For the creation of an International Association of Type Designers. Post your proposals here.

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  • Chris Lozos
    Chris Lozos Posts: 1,458
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    Is there a model for what real operating costs are for resellers?

  • yanone
    yanone Posts: 130
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    Yeah, integrating Type.World into any self-hosted font site takes like a day for any web dev worth their salt. The documentation is exhaustive; I have a flask sample server that you just need to rewire to your DB; it's all there.

    Having a Type.World API endpoint on your website is like having a download page for your customer’s purchased fonts in their user account. You're essentially outputting the same data, but as JSON. (And you need to make the fonts available on request as binaries, too).

    I'm not saying it's perfectly simple. It is complicated for anyone who's not a web dev or can hire one, which applies to a lot of small type shops and individuals. Many people can't even fathom the required effort of integrating it into their site, so they don’t even bother. Those are the people that complain but will only accept a 100% turn-key solution.

    Anyway, so Type.World is indeed kind of abandoned. If you tried it now you would find that the app is not reacting to the instant update notifications, because I had to rewrite the notification system, which the central server already uses, but got stuck compiling new apps because Python is a dependency mess. I could still make an update of the app, but for who?

    But thanks for not asking and just assuming. That's very motivating.

    Anyway, the whole idea of Type.World didn't work out, and that's okay. I did learn one important lesson: If it doesn't generate revenue for the the foundries, it's not gonna work. I thought that exactly the open-source part of it would be appealing, but now I think it's more of a burden to the success of the project. There is no trust or interest in open-source in the type industry. People want the convenience of a professional service but at the same time more revenue.

    So if I ever work on that new idea, I would make sure to put it on a solid business foundation, which is arguably not my strong side. So yeah, Type.World doesn't have any marketing.
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,017
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    Hi @yanone

    Thanks for posting the background on type.world and I am sorry to hear you’ve been subjected to derogatory treatment on TypeDrawers. To be clear, I certainly did not intend my own comments to be derogatory, and I am sorry if what I wrote came across wrong. I was trying to suggest to Dave a reason why there might not have been a lot of engagement with type.world, and to be clear it might not be the actual reason or necessarily the only reason. It also is not in itself a good reason, and I think the points you made about the lack of willingness to collaborate are very apt. The irony of a tool that focuses on decentralisation is that the people and companies who would need to embrace it—for the tool to progress to a technology—are already too decentralised. Dave is talking about individual foundries integrating type.world into their individual websites, but what percntage of foundries would need to do so before it becomes a paradigmatic shift in the business, supporting something like your FairFonts search engine as something more than another boutique? That’s why I think a collective discussion about technologies is something we need right now, as part of any talk of collaboration and organisation.
  • Dave Crossland
    Dave Crossland Posts: 1,395
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    If only a font distributor with millions of downloads a day would adopt type.world after seeing growing community adoption.
  • Patrick Griffin
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    Is there a model for what real operating costs are for resellers?
    I doubt you'll see this kind of information made public, because it would make even a 20% platform cut seem like utter exploitation. But a little research and experience with this sort of thing allows you to come up with a very loose per-distributor ballpark figure.

    The common line about this is the more money you sink into the distribution operation, the more return you will have. So we want more cut for marketing and site/experience improvements, therefore your next payment will be less. But of course the cut you give up ends up being spent on neither. Gotta love it when the CEO of your favourite distributor gives himself a three-million dollar bonus just before he quits the company.
  • James Hultquist-Todd
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    Wow, I wish this forum software had a way of splitting threads. 

    Anyway, I think the idea of disallowing contractors is absurd and not worth more discussion. It’s like that meme where someone suggesting we make things a bit better is mocked because they have no choice but to participate in the current system. Before we even get to who can and can’t be a part of this, we would need to figure out what exactly we want “this” to do.

    Regarding Type.World, I hesitate because I never know how long these sort of one-person projects are going to be supported; I only have so much time I can spend on non-essential stuff and investing it all into a solution that gets abandoned in a few years just isn’t worth it for me.


