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

oldnick's picture

Would that theft of Intellectual Property qualified as a casualty loss for tax purposes. Unfortunately, a goodly number of the sites offering pirated fonts are located offshore, and thus out of reach of the IRS...

typerror's picture

I am thinking about doing a screen capture and putting a $ value on it!

typerror's picture

It is nice to know that 9000 people liked my font but that really is ridiculous.

oldnick's picture

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Digital Delivery! The upside: virtually no overhead or distribution costs! The downside: virtually no control over the flow of goods.

typerror's picture

It is why I stopped 3 years ago. Seems nothing has changed... He said as he is about to release 3 fonts.

The sad thing is my foundry does not seem to think they can do anything about it, or doesn't care :-(

oldnick's picture

The sad thing is my foundry does not seem to think they can do anything about it

Short of building a remotely-triggered virus into each font, probably not...

Tomi from Suomi's picture

I happened to have a brief conversation with an illegal font downloader; I noticed at a chat room someone was looking for my Suomi Hand script, and I said I knew where to find it. She promptly asked me to upload the file. I told her I was the designer of that font, and that free downloading of my font was illegal, and also hurting my livelihood. She replied: "This is my hobby. It's no different from collecting stamps." I politely pointed out that stamps are not free. She disagreed.

oldnick's picture

She disagreed

Then she's not only a thief, but a moron as well.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

And I just went to those torrent sites, and Suomi Hand was downloaded 3074 times from just one site. They actually had that statistic.

I suddenly want to break things and kill people. Well, not really kill people, but, honestly, I am really, REALLY pissed off. This is just not right.

oldnick's picture

If it's any consolation, a number of torrent sites lure people into attempting to download large collections of commercial fonts, but end up infecting the downloader's computer with a really nasty virus...

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Yes, Nick, I do know that, but these are not collections, just my font, and I don't know how to inflict it with any nasty viruses.

typerror's picture

Tomi.... same site! And in my opinion if you can find them, then kill them. FFuucckk 'em if they can't take a joke!

typerror's picture

How about that for getting around the censors.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Well, that would teach them. After being f***ed or killed.

oldnick's picture

In an ideal world, it would be instructive if every font in the world were deactivated for one day, so that anyone who needed to use a font would have to create one themselves. Perhaps then they would gain an appreciation for the thought and the labor that fontmakers put into their art, and would not be so cavalier about depriving us of just compensation for that thought an labor.

Ah, one can dream...

William Berkson's picture

Ext.--Dark Alley, Night

YOUNG WHIPPERSNAPPER comes around the corner, laptop in hand. He smirks.

ANGLE ON:

MICHAEL, TOMI

(Simultaneously)

You downloaded how many of my fonts!?

====

You don't want to see the rest. Too gory :)

Nick Cooke's picture

I sent the following email to one site:

My type family 'Houschka Rounded' is available for free download on this site iDownloadUnlimited. It is not free - it should be purchased from authorized retailers only. I noted that on just one of the four available downloads that it has been downloaded 148,179 times. Will you be recompensing me for this lost income? It is priced at £180 in the UK, so by my reckoning you owe me at least £266,722,20, but I'll settle for just £250 million.
Please remove 'Houschka Rounded' from this site immediately.

Nick Cooke - designer of Houschka Rounded.

It's a shame that they didn't reimburse me, I could have retired to my own island in the Caribbean.

1996type's picture

I'm sorry if this sounds stupid, but can't you sue them for this? I was planning to sell a typeface in some time, but this is really making everything seem useless.

oldnick's picture

I'm sorry if this sounds stupid, but can't you sue them for this?

You probably could IF you could find the responsible parties AND they resided within a jurisdiction that treated Theft Intellectual Property as a tort AND you had the money to initiate and pursue a lawsuit...

