a BIG difference between a font that's created by copying and pasting outlines into a font program, and the original font that's been kerned and hinted.

darrel's picture
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Joined: 4 Feb 2003 - 6:03pm
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So, anyone have updates on this? When purchasing through MyFonts are we now free of the weird baggage that came with buying directly from Letterhead?

Tiffany Wardle's picture
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I'll just say what I"m thinking and hope no one gets too angry with me.

I think some foundries think fonts being pirated EQUALS a lost sale. This isn't the case. We all know that some designers do TEST fonts before they license them, so in that case, yes, it is a lost sale as those designers shouldn't be doing that.

Perhaps LHF cannot separate the two. So to them increasing prices will in some small way make up for some of the piracy.

Bill Davis's picture
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BigLeague: Once finished the program will create a TTF for use whenever you want and you can give it as freely as you wish.

No, you can't freely give it away as you wish... check the EULA for the font you purchased. What you've described is called a 'derivative work', and most EULA's restrict the derivative font to be used in the same manner as the original font. You do not get any new rights (i.e. you can't install it on any more workstations than the original font).

Tiffany Wardle's picture
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Hmm. Ok it took me reading some of their response to see what you mean.

I don't think raising prices will decrease piracy.

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

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

Terry Biddle's picture
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Joined: 21 May 2005 - 1:42pm
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How about you start a new thread about it? I wonder if you might get others interested in this idea.

Ray Larabie's picture
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New flash: Letterhead Fonts are now on MyFonts with what seems like a rather generous license agreement.

Stephen Coles's picture
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I was hopeful too, Ray, but it's just 15 families, all of them by Chuck Davis. Maybe he's testing the waters for bringing the rest on board. I hope MyFonts' volume sways him.

Ray Larabie's picture
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I'm sorry I'd lost track of this thread over the years. Holy wow!

Please post the rude email because I'm getting bored of Charlie Sheen these days. This sounds even crazier.

Iran Narges's picture
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Do they make any provisions for sending jobs to print including their fonts? That seems like another rather large issue.

Do you have InDesign? What happens if you try to package a job that uses their fonts? Just curious.

Like you, I find this offputting.

Nick Shinn's picture
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It's problematic for the legit user, but if Apple and Adobe can load their fonts onto your menus so that you can't get rid of the damn things, all power to an Indie foundry for strutting its stuff.

I don't think they're the first to use installers, Tankard and Hoefler have gone done this route, haven't they?

Simon Daniels's picture
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I have no idea how the Mac works with respect to this but it would seem that its totally possible for an 'installer' to enumerate fonts from memory or from a hidden file every time the machine is booted. After all this is how font managers work. I can't help but think that this, like most protection schemes, causes headaches for legitimate users, but would be quite easy to crack. But providing they're up-front about the unconventional nature of their product, then best of luck to them.

Blank's picture
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Can't say I blame them for trying. It doesn't keep their fonts off the internet, but it's probably good at keeping one design teacher from passing them on to a hundred students who will use them in commercial work for a decade after graduation. And it probably wipes out intra-office piracy in companies without technically adept designers.

Michael Albright's picture
Joined: 27 Nov 2005 - 1:52pm
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I'm all for doing everything we can to prevent theft, and I can certainly understand why LHF would impose such a scheme. It's a real shame, though. I was about to make a sizable purchase of their fonts and the new policy has turned me off completely. It's unworkable for the creative professional. Maybe for the signmakers that use their site it doesn't matter, but for designers such as myself it's yet one more technology hassle that puts severe restrictions on my capabilities and workflow. I am praying they ditch it sooner rather than later. Are you reading LHF??? Pleeeeeease!

