Content Protection, fonts, and trolling

(Updated: eek!  @marypcbuk pointed out that I had an unfinished sentence at the end of paragraph 3.  Fixed.  I blame the still-lingering SXSWScurvy.)

Jeremy Keith posted some thoughts on SXSW, including the always-incredibly-fun browser wars panel I got to participate in again (yay!) with some good friends.

Jeremy, a couple of corrections – 1) I think it was probably at least three years ago that I was “defending” the EOT format – and 2) my point was not “hey, that’s just the way things go.”  In fact, that’s the core of the problem with video right now – the cost/benefit here is not “that’s just the way things go”, so I want to expand my argument from the font controversy.

I most certainly did NOT say “Without some form of DRM [on fonts], … we couldn’t have fonts on the web.”  I said, at the time, that font foundries needed to be happy with the arrangement, because the TTF/OTF files on your computer have at best convoluted and hard-to-track-down licenses and provenance.

At the time, the competing “standard” for embedding fonts from Opera was simply direct linking to TTF/OTF files; my point was that really, only a select set of freeware fonts had licenses that allow you to reshare the font like this.  (Many of freeware fonts, for example, require you not to mess with their .zip file package when you re-host, and for their license.txt file to remain intact – which you can’t really do when resharing for use in direct linking.) In general, any non-freeware (i.e. licensed) fonts would not allow you (“allow” in terms of what their EULA allows to do, based on their copyright of the file) to just put their TTF file up on a web server.  In general, it’s quite a challenge to look up what the permission rights for a font on my computer is;  it’s basically a detective investigation to figure out where the file came from, and what the EULA says about redistribution of that file.  In short, I did not think this was a particularly good design.  Having originally implemented EOT in IE (in IE4, I believe), I wasn’t under any particular delusions of its brilliant design as a web embedding technology either, but I’d been pragmatic then.  I think you must have been reading my insistence that direct linking wasn’t good enough as an argument for hardcore DRM (which, BTW, EOT isn’t really anyway, but I could see even at the time how it triggered the DRM hotbutton for people).  The issue was not, though, that there was a demand for DRM – it was there was demand for something other than just raw TTF/OTF files.  There was a demand for a wrapper that was, in the end, satisfied by… a wrapper.

WOFF was not yet a thing – in fact, it partly grew out of the conversations we’d been having with font foundries based on EOT.  I was attempting to get exposure for the idea that something other than just a raw TTF file was going to be necessary – I believe I said, “if the font foundries are happy, I’m happy.  I don’t care.”  That happened; everyone pretty much implements WOFF now; font foundries are really happy, because designers have some idea fonts are IP, but designers are happy because it’s not “DRM” and it’s not very restrictive at all.  Thus, I am happy.

So, in short – I was trolling you.  Gotcha.  :)

-C

PS – in followup; I believe IE only ships VBScript turned on for intranet, but maybe I’m confused.

PPS – I haven’t said much about content protection and video here; nor do I really intend to.  It’s pragmatic; the rights owners (aka the studios) get to control whether episodes of Big Bang Theory (or whatever) get released in a particular format, and they believe DRM is important and useful.  Don’t ask me to defend this; go talk to them.  Or decide that you still want iTunes/Flash/Silverlight whatever totally-proprietary platform to maintain its critical position, and you’re limited to content studios don’t think is as important (or comes from studios willing to take that risk).  That’s where we are today.  We can hold that course, and I can continue to have to buy a copy of BBT for Android devices, one for my iOS devices, and still not get to watch on the web.  Go have this argument with the studios (again) – or, better yet, participate in the TV and Web IG at the W3C, because the studios are.  I personally am absolutely not asking anyone to just accept this because “hey, that’s the way it goes.”  I do think it’s probably the most pragmatic thing to do, and I am a pragmatist.  But my head is sore from banging on this rock, and it’s not even my rock.  :)

PPPS: I don’t really watch BBT.  But I got insulted last time I admitted to being a How I Met Your Mother fan.  (SERIOUSLY?!?  WHO CAN RESIST THE BRILLIANCE OF NPH?)

PPPPS: I would have stopped SOPA at the “Something must be done!” stage – no, I don’t think it does.

PPPPPS: Is there a legal restriction on the number of Ps?

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~ by cwilso on March 16, 2012.

3 Responses to “Content Protection, fonts, and trolling”

  1. [...] Then, Jeremy Keith, our unofficial rabble-rouser, excoriates the cognoscenti about a certain “lack of imagination.” Chris Wilson, finally at liberty to blog and tweet about his responsibilities as web platform guy for Google, responds conversationally. [...]

  2. Another competitor was the font embedding tech used in Netscape 4, which had to be removed from Mozilla due to it being licensed from a third party.

  3. Very late, but alas, no, IE still ships with VBScript enabled for Internet sites; necessary due to 1M+ sites using Flash-detection logic provided by Adobe that uses VBScript for IE. IIRC, the WinPhone dropped VBScript support. I believe IE10 Standards mode also dropped support for the legacy VBScript.Encode and JScript.Encode formats.

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