David Sudweeks's picture

Michael,
The reason why you question your ability to write off this theft as a business loss is derived from the fact that you know better. Your claim is that what? Nine thousand font licenses were stolen? That would work if, say, you had invoices from each of the transactions and proof that in each case the payment was stopped—but even then, you could merely void their license agreements. So this specific argument doesn't hold up. You can 'steal' or illegally obtain fonts, but I don't see any way to steal font licenses (your product).
Yes, you have suffered legitimate, real damages, but you are only entitled to redress as far as and in the ways you've protected yourself in your EULA, and to the extent the law applies.

Virtue is the only complete solution to this problem.

David Sudweeks's picture

Though for a partial solution I was thinking: would it not be possible to 'stamp a serial number into' or uniquely mark each font distributed so that in these cases of mass piracy we may conclusively know the origin of its dispensing? Is there a history on this?

oldnick's picture

would it not be possible to 'stamp a serial number into' or uniquely mark each font distributed so that in these cases of mass piracy we may conclusively know the origin of its dispensing?

A TRULY Unique PSID would be invaluable. I suppose that a font vendor could store font data as XML, then merge that data at point-of-sale with a unique add-on ID tied to the buyer's name, email and--even better, but it would never fly--credit card information, and do an XML-to-OTF conversion. I doubt that this will happen, but what if such a "What if" scenario were circulated among the type-buying public?

Tomi from Suomi's picture

I rememember buying Didot from Foefler in mid-nineties, and that came with password protection, and only low-resolution version for display (no curved forms; they were replaced with a LOT of corner-points). So, if you wanted to actually make a printed product, you then had to buy the hi-res version for the printer.

In the end I threw away the font after I got a new Mac, and failed to install Foefler Didot, because I could not find the original password slip.

So, that method is not viable in my books, but 'stamping' might work. It should be done automatically, or as a choice in preferences, by your font building program in a deep enough level for hackers to simply removing it.

jonathanhughes's picture

Letterhead Fonts is (or maybe was) doing something like that. It didn't seem to be too well received:

http://typophile.com/node/30452

David Sudweeks's picture

I'm not talking about anything fancy, just a unique value, say, 614a38444c523b45433c7c5b51754a496b304631417c6f2d776d6c227b, that is recorded on my copy of the invoice, and also in the font data in a place I know where to find it. That way, if someone serves up my font for free, I can download it, find the unique value, and find out to whom it was originally sold.
Suppose it's a complete font family package, and all the values correspond to a single purchase placed by a design firm: I could write them and suggest they keep a closer eye on their interns. ;)

jonathanhughes's picture

After rereading the thread I posted above, your suggestion is what they ended up doing after their initial plan (having the fonts installed by an installer, and invisible on your system to anything but the installer) didn't work out.

I'm curious to know if they manually put the serial number somewhere in the font file before generating the OTF to send to the customer, or if there's some automated way of doing this.

It all seems like a lot of work for very minimal gain. A foundry would have to spend a fair amount of time and energy generating and keeping track of those serial numbers, and even more time tracking them down, and yet more time writing strongly worded letters to the offenders (or paying a lawyer to do it for them). And in the end, unless they can convince the person to buy a license (which might not be worth more than the time they've put into tracking the person down), they won't end up any further ahead financially.

This isn't to say that trying to minimize piracy isn't worthwhile, but I don't think this particular method is worth the time.

oldnick's picture

I'm curious to know if they manually put the serial number somewhere in the font file before generating the OTF to send to the customer, or if there's some automated way of doing this.

If I understand the capabilities of TTX correctly...

http://www.font.org/software/ttx/

A program like Access could record the purchaser's information linked to a sequential unique number in a database, place that same number within an XML file, then instruct TTX to generate the OTF font--all entirely automated.

However, maybe it's time we taught respect for Intellectual Property Rights in our schools. Back in Ye Olden Days, a person who purchased a book might lend it to a friend but, unless that friend had a LOT of time on his or her hands during which they could copy the book by hand, said friend would read the book, then return it to the buyer. If the friend wanted his or her own copy, he or she would have to buy it--or steal it from a local bookstore or library. Kids need to be taught that sharing digital files with friends is not sharing: it's stealing.