Simon Daniels's picture
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You could contact them directly, you never know they may be willing to bend the rules for a "sizable purchase" esp. if they feel you're trustworthy - can't hurt to ask.

zebrasystem's picture
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Regarding the question about packaging an InDesign job with one of the new LHF fonts: No, InDesign's font packaging didn't work for me, nor does imbedding them in PDFs. LHF's suggested solution for PDFs is to convert the fonts to outlines first. Of course, without Adobe Reader's "Smooth line art" preference checkbox turned on, fonts turned to outlines in PDFs look quite cruddy except at very large point sizes. I don't know what the default setting is these days, but I remember a few years ago that was not set by default, and clients usually do not know or bother to change it. If this is still the case, previewing jobs for clients via PDF would be a problem.

About the comment whether LHF is "up-front about the unconventional nature of their product": I would say partially but not completely. They do say in their FAQ about the new OpenType fonts, and I quote:

"Q. My Letterhead Fonts aren't in the regular font folder!
A. Letterhead Fonts work a bit differently than normal fonts in that they aren't installed in the Fonts folder. But you will see them in your applications."

"Q. The fonts are not displaying in FontBook or Suitcase.
A. While you may see your Letterhead Fonts in font management programs such as FontBook or Suitcase, you won't be able to turn them on or off. And of course you won't be able to install Letterhead Fonts using your font management program since they must be installed using the Letterhead Fonts Installer. This has no effect on how the fonts function in your design applications however."

The FAQ does mention the fonts won't embed in PDFs and to convert to outlines first. However, despite the mention that fonts are not installed in the regular Fonts folder(s), it wasn't clear, at least to me, that you don't get a font file you can deal with at least *somewhere* on your hard drive as you wish, that activating any LHF font means all of them get activated, and that you can't turn a font off without completely uninstalling it. I mean, after years of dealing with fonts and being able to do all these things, your assumption is most likely going to be that you still will in *some* fashion, unless explicitly told you can't.

They also do not mention you can't package a job in InDesign for a service bureau, though someone knowledgeable could probably assume that from the statement fonts aren't embeddable in PDFs. And while they say converting fonts to outlines for PDFs "may add a bit to the file size, the end result is visually the same as if you had embedded the fonts," this will be true if Adobe Reader's preference for "Smooth line art" is set, but otherwise not. (Which it may or may not be by default. Someone else will have to weigh in on that.) All in all, less than full disclosure in my view.

Also, I went to LHF's online forums to see if others were commenting or complaining and found their forums are now gone. I don't know how long that's been the case or if it's a permanent thing or not. It does make one wonder whether the disappearance was intentional so they wouldn't have deal with public criticism on their site. Then again, perhaps they are busy now dealing with the new system in place and just wanted space.

Simon Daniels's picture
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Thanks for the further details. Maybe they'll comment here?

Blank's picture
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So does the Letterhead DRM system require an internet connection to use the fonts? I'm trying to figure out what's to keep someone from just redistributing the executables, aside from some watermarks and lawyers.

Bert Vanderveen's picture
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These fonts have to be *somewhere*… and if they are, they are extractable. OR there is some encrypting added, which would make the process of extracting the font files somewhat harder.
My guess: they are inside the application (control click on the icon and choose Show package contents).

zebrasystem's picture
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I had looked inside the application package cursorily earlier but not too closely, and didn't see anything that easily stood out indicating a font anywhere. Also had done a drive-wide search for any file containing the five core characters of the main font name without finding anything. This morning I dug a little deeper and first performed a drive-wide global search for invisible items. When that didn't turn anything up, I went back and did a "show package contents" on the LHF application package again to look closer.

Not counting the usual tiny little incidental files, there's just three files of any size there. In the "MacOS" folder of the package there's a file named "FontInstaller" at 316 KB in size. Then inside the "Resources" folder of the package there are two more, one named "FontInstallation.icns" at 56 KB and "FontInstaller.icns" also at 56 KB. Making copies of either file, then changing the file extension to .otf and opening with FontLab just to see what might happen gives nothing other than a blank new font.

P.S. (edit) Sii, I didn't know the font was going to be protected like this when I bought it. It was not clear to me from LHF's FAQ, and I feel like I was taken for a bit of a ride here. Glad it was just one font I purchased so I'm not out much money.

