Who is Luc Devroye

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

...and why does he have on of the biggest collections of info about type design on the web?

http://luc.devroye.org/fonts-index.html

hrant's picture

Luc is a Canadian academic who's been involved in the world of fonts for a long time; he has historically riled many feathers (although some of his detractors are bird-brains). Even though I don't agree with everything he's said, I do value his integrity, courage and dedication (the last probably answering your "why").

Luc is also a friend of mine. And -contrary to current trends- I don't use that term lightly. I also don't use it as a verb.

hhp

dezcom's picture

Luc is a guy who cares and has integrity. Like all type people, his opinions may vary from yours but his do not fluctuate depending on who he is talking to.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

He must have some kind of web crawler code he wrote to simply go out and find everything type related. That site is pretty much exhaustive, I even found myself on there.

What has he done with type other than creating this site? His bio only seems to list his computer programming credentials.

Chris Dean's picture

How ironic. A site about typography set in tiny, trendy, hard to read grey text.

5star's picture

Luc is also a friend of mine. And -contrary to current trends- I don't use that term lightly. I also don't use it as a verb.

+1 me too, I also consider Luc a friend. To get upped onto his site completely blew my mind what an honor! Me amongst all that ...wow! Every time I use one his own fonts* I look forward to sharing what I've done with him!

* Sugaku font series
http://luc.devroye.org/sugaku.html

With all the work he does on that most awesome site I figure he's found away to tap directly into the sun's energy.

n.

oldnick's picture

Wow, Ryan—

Luc even cites you. Well, hell: the world really does revolve around you, doesn't it?

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Well, hell: the world really does revolve around you, doesn't it?
Yep. You're just a figment of my imagination. You're probably the result of all those beans I had for lunch today.

hrant's picture

Neil, being on Luc's site does not imply friendship. Unless you're using the Facebook definition. There are people on his site who hate his guts. There's even one who's physically assaulted him in a bathroom. But Luc has the integrity to even include people like that.

hhp

Chris Dean's picture

Having a bad day Nick?

quadibloc's picture

@hrant:
There are people on his site who hate his guts.

I've enjoyed his site as a resource, and can't imagine, from what little I know of him from having seen his site, why anyone would feel that way about him.

It's not like his site advocates some controversial opinions about typography.

Bendy's picture

Funny, I was thinking the same thing. He's astonishingly prompt at updating designers' pages.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

How ironic. A site about typography set in tiny, trendy, hard to read grey text.

The site could use a little CSS love, for sure. But that really doesn't diminish the greatness of the site at all to me.

John Hudson's picture

John: ...can't imagine, from what little I know of him from having seen his site, why anyone would feel that way about him.

Back when Luc was active in comp.fonts and other discussion forums, he was very outspoken in opposition to intellectual property protection for type design, so rubbed a lot of designers the wrong way. It wasn't just the opinions that pissed people off, but the fact that they came from a tenured academic who can do and say pretty much whatever he wants without any consequences. It seemed too easy, from such a position, to make pronouncements about things that other people perceive as affecting their livelihoods.

As for his site, I've never found it very useful for the things that interest me, despite or perhaps because of its unselective exhaustiveness. Huge numbers of the links are dead, especially in the non-Latin pages, and appear not to have been checked since he first added them, sometimes many years ago.

hrant's picture

Good point about the "too easy". Another good point is that some people perceive a possibility of making a livelihood where there really isn't one and it's not a disagreeable academic's fault if they have to resort to living in the boondocks to be able to avoid earning a living in an undesirable way. Ergo: it's also "too easy" to blame others for one's weak grasp of reality.

BTW John, I don't mean you. :-) I think you're capable of making a living in type pretty much anywhere. But most type designers are not.

hhp

5star's picture

Neil, being on Luc's site does not imply friendship.

True that hrant, I'm referring to our private email correspondence(s). He has always been a gentlemen to me and very engaging.
I'd also like to say for me his website has given me far more than I could ever repay. I've learnt so much. I only hope that it's around for decades to come for other designers (or whomever) to tap into.

n.

hrant's picture

Humans being reactionary creatures, much web history will be lost before we start robustly archiving. But it's not like we've done a great job preserving "regular" history.

hhp

quadibloc's picture

@John Hudson:
Ah.

It certainly is true that IP protection is essential to allow people to make a living from their creativity or inventiveness; it promotes a faster pace of creation and progress.