David Sudweeks's picture

To Jonathan's point: No kidding. As I was writing my last post I thought, but that doesn't prove anything. It could be that the design firm has an employee who pirated the font files—or (assuming the firm's designers take home their work) anyone that any of those employees come in contact with could have passed it to someone else who could have pirated it. What good would a type foundry accomplish telling an advertising agency that the fonts they bought had later been pirated? They would say 'Well I didn't distribute it. Someone stole it from me.' And I would believe them.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

I may have been ambiquous earlier. My suggestion is: in FontLab Studio preferences you can check a box to add a unique ID number to every font you create, every time you create one, as a default. After you have finished your design, and you've got that product you're happy to license, either yourself, or through another firm. Important is that it has that unique ID number, whether it's been copied any number of times. If that ID number is embedded deep enough into the file, that should stay there.

So, I would hand this over to font design programmers.

Khaled Hosny's picture

Kids need to be taught that sharing digital files with friends is not sharing: it's stealing.

That is exactly the thing that we should never do. Sharing is sharing, it is in the very nature of human beings, and I'm hoping that with movements like Pirate Party their will be an end to all this intellectual property madness and the people will be finally able to say their word against the dinosaurs that are failing to adapt with the "digital era".

oldnick's picture

Sharing is sharing

Sharing is sharing when what is being shared is yours to give. If I have two apples and I give you one, that is haring. If I have one apple and steal another to give to you, that is theft.

Khaled Hosny's picture

So, when I pay with my hard earned money for a font, it is equal to stealing an apple, that why I believe that both media industries are dissociated from reality. I, sincerely, hope they will wakeup before meeting the fate that newspaper industry is facing.

oldnick's picture

So, when I pay with my hard earned money for a font, it is equal to stealing an apple

No: when you pay your hard-earned money for a font, it is equal to buying an apple. If you give a copy of the font to a friend, it is equal to stealing the hard-earned money of the man or woman who grew the apple.

low mark's picture

I treat myself to some pirated fonts every now and then. I am similar to the mentioned font pirate Tomi from Suomi mentioned, I do collect fonts a bit, play around with them if I need distraction from writing. Except that I see that fonts should be paid for, still I don't see a reason why I as a person who never uses them for anything I would hand over to other people, or anything I would make money with, should pay for it. If there were not pirated fonts, I would not get them anyhow, as I do not really need them.

There are however a few fonts I bought, in total three families, to established a signature style. I paid like 160 $ for three different typefaces with three weights each: roman/italics/bold. These fonts I actually intend to use at some time and did use one typeface already in the past. They were cheap enough that I was convinced to get them and they were what I was looking for in appearance for a signature style.

So what does that make me? A thief? An honest person? I guess I just have my own morals. I am sorry for you guys who feel bestolen, but as I said, I never intend to produce anything with them that would leave my very own computer.

Everybody who uses fonts professionally or for extensive personal use (signature style) should buy them, that's my opinion.

Yeah, my nick is slightly ironic – intentionally.

Peace guys, do not take it so hard, if you are bound to be successful, you will be anyhow. If your designs don't fly, then not because it was pirated in mass, but because designers, art-directors, printers, book-setters, companies, etc… did not see the right fit for them or there is no current need to expand the portfolio.

I would not be outraged by 9000 downloads of people who never will buy fonts, I would be outraged by big companies not paying for fonts.

Khaled Hosny's picture

When I steal an apple from you, you loss an apple, when I give a copy of my font to a friend you loss nothing, except the hypothesis that my have I not given him a copy, would have paid you for a copy, but it remains an unproven hypothesis that I have, till now, seen evidences against.

oldnick's picture

When I steal an apple from you, you loss an apple
If I make my living selling apples, when you steal an apple from me, you steal the fruits of my labor. When you give me fonts away to others, you steal the fruits of my labor. There is no difference.

@lowmark (what a very apt nom de plume): I would not be outraged by 9000 downloads of people who never will buy fonts, I would be outraged by big companies not paying for fonts.

See the above: theft is theft, regardless of the income of the thief...

low mark's picture

to stick with an apple analogy:

Apples are produced and sold to be eaten, right?

