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Sean Cavanaugh's FontSite

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Uli Stiehl's picture
Joined: 1 Feb 2006 - 8:02am
Sean Cavanaugh's FontSite

Joyce Lukaczer, who posted today this entry


claims that FontSite is a "type design company".

I have a different opinion about this outfit.

See my short documentation for legal authorities:


Jacob Øvergaard's picture
Joined: 19 Jul 2006 - 8:03am

I wondered about that one, too...
So unfortunately it seems like the Wiki is vulnerable to persons posting neutral-looking entries for their own shady subjects - in the hope of generating a bit of credablity for themselves?
Why don't you edit the wiki entry, Uli?

Nick Shinn's picture
Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am

Extending a typeface's character set is generally considered to be type design.

The difficulty is that "design" is an extremely broad term.
Type design is not like music, where composition, arrangement, and performance are quite distinct--although even in music digital culture has produced difficulties concerning the legitimacy of sampling.

Uli Stiehl's picture
Joined: 1 Feb 2006 - 8:02am

Ten years ago, Sean Cavanaugh supplied the following legal explanations in a bulletin board as a reply to a question by a certain person called Phan:

From: Sean Cavanaugh
Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998

Phan, I appreciate your comments, but labeling me a pirate or a thief is
unjustified (not to mention totally lame). Let me explain.

A couple of years ago I used to work for a company called SoftMaker,
Inc., which was later acquired by Kingsley/ATF and merged into a company
called SoftMaker/ATF. Prior to the merger, SoftMaker, Inc. developed and
sold a Type 1 font scaler for DOS applications (DOS!) such as Word and
WordPerfect. SoftMaker also licensed and sold a large number of URW
typefaces. SoftMaker, Inc.'s parent company, SoftMaker GmbH of Nurnberg,
had (and has, I believe) a close working relationship with URW's founder
Peter Karow.

Maybe some people will look down their noses at URW, but URW's
contribution to digital typography is undeniable. URW performed the
original digitization of many of today's popular fonts for a number of
leading foundries. The digitization wasn't cheap. When a foundry approached
URW to do the work, URW would say, "OK, we'll do the whole font for $X,"
(sound of foundry representative gasping), "Or, we'll do it for $X minus $Y
if we can retain the right to resell and re-license the outlines."

Well, in a great many cases, the foundries opted for Door #2. In other
words, they entered into agreements with URW. This isn't theft or piracy.
If you accuse URW of anything, accuse them of being shrewd. Or maybe accuse the original foundries of under-valuing their assets.

Back to SoftMaker. At the time of the "merger" with Kingsley/ATF, it
became apparent that Kingsley/ATF only wanted SoftMaker so they could get
back into the type business (ATF was defunct at the time) and basically
collect on overdue trademark license fees from companies that had been
using ATF trademarks for free.

None of that money went into the company, but rather into the pockets of
a handful of lawyers and businessmen. At that point I had been working
without pay for a couple of months, under the idea that the merger would
turn things around, and we'd all be one happy type company. (sound of
laughing lawyers)

I left the company disgusted, to say the least. I was then approached by
an agent to write a book about typography and design. I thought it was a
great idea, and being unemployed, I'd have plenty of time to spend writing.
And then a light bulb went off in my head: Instead of taking SoftMaker/ATF
to court for the thousands of dollars they owed me, I requested the company
grant me a license to distribute a number of the URW and ATF fonts from
their collection. I had no intention of starting a type company (and still
don't) -- I just wanted to include a companion CD of typefaces with the book.

And that's how Digital Type Design Guide was born, along with its
companion CD, and the follow-up CD to that, The FontSite 500 CD (which
contains the 220 fonts from the first CD, plus an additional 280 fonts).

It's a decent type collection. I've worked on many of the included URW
outlines, making improvements to hints, bitmaps, and in some cases metrics
and kern pairs -- that was my job, after all, at SoftMaker. I guess you
could say I'm proud of it, but still, if you look on page 166 of my book,
you'll find the following:

"My hope is that if you become sufficiently excited about the world of
type, you will migrate to some of the higher-end vendors such as Adobe,
Monotype, and Agfa."

See, the thing is, I'M NOT IN THE F*CKING TYPE BUSINESS, and I have no
plans of ever getting back into it. I absolutely despise the business end
of type -- both the practices of the foundry barons of yore and the lawyers
of today. I don't sell anything in stores or mail order or in any other
channels. I have my own website, and I will continue to promote my book and
the small collection of fonts I acquired from SoftMaker/ATF. I've almost
sold enough to pay for the site's expenses. After taxes, I'll be a f*cking

> and Zapf (who goes into convulsions whenever he sees pirated designs)

You'll notice on my CD is a face named URW Palladio, which is a
knock-off, of sorts, of Palatino. But do you know who designed URW
Palladio? The same guy who designed Palatino -- Hermann Zapf! (You'll also
find Zapf's URW Antiqua and URW Latino on the CD) So you can spare me the
sermon on Zapf, who also happens to be a friend of Peter Karow.

To wrap this up (and sorry for the length, but you did ask for a
"justification"), I'm not in the same boat with snakes like Paul King of
SSI and their ilk, and I resent any implication otherwise. If you and Roy
want to take some bullshit high and mighty approach with me, I suggest you
do a little research first to find out what the hell you're talking about.

But thanks for asking, anyway. And I really do appreciate your concerns.
We're on the same side of the copyright issue. You have to keep in mind
that holding a copyright does not preclude one from entering into licensing
and distribution arrangements as many companies did with URW.

- Sean

In my document about the FontSite outfit, I do not blame Sean Cavanaugh for distributing fonts. I only blame him for falsely claiming to be the "copyright owner" and the "trademark owner", which he is definitely not.

If he removed the copyright notices and the trademark notices from the fonts and discarded the EULA, nobody could blame him for cheating.