  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,152
    edited June 2023
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    @Dave Crossland:
    So this proposal seems to exclude almost everyone already within arms reach of making a living drawing type. 
    I didn’t spell it out, but the distinction for contract workers would not apply to those who had worked for Big Tech in the past, but for those who wished to be members of the new IATD. 

    If you join the IATD, you can no longer work for Big Tech, payroll or contract, although you may still have them work for you, as distributors.  

    @Ruixi Zhang
    I find the idea of excluding designers who take “big company” commissions startling.

    The fault line is between commissioned work and self-published work.
    Look at it this way: if Big Tech can choke out indie income from royalties, then they can get commissioned work for less.
    And by commissioning a typeface for a one-time fee, they will not have to pay ongoing royalties for reselling licences for that typeface, had it been indie-published.
    It’s a vicious circle.

    But that is the systemic nature of the beast, and while it may seem that individual “rights” to do business with whoever one chooses are sacrosanct, some of that would have to be sacrificed to change the system.

    As I see it, the IATD’s primary concern is indie royalties, and if this means that commissioned work for distributors is considered scabbing, so be it.
  • yanone
    yanone Posts: 130
    edited June 2023
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    If you join the IATD, you can no longer work for Big Tech, payroll or contract

    So you’re asking me to willfully abandon my primary source of income to join an association that has a completely empty track record of helping me secure alternative income the next month?

    That's a pretty bold strategy, I must say.
  • Simon Cozens
    Simon Cozens Posts: 726
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    I have to admit I do have a visceral reaction to "blockchain" technologies, but... (posting this in the hope that it might help others with the same visceral reaction) before there was the blockchain, there were a whole series of distributed/decentralized databases and data-transfer protocols.

    It wasn't called "blockchain" then, it was called "peer-to-peer", and it powered Skype and Napster and BitTorrent and various other things. (There was even Freenet, an implementation of HTTP on top of peer-to-peer protocols so you could have web servers and web sites whose content was distributed throughout the network - even if it was mainly used for kiddy porn.)

    Although the blockchain is claimed to be the foundation of "Web 3.0", peer-to-peer protocols were a massive part of Web 2.0; it's literally the same damn thing but with a nasty crypto-dudebro smell. I remember Tim O'Reilly raving about this stuff 20 years ago now.

    In short, I think running a decentralised font distribution network on the blockchain is a bloody stupid idea; I also think that a decentralised font distribution network over a peer-to-peer network is actually really, really smart.
  • Yves Michel
    Yves Michel Posts: 162
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    Association is exclusion.

    When you associate you exclude those who don't fit your "rule of association". Be it a religious one (the worst), a philosophical one (copy of the worst like Freemasonry), a "Rotary", "Lions", "Porsche", "Harley-Davidson" or other "fan club".

    I notice here the same kind of association/exclusion rules. That's a pity!

    I'm an amateur typedrawer, never asking a cent for my fonts. They are free as this is my personal choice. Will I be accepted as a member of such an association? I really don't care.

    Meanwhile, in the type designer domain, I think there is a place for an association to try to struggle against piracy.

    I was baffled to see one of my fonts (remember, an amateur font, free for personal use) offered on a dozen of pirate sites, even for 13$ on one.

    So, I support your project. But don't exclude! Unless for very, very good reasons. For instance, be careful with a "Trump" typeface!

  • Dave Crossland
    Dave Crossland Posts: 1,395
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    Thanks for the kind clarification Nick :)

    I have no concerns  about that plan!
  • yanone
    yanone Posts: 130
    edited June 2023
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    @Simon Cozens

    I don’t understand how what I described isn’t peer-to-peer. These are the layers:

    * The database layer is peer-to-peer, consisting of a network of nodes that contain the data, who constantly update and validate each other’s data, of which you can and should run a node yourself to secure the network and trust the data.
    * The file system is peer-to-peer, consisting of a network of nodes that each mirror a subsets of files, of which you can and should run a node yourself to secure the network and increase the data redundancy. In IPFS, the concept of self-hosting is the only concept that exists. You self-host a file either on your own server, or pay someone for the convenience of not having to do it yourself, but it’s still your responsibility alone. If you stop paying, the file disappears, because no one will do anything for you for free.
    * The font sale happens directly between seller and buyer.