What would be the analogy? Fonts are made to be incorporated into some kind of creation. If a pirated font is not used in a creation that surfaces in the living world, where is the difference to the state of where the font were never pirated in the first place?

Somebody said that what is actually broken is the license agreement. I feel like that I do not need a licence for anything I only do in my own 4 walls. For what I do not make available to the public, what would I need a license for? I do not see any damage in it, pirating or not.

As I said, I have licences for three families, I do honor them, and do not share those fonts with friends or anybody else. Those I use outside my 4 walls. Because I do not have control over other people's attitude towards sharing I do not share fonts myself in general.

My world is not black and white, although I do know that it is illegal, I do not care for legality if nobody gets hurt and nobody gets caught.

My argument is not about income, it is about usage.

Ok, I am out of here, just wanted to add my two cents.

typerror's picture

Low mark.... your name sums it up... you are a pissant.

Charles_borges_de_oliveira's picture

Chuck Davis at letterhead fonts is probably the smartest guy I know when comes to font piracy. He has devised a way to get back at font piracy and I applaud him. I think a lot of companies could learn from him. Sorry Michael to hear 9000 people downloaded your font. I am not sure if that's a compliment or a slap in the face.

butterick's picture

"Welcome to the Wonderful World of Digital Delivery! The upside: virtually no overhead or distribution costs! The downside: virtually no control over the flow of goods."

But this hits the nail on the head. I'll let you make a wish. You can either have zero piracy and the font retailing model of 20 yrs ago, or you can have today's piracy and today's retail model. Easy choice right?

Piracy has devastated the music industry, but I see no evidence that it's hurt the font industry at all on a net basis. On the contrary, there are more type designers (and more successful type designers) than ever.

That doesn't mean that piracy doesn't exist and that it doesn't have real costs. But you have to net it out against the gains. If the Gap wants to know how well it's doing, it doesn't just look at how much merchandise is being shoplifted.

dishdesigner's picture

I don't see a solution to this problem ever coming from within the font file itself or from the download controls of vendors. The simplest and most effective way of eliminating font piracy will be to overhaul the operating system engine that serves fonts to applications to require activation like any other software in order to operate on a unique system.

For example, Adobe Creative Suite's activation process was met with initial resistance (predictable), but has mostly become routine and manageable for end users who really need to use the software. Efforts to undermine the activation process have met limited success and are out of technical reach for the vast majority of users. It has pretty effectively reduced piracy of CS.

Having the infrastructure to manage such activation systems is probably overkill for many small foundries, but it would not take much work for someone to create a reasonable server-based PHP/MySQL solution that is affordable and secure. Or, multiple foundries could employ a central service through a subscription pay system.

It is Microsoft and Apple who must ultimately fix this at the OS level. As long as the OS treats fonts like resource files to which users can have complete access and control, then users will treat them that way too, instead of treating them like legitimate software.

Khaled Hosny's picture

When you give me fonts away to others, you steal the fruits of my labor.

That is your saying, but no one had ever showed my an evidence that you have lost any thing, it is a mere hypothesis.

So let me make my hypothesis, since we all have no real evidences mine should be as valid as yours. A person receiving a copy of your fonts from a friend are one of two, an amateur who is unlikely to pay for your fonts anyway, so you practically lost nothing, even more, he might love your fonts and become a fan who just buys them because he loves them, like novel fans. Or may be he is professional designer, and he would either like your font and become a potential consumer, or dislike it and was not going to buy your font anyway.

1996type's picture

... Or may be he is a professional designer who doesn't want to pay for the font because he is in financial trouble, while he does use it for his designs.

Ray Larabie's picture

The only thing you can change about piracy is how you feel about it. Sometimes stealing is sharing. Sometimes sharing is stealing. Sometimes sharing is sharing. Sometimes stealing is stealing. Anyone who claims that any of these is always the case is wrong.