It does, however, for example, also create a large part of the barriers to entry in nearly every industry that maintain the divide between the world's rich and poor countries.

This is a very complicated issue.

John Hudson's picture

It is indeed a complicated issue in a complicated world, which is why I'm generally unimpressed by the simplistic 'everything should be free' view, despite being sympathetic to the social vision that it presumes. But my intention was not to start a discussion about intellectual property here, only to explain the background to how Luc managed to piss off some folk.

hrant's picture

Yes, thanks. I wasn't even on comp.fonts, but I'm now feeling much older than most people here. :-/

hhp

oldnick's picture

This is a very complicated issue.

No, it's not. Artist should be paid for their work, just like butchers get paid for a leg of lamb. “Virtual” goods are still goods…

abattis's picture

It certainly is true that IP protection is essential to allow people to make a living from their creativity or inventiveness; it promotes a faster pace of creation and progress.

I think that only used to be true in the past, and is now an outdated view; I think monopoly rights restrictions today tend to retard progress, cf Benkler.

No, it's not. Artist should be paid for their work, just like butchers get paid for a leg of lamb. “Virtual” goods are still goods…

I agree labour should be paid, but I don't think that artists or anyone else deserves to be paid for their work. People deserve to earn what others are willing to pay them for; if someone's art is shit, they're shit outta luck. ;p

And I disagree that "“Virtual” goods are still goods" - digital works and physical property are fundamentally different in nature, since digital works can be duplicated and redistributed, and modified, in a way that physical property can not. But the labour/service of creating the works remains open as viable commercial activity.

John Hudson's picture

I think that only used to be true in the past, and is now an outdated view; I think monopoly rights restrictions today tend to retard progress

As Utah Philips said, the past didn't go anywhere. The fact that intellectual property laws have been hijacked by corporations doesn't mean that the original reasons why those laws came to be seen as a good idea have gone away. Indeed, today they are often the only thing standing between a creative individual and the uncompensated economic exploitation of his work by those same corporations. If you want to do away with corporate monopoly rights restrictions, you need to come up with an alternative mechanism to prevent exploitation of individual creators.

hrant's picture

The problem isn't the desire for money - that's a natural human trait; the problem is when that desire is made the heart of a political system, which unavoidably leads to inhuman corporate domination. But no amount of pedantic discussion by peons on a typographic forum is going to change that. Gotta go guerrilla.

hhp

oldnick's picture

I don't think that artists or anyone else deserves to be paid for their work

Using that same logic, I suppose that nobody really deserves to live, either.

digital works and physical property are fundamentally different in nature

How true. I saw an interview of a guy who had been waiting in line for over twenty-four hours to buy the iPhone 5. “I could have bought it online,” he opined, “but it's not the same thing.”

Duh. Doh.

quadibloc's picture

@hrant:
But no amount of pedantic discussion by peons on a typographic forum is going to change that.

Before taking up arms to achieve change, though, it makes sense to think very carefully about what sort of change, if any, is desirable.

hrant's picture

I'm all for thinking, planning. But when you know that a building is unlivable, you also know that it must come down, and postponing its destruction only prolongs misery. Trying to make this more on-topic and less fatalistic: I don't need to have a watertight plan for a post-chirographic world to be justified in bashing it.

hhp

oldnick's picture

Hrant, you wacky iconoclast, you! Post-industrial, post-postmodern, post-chirogaphic: when will it end?

December 21st? Next Tuesday? The mind boggles…

Or, at least, MY mind does. WAAAAY too much coffee, I reckon…

5star's picture

...when will it end?

post-end.

n.

quadibloc's picture

@oldnick:
Using that same logic, I suppose that nobody really deserves to live, either.

Well, the wording of the poster you quoted began the process of confusing things.

The statement "Artists deserve to be paid for their work" (which I will refer to as X) has more than one meaning.

To say:

P: Artists should not have their work appropriated without compensation.

is not to say

Q: Artists are entitled to compensation for their creative work irrespective of whether or not there is any market demand for that work.

So when someone makes the ambiguous statement X in a context where it is clear that person is asserting P, for someone to say that, no, X is false, because Q is false... begins the process of creating confusion.

I think, though, that your post continued the process of getting things thoroughly confused.

An example of an opinion that avoids confusion might be:

Artists do deserve to live, and, like everyone else, they deserve to be free from interference in their efforts to live.

Thus, on the one hand, they do deserve protection from having their work appropriated without compensation.