    It really doesn’t get any more peer-to-peer, all the while reducing internet traffic because nodes are also a CDN and you connect to your closest one.

    So the only notable difference is the immutability and transparency of the database layer. That’s a plus in my opinion, because it removes the option of anyone doing any shady business, of which I’m not a fan. I noticed that it was brought up here earlier that you can’t look into the distributor’s books. The essence of the blockchain is the trust, which I consider a strong argument
  • James Hultquist-Todd
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    I don’t think many consumers of type would want to buy it via blockchain tech. It may sound exciting to a few type designers but if consumers were willing to use that tech to purchase things* I suspect we would have seen it somewhere by now.

    *By “things,” I mean things that existed before blockchain, so not NFTs.
  • Simon Cozens
    Simon Cozens Posts: 726
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    yanone said:
    @Simon Cozens

    I don’t understand how what I described isn’t peer-to-peer.
    It's exactly peer-to-peer, that's what I was saying. Describing it as "blockchain" makes me cringe, but describing it as "peer-to-peer" makes me a lot more comfortable (even though it's exactly the same thing)...
  • Dave Crossland
    Dave Crossland Posts: 1,395
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    I don’t think many consumers of type would want to buy it via blockchain tech. It may sound exciting to a few type designers but if consumers were willing to use that tech to purchase things* I suspect we would have seen it somewhere by now.

    *By “things,” I mean things that existed before blockchain, so not NFTs.
    I think the reason we haven't seen much outside self referential commodities is that it requires bridging the chain property with off chain - real world - property.

    There are people working on that, like https://Matterum.com
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,017
    edited June 2023
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    Thanks for taking the time to write-up your blockchain idea, @yanone. As you say, the fact that it involves blockchain might be the hardest sell, but from a first read—and I intend to read it several more times—there are interesting ideas present.

    I think my concern with it is that although, as you say, it is already the case that digital fonts are poorly protected against easy copying and distribution, the use licensing model provides a way in which what a customer may do with a font can be legally circumscribed by license terms, and unlicensed use is fairly easy to identify. Once a digital font, by virtue of being purchased as a non-fungible asset, becomes something like a case pf metal type that is owned by the customer rather than licensed, what legal restrictions exist against copying, redistributing, producing and distributing derivative works, and other things possibly circumscribed by use licensing? You have identified specifically reselling of the font as a benefit of the blockchain idea, but some use licenses already permit resale and with specific conditions relating to ceasing of use by the reseller and deletion of all copies of the font in their control. In the case of a non-fungible font, while official ownership of the digital asset can be sold—and even with royalties on the resale passed back to the original foundry/designer, which is a nice idea—, what circumscribes continued use of the digital asset by the person who no longer owns it or, indeed, anyone else who doesn’t own it.

    Use-based licensing still seems to me the only halfway decent model of monetising easily reproducible creative works, and that is the case whether the rights involved are an ‘n obscure entitlement to a very restrictive usage’ or OFL: they’re all based on recognising that value is derived from use, and the more useful a font the more valuable it is (ending in the paradox that the most valuable fonts are sometimes the ones that are free).
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,017
    edited June 2023
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    On the subject of exclusion: I wonder if you would be willing to re-post your blockchain concept in a different TypeDrawers board (Type Business?), @yanone, where it can be more openly discussed, independent of the topic of this thread? Feel free to edit it in the process, of course, and add of remove anything that strikes you as appropriate for a public posting.
  • Dave Crossland
    Dave Crossland Posts: 1,395
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    Regarding Type.World, I hesitate because I never know how long these sort of one-person projects are going to be supported; I only have so much time I can spend on non-essential stuff and investing it all into a solution that gets abandoned in a few years just isn’t worth it for me.