Torrents, rapidshares, alt.binaries and pirate font sites: sales are affected. Maybe every 9000 downloads, costs you 10 sales. Maybe it costs you 0.05 sales. I'm pretty sure it doesn't cost you 100 sales.

You can try to classify the type of person who pirates fonts but to what end? Some of those people are your customers, some aren't. A few times, just for fun, I've sent a free commercial font license to someone who was asking for my fonts on a pirate site. Why not? You don't lose a sale anyway and you might gain a Twitter follower.

Do your paying customers a favor: put your bitter mall cop energy into making new fonts and improving old ones. If your fonts end up on a free font site, that's what you need to worry about. I didn't always feel that way but that's the conclusion I've come to after over a decade of selling fonts. I'd have a few less fonts in my library if I spent more time on a pirate crusade or feeling bad about it.

However: free font sites that mistakenly carry commercial fonts can hurt sales. They deliver fonts to people who think they're supposed to be freeware. I think those are worth the effort on a polite reminder/impolite take down.

oldnick's picture

@Khaled Hosny
no one had ever showed my an evidence that you have lost any thing, it is a mere hypothesis

Hypothetical: You are a physician. A man sits outside your office and asks each entering potential patient about his complaint. The man says, "I know just the thing," and writes a prescription. The potential patient says, "I though only doctors could write prescriptions." The man says, "I stole a prescription pad from him, so now I can write them."

And, of course, in this hypothetical scenario, you--the physician--lose nothing, right?

SebastianK's picture

Kudos for your attitude, Mr. Larabie.

Here's why the apple analogy is ruining the entire "content industry."

1) You don't steal an apple from the market stand because you see the apple's owner, and the owner sees you. If there were no one around and you really wanted an apple, wouldn't you at least consider taking one?

2) You know you can multiply apples infinitely, so you don't even have to physically take the apple away. You magically duplicate it and walk away with a brand new apple, and the farmer will never know. Does that feel like hurting him? Not really.

3) When I buy a newspaper, or a CD, it feels like buying an apple: we trade objects for coins. When a newspaper website makes me pay 50¢ to read an article, I feel ripped off. 50¢ may be nothing, but I suddenly pay without getting a physical object in return that would justify the cost. The fact that the supply of copies is now infinite lowers its perceived value to zero. Fonts are crazy expensive (unless you're a professional who can put them on the clients' bill). (Almost) no one, at least not me, will buy a family for more than a couple bucks "for fun". Us type designers very much overestimate the importance of our work.

4) Try to teach your virtues to your kids, who, like me, grew up in a virtual world, where everything happens on screen. It just feels unnatural to us to bring the concept of money into this immaterial world. Doesn't mean we don't intellectually understand you need money to survive, but 1), 2) and 3) are just so overwhelming.

50 years from now, "intellectual property" business will have to work differently. I can't wait.

(and yes, I make fonts myself. I just don't get why people in the creative business pretend the world is being deliberately evil to them.)

Khaled Hosny's picture

@oldnick

Well, that already happens here, most patients are likely to go to pharmacy first and the pharmacist would give them a free prescription and sell them the medicine, a very common practice though is officially illegal, it stems from very old traditions. How physicians fell about that? nothing, as long as they ask serious patients to seek real medical advice. And yes, I lose nothing, those people are unlikely to afford paying me anyway, and if they get cured, more power to them.

Khaled Hosny's picture

Do your paying customers a favor: put your bitter mall cop energy into making new fonts and improving old ones. If your fonts end up on a free font site, that's what you need to worry about. I didn't always feel that way but that's the conclusion I've come to after over a decade of selling fonts. I'd have a few less fonts in my library if I spent more time on a pirate crusade or feeling bad about it.

Very well said, just if more font designers start thinking this way...

oldnick's picture

@sebastian_k

I just don't get why people in the creative business pretend the world is being deliberately evil to them

That's painting the picture in an unnecessarily broad, simplistic and self-serving stroke. Growing up in a virtual world doesn't mean that a real world--rife with consequences for actions thoughtlessly undertaken--doesn't exist. Time to exit the cocoon, Junior...

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