On the other hand, if their work is not of interest to the market, the best they should expect from their right to live is to get welfare like anyone else, not to have the government support their art with tax dollars.

I'm not saying one has to agree with that opinion.

On the one hand, some Libertarians strongly support copyright laws, while followers of related political beliefs question where the authority to enact a copyright or patent law could come from (on the assumption that without a natural law right as its basis, such a law would be a government tax decree, not a protection against force or fraud).

On the other hand, non-Libertarians might see government patronage of the arts (but hopefully with some judgment of the quality of what is supported) as essential to a civilized society.

I'm not even claiming the opinion given as an example as my opinion; I'm just noting that here is how one can debate these issues while keeping them sorted from each other.

dezcom's picture

Type designers should have a fair "opportunity" to
be paid fairly for their work.

They also should be able to give it away ONLY IF THEY CHOOSE TO.

They also should be protected from pirates, thieves, and profiteers who steal their work.

oldnick's picture

Well, I CHOSE to give my fonts away for awhile, but profiteeers hot-linked to my metered site, and it cost be over $800 freaking dollars to GIVE stuff away IN ONE YEAR year, so—unsurprisingly—I suspended the practice.

And, John—

I did not mean to suggest that artists should be compensated merely for creating art: I am not a freaking Marxist, nor am I an Art Nazi. OTOH, if someone—through his or her creative efforts—adds a little joy or beauty to my otherwise lackluster existence, I have no problem ponying up so that he or she can eat or something. Sheesh.

And, by the way, I am currently negotiating a deal for Luc and the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia to divvy up the sixteen cartons of books that none of your chickensh*t bastards expressed an interest in. However, it's going to be a chore figuring out what Luc DOESN'T have in his "small collection"…

http://luc.devroye.org/lucbtype.html

abattis's picture

"I think that only used to be true in the past, and is now an outdated view; I think monopoly rights restrictions today tend to retard progress"

As Utah Philips said, the past didn't go anywhere. The fact that intellectual property laws have been hijacked by corporations doesn't mean that the original reasons why those laws came to be seen as a good idea have gone away. Indeed, today they are often the only thing standing between a creative individual and the uncompensated economic exploitation of his work by those same corporations.

The original reasons why those laws came to be seen as a good idea were from an age when authoring, publishing, and modifying published works required large capital expense. Global computer networks have removed that requirement. So if not abolished outright, then curtailing their duration seems to be a good idea to me - and not extended, and especially not retroactively.

If you want to do away with corporate monopoly rights restrictions, you need to come up with an alternative mechanism to prevent exploitation of individual creators.

The business value would shift from copies to production.

oldnick's picture

Dave—

You are absolutely right. Forget about what I said about not being a Marxist. Death to Monopolistic Capitalist Pigs!

Well, maybe not Death: that seems a bit harsh, don't you think?

John Hudson's picture

Dave: The business value would shift from copies to production.

How? Will authors be paid some sum up front to produce novels? Paid by whom? On what basis would the sum be calculated? The commercial value of such creative works cannot be determined until they exist and are products in the market, then it is determined precisely by how many copies sell. If you make all copies free by making copying free, how is the value monetised? Copyright enables monetisation of copies, and hence of income to the author. The reduction in capital expense that you describe affects who may publish and how, which is a good thing, and reasonably should affect pricing -- as it very obviously has in the case of fonts --, but it doesn't change the situation of the author with regard to uncompensated exploitation of his work, including the exploitation of readers who want to enjoy what he has produced without paying him anything.

quadibloc's picture

@John Hudson:
How? Will authors be paid some sum up front to produce novels? Paid by whom? On what basis would the sum be calculated?

While this business model would result in grossly inadequate compensation for creators, it is not quite as totally unworkable as your questions suggest.

After all, people do get paid for, say, preparing the masters for printing ruled ledger paper, despite the fact that anyone can do it, so one could imagine novelists being paid on the same basis.

Thus, a society that saw novels as merely a way to promote the sale of newsprint, and which was content to have only as many works of real artistic merit as people might, as an amateur pursuit, make and give away for free, might feel entirely content to have no copyright laws.

In Canada, once upon a time, while music could be copyrighted, musical works weren't eligible for royalties until something like ten or twenty years after they were first published. Thus, while composers of works of enduring merit would be rewarded, those who composed ditties that were mere passing fads would not be.

