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One can endlessly discuss to what extend an EULA permits the editing, conversion or wrapping of a font, as long as applications make it possible to freely and uncontrolled apply these actions to fonts by for instance end users, copyrights will be infringed. So, perhaps the developers of font production tools, like DTL, should try to make the applications somewhat more restrictive when it comes to altering fonts (-formats).
One way to do this that came to my mind, is to make use of the vendor ID in the ‘OS/2’ table. A font editor, converter or wrapper looks at this table and checks an online database where the vendor ID is stored plus a key code (which could be just the string ‘public’) supplied by the vendor in question. The font tool checks the database and will make editing/conversion/wrapping possible if the key is ‘public’ or else will ask for the key code. If the entered key code is correct, the program will allow (also future) editing by the app of the fonts of the vendor in question (a vendor should not be hampered by this functionality when it comes to editing his own fonts, of course). This use of the vendor ID would also work with older fonts, i.e., no additional table information is required.
This way the vendor is more in charge, because he can give/sell the key to third parties for the editing of his fonts –or not. The key is not static and can be changed at any time by the vendor. However, if a program is unlocked for a certain vendor, it remains unlocked (although one could think of a mechanism that checks the database for an updated key code once per half year or so). Such a protection also has an advantage for the font tool manufacturers, because illegally distributed copies will not be unlocked or only temporarily unlocked for all or even any vendor ID’s.
At the recent ATypI conference I briefly discussed the matter with some other application developers. Because Microsoft is registering the vendor ID’s, the company comes to mind for storing the vendor keys also. The first reactions from the contacted parties were promising. However, if it comes to the appliance of this idea, it will take some time before apps will include the checking functionality. Older versions of the apps in question can be used to edit fonts then still, of course, but technically these will probably become obsolete in time. Also some older tools will perhaps be difficult to update, or some free tools might circumvent the limitation. But such a system will at least to a certain extend help to protect the rights of the font manufacturers, I reckon. And it is a message to those who work with/on fonts, that copyrights should be respected.
I am curious what the type community thinks of this idea.