    Even if you did “own” an “asset” in a game (weapon, skin, vehicle, etc) it would immediately cease if the game’s owner went out of business, disappeared or server was pulled. Congrats, you now own a database entry. Lots of games get sunset and associated assets are rendered useless.
    James, since type.world is almost or entirely libre software, if you or anyone invests in adoption and Yanone bails, everything is there to take it forward by yourself, or if there's stuff people were indeed using that they don't have access to, I expect Yanone would be happy to provide a smooth transition. There is only so many hours a day, sure, but as Yanone said, adoption of type.world into an exiting foundry web cart should be a weekend project. 

    Kris, similarly, assuming a decentralized and independent chain, the continued access and control of the database entry beyond the life of the initial game isn't useless, because other games can interact with it. The database lives on. 

  • yanone
    yanone Posts: 130
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    It may sound exciting to a few type designers but if consumers were willing to use that tech to purchase things* I suspect we would have seen it somewhere by now.

    I want to point out a logical fallacy with that: Any such a technology, be it Type.World or a peer-to-peer marketplace, needs to exist and be implemented before it can be used and requested by consumers.

    You said yourself you don’t want to integrate Type.World. What you’re saying is like putting it on your own customers to not want to use Type.World before it exists.

    Publishers need to 1) identify the opportunities, 2) move forward with integrating them, before customers can benefit and in turn the business can improve, regardless of which proposal.
  • Dave Crossland
    Dave Crossland Posts: 1,395
    edited June 2023
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    I don’t mean to disregard the blockchain (or, rather, peer-to-peer) idea entirely, but most people don’t want to “own” (much less resell) fonts. They just want to use them. So I have to agree with John that the core value to track is font usage.

    Sure, but owning a NFT isn't the same as owning a thing. I would even say, since data is inherently non-rival, it can not BE owned; the closest is remaining private. Once made public, it exists in a natural state of common ownership by each person who accesses it, and keeping things from being made public is increasingly difficult.

    What is colloquially referred to as 'ownership' of data is the ownership of government-granted rights such as copyrights or trademarks; with that made explicit, then, it seems logical to me to see blockchains as sort of weird reflection of privately-granted rights - over public database entries.

    The use of those database entries as money as an alternative to the government-granted entries in databases decentralized across Barclays, Chase, etc, is currently the primary use-case, isn't it?
    Once a digital font, by virtue of being purchased as a non-fungible asset, becomes something like a case pf metal type that is owned by the customer rather than licensed, what legal restrictions exist against copying, redistributing, producing and distributing derivative works, and other things possibly circumscribed by use licensing?
    As I understood it, the proposal isn't for "non fungible fonts" but "non fungible tokens that are receipts to restrictive font license terms", and so its nothing like a case of metal type, and exactly like a restrictive font license whose terms allow resale.

    The usage permitted by the license is available to the older of the receipt, and when they transfer the receipt to someone else, their usage permissions go out the door, they ought to remove all copies etc etc - just the same.

    The UK has an "Artist Resale Right" that is similar to the smart contract logic Yanone described, btw: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/artists-resale-right
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,017
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    @Dave Crossland
    As I understood it, the proposal isn't for "non fungible fonts" but "non fungible tokens that are receipts to restrictive font license terms", and so its nothing like a case of metal type, and exactly like a restrictive font license whose terms allow resale.

    That makes some sense, Dave, but what @yanone wrote was:
    So in many ways, NFTs behave much more like physical objects than digital objects, and the idea laid out here is a bit like returning to ownable metal type.

  • James Hultquist-Todd
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    Alright, can we please stick to the topic? If people want to discuss blockchain fonts or whatever, feel free to start a new thread.
  • yanone
    yanone Posts: 130
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    Yeah, I’ll rewrite the proposal and post it again in a new thread in a little while.
  • Patrick Griffin
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    ...we would need to figure out what exactly we want “this” to do.
    I guess what it would need to do is try to address the primary grievance, which evidently is dissatisfaction with royalty-