One could easily imagine the United States, at some time in the 1950s, deciding to adopt such a rule so as to destroy the music industry (this, of course, is before the RIAA had its lobbyists firmly in place) in order to save the nation's youth from the pernicious influences of that musical genre known as "rock and roll".

Sadly, artists and creators are not universally loved. But while musicians and composers are sometimes hated, the fate of type designers is more likely to be ignored and forgotten.

Nick Shinn's picture

The original reasons why those laws came to be seen as a good idea were from an age when authoring, publishing, and modifying published works required large capital expense.

That’s true, up to a point, and not quite in the way that you intended.

Originally, copyright was maintained by royalty to prevent the spread of seditious ideas.
That monopoly, lack of competition, and small runs of dull books, kept prices high.
When copyright was redistributed to publishers in the 18th century, it created a boom in books by the early 19th century, with lower prices and mass readership.

See St Clair:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Reading-Nation-Romantic-Period/dp/052181006X

However, that was within countries. Internationally, there was no copyright!
The work of Charles Dickens, for instance, while protected in the UK, was pirated in the US, prior to the international agreements mid 19th century.

So the argument that the pre-digital international copyright paradigm established in the mid 19th century was favored because of the large investment required in authorship and publishing doesn’t make sense; it was political, driven by a sense of fair play. And Dickens’ celebrity advocacy.

In some ways, Dickens’ tour of the US was like a rock star today; he was making no money from book sales, although they had created his fame. He was selling tickets to speaking performances of his works, which he delivered with great drama.

oldnick's picture

So—Dickens happened to notice that Americans were a bunch of braying, pretentious, self-deluded idiots.

Duh: the man had an IQ of 185. We kindred spirits can relate…

Richard Fink's picture

The bottom line is that the laws for physically distributed media aren't enforceable for digital media. (Or, at the very least, they are weakened to a point where they aren't much more than symbolic in strength.)

And that's that. Let's move on. We can wax about whether making a copy of something should or should not be a crime or not till we're blue in the face, but it won't make a difference.

Something like the level of protection for physical media in days of yore COULD be enforced for digital media but the costs - every kind of cost you can name - would be madly insane. And you would certainly have to kiss the First Amendment goodbye.
The bottom line here is that the polity doesn't want it. Strong copyright protection isn't wanted. It's not welcome. And you can preach about "good" content inevitably disappearing without protections till you're blue in the face from that, too, but it still won't make a difference.

To the topic: Luc's site is awesome. Always was. Font ugly or no.

Nick Shinn's picture

Let's move on.

Feel free.

quadibloc's picture

@Richard Fink:
Something like the level of protection for physical media in days of yore COULD be enforced for digital media but the costs - every kind of cost you can name - would be madly insane. And you would certainly have to kiss the First Amendment goodbye.

I realize that there is a lot of pirated stuff on the Internet, and that some of the measures used for combating this have been intrusive in nature.

Still, I don't think one can conclude that copyright is dead. A balance is still possible, even if Big Content isn't currently interested.

oldnick's picture

The bottom line is that the laws for physically distributed media aren't enforceable for digital media

What part of UNIQUE SERIAL NUMBER, GLOBALLY TRACKABLE BY SPIDERS IN THE CLOUD do you not get?

And the “insane” costs? A Digital Rights Management fee paid automatically at point of sale to the copyright holder. What are we talking about here? A couple of insane cents to the payment processor?

BTW: which First Amendment are you referring to? The one that says everyone ought to be able to steal whatever they want? Jeez, man: get a clue, wouldya?

quadibloc's picture

@oldnick:
What part of UNIQUE SERIAL NUMBER, GLOBALLY TRACKABLE BY SPIDERS IN THE CLOUD do you not get?

The trouble is, I feel tempted to say - what part of "And he caused all, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to have a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads: that no one might buy or sell except one who has the mark of the name of the Beast or the number of its name" don't you get?

Paranoia is something you have to consider here, even if watermarking is already a standard practice...

dezcom's picture

Is that grandpa's pride and joy? :-)

oldnick's picture

Grandpas' pride and joy or not, it's Team Spirit NF, a FREE font.

Nick. do you have a point to make? Ever?

John, by your logic, I suppose that it is a bad thing that all U.S. currency has serial numbers, right? What a frickin’ invasion of privacy!

Really, guys: could you possible be any MORE stupid?

Jack B. Nimblest Jr.'s picture

[long way to Luc]

Jack B. Nimblest Jr.'s picture

[long way to Luc]

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