Elliot M's picture
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While I realise that LHF fonts are (all?) display fonts, so quite not as much of an issue as if you were dealing with pages of text, converting fonts to outlines adds a considerable amount of effort to a PDF workflow from your DTP app.

Unless there's a way anyone's heard of to convert fonts to outlines 'on the fly' while printing to PDF, it means embedding all your text as graphics rather than being able to edit in the DTP app, and if there any changes, going back to an editable text version and saving a new outline copy.

darrel's picture
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'Anti-Piracy' is just a way to say 'anti-consumer'. Blech.

But I agree with Bert, open the package itself and see if you can grab the files.

The 'can't embed in a PDF' would be a show stopper for me, though. That's absurd.

Simon Daniels's picture
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>But I agree with Bert, open the package itself and see if you can grab the files.

I disagree. If you don't like the protection scheme just don't license the product. Someone might get their jollies cracking the product for 'fun' in the privacy of their own home, and although this is quite sad, providing they don't publicize the hack then no harm is done.

Jackie Frant's picture
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I hope we get more information.
I wonder if other manufacturers are going this route?

For someone like myself having every font opened would mean my system would slow down drastically and I'd never get any work out.

Also, the printer I use, who still won't get Quark 7, doesn't do Open Type - so to hand my work over to a professional - would be difficult. Would Letterhead expect my printer to buy everyone of their fonts so my work could be printed out professionally? Do they have anything in their guidelines (like URW) about being able to send the "font" with the job to the printer?

Isn't this what killed QuarkXPress?

zebrasystem's picture
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Okay, it turns out I overlooked something and did end up finding the font on the drive, but I suppose it would be best if I do not say how or where. In the end, at least for a user at my level, it doesn't matter because the font is still not recognized by either FontLab or Suitcase, both of which I tried. I assume that must mean some type of compression or encryption (attempted expansion with UnStuffIt did not work, though), so we are still where we were before with the consequences of all this.

Lari Elovainio's picture
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Zebra, thanks for the notification. I certainly won’t be buying anything from them now. I’m glad there are House Industries, Veer, Sudtipos and others… I think this is disrespecting towards almost all of the paying customers and not likely to stop pirating of their fonts. (If that’s been a problem, I don’t know.)

It would be nice to hear some of the reasoning behind this.

Tiffany Wardle's picture
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Chuck has expressed continued despair the few times I've e-mailed him in regards font piracy. His actions are his choice and I hope this becomes something he is happy with. However, just like a overly restrictive EULA, this will surely keep some people from licensing from him. People such as myself, for instance, (and others above) who really do prefer to control their fonts. He has some gorgeous stuff for license, but surely this is a sad day.

Hoefler and House both had installers, but you could still manage the fonts.

Simon Daniels's picture
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>Sii, I didn’t know the font was going to be protected like this when I bought it. It was not clear to me from LHF’s FAQ, and I feel like I was taken for a bit of a ride here.

Fair enough, but I'd suggest you talk to them. Also glad to see you support not turning Typophile into Typo-H@X0RZ-forum. ;-)

Linda Cunningham's picture
Joined: 26 Jul 2006 - 3:55pm
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The ‘can’t embed in a PDF’ would be a show stopper for me, though. That’s absurd.

And, ultimately, bad business. If we can't show clients a pdf proof, or publish the document like that for the web, then I won't buy their fonts.

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face....

James Arboghast's picture
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These fonts have to be *somewhere*… and if they are, they are extractable.

Not necessarily. My guess is that the LHF app loads the font set into memory (RAM), in much the same way that "opening" an OT font file by clicking loads an individual font on-disk into memory.

For as long as the fonts are loaded into RAM they show up in DTP apps and can be used. When the LHF app is closed down the fonts would be unloaded from RAM and no longer available in DTP apps.

OR there is some encrypting added, which would make the process of extracting the font files somewhat harder.

In a way, probably, the LHF fonts are "encrypted" as code compiled as part of the LHF app's .EXE file (or whatever file(s) comprise the app). Extracting them would be implausible unless the user happens to have decompiler software capable of decompiling the LHF app files into constituant components.

Extracting the fonts from RAM while they're loaded is even more implausible.

What do the rest of you think about where LHF has gone with this?

They appear to have taken serious measures to prevent further piracy of their products, since illegitemate users are very keen on stealing LHF fonts. In that sense it's a measure of how desirable their fonts are, and a rebuttal to the immoral, cynical, interminably immature mindset of those who insist on stealing them.

LHF's hand has been tipped.

The user-end compromises entailed by the solution they've adopted seem impractical to me too, but the people who baulk at it should ask Chuck Davis or Richard Kegler what it's like and how it feels having to clean up the mess every time their fonts are ripped off and posted on the web for free. It's constant, ongoing, and a pain in the arse.

And all because their fonts are popular. The "reward" for making excellent artistically-crafted fonts is a heartache

Put yourselves in Chuck's shoes and see it from his point of view.

This also illustrates the basic fallacy inherent in the digital "media revolution". The bright new future of digital audio, video and graphic arts is open to wholesale abuse.

j a m e s

Stephen Coles's picture
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It is frustrating, indeed. But I fear Letterhead will see a decrease in sales, not the number of pirated fonts. The right anti-piracy method has not yet been developed, and until then, legitimate customers will suffer. It's best to continue to create and promote great type. Most of the pirates wouldn't buy the fonts anyway.

zebrasystem's picture
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jpad, about an internet connection being required to use the LHF fonts. I reinstalled the font earlier today, and during the process Little Snitch did pop up an alert that the installer was phoning home, which I okayed as a one-time event only. The installation progress dialog box also put up a brief mention it was "checking license" or something to that effect during the process. Little Snitch hasn't indicated any further phoning home during use since then.

I have a question: Would it be possible in theory as an alternate antipiracy solution to have some sort of product activation process (like for Adobe's CS2 products) that ties fonts to a particular machine, but still lets you move them around and work with them on your hard drive as you see fit? (Even make backup copies, but your product activation would have to be transferred to another machine or drive if you decided you needed to use them there?) Something like that I could live with. Or does product activation depend on an installation's files remaining stationery on the drive where things were originally installed?

Simon Daniels's picture
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>I’m glad there are House Industries, Veer, Sudtipos and others…

>If we can’t show clients a pdf proof, or publish the document like that for the web, then I won’t buy their fonts.

Well, that counts out the standard House Industries license - where anything other than PDF to the bureau costs extra. What's better a software solution that stops you from doing things against the EULA, or the EULA you don't read and end up breaking?

Blank's picture
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...does product activation depend on an installation’s files remaining stationery on the drive where things were originally installed?

AFAIK, Adobe's activation scheme is tied to the hardware, and as long as you don't swap out the relevant hardware components you can move the software all over the place on a Mac. I've never tried moving software around under Windows (or any non-Mac *NIX OS) because complex Windows apps prefer staying put after being installed. Adobe's protection does, however, refuse to work if you screw around with the license management daemons, which are kept separate from the rest of the Adobe software. I once moved the management daemon library out of a directory when diagnosing a problem, and after moving it back I was unable to run any Adobe apps, even after reinstalling the entire suite. It's been a while, but IIRC I had to reinstall the OS to fix the problem.

darrel's picture
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"I disagree. If you don’t like the protection scheme just don’t license the product. Someone might get their jollies cracking the product for ‘fun’ in the privacy of their own home, and although this is quite sad, providing they don’t publicize the hack then no harm is done."

Nothing sad about a consumer actually wanting to posses what they purchase. I dislike the whole 'it's just a license...not a purchase' guise the media industries hide behind.

TRUST your customers. Be NICE to them. Give them a REASON to keep giving you money in the future.

Look at this thread here. They've already tainted their image through just one PAYING customer being annoyed.

"What’s better a software solution that stops you from doing things against the EULA, or the EULA you don’t read and end up breaking?"

It's better to not bother. Consumers don't read EULAs.

Tiffany Wardle's picture
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Darrel, consumers that care do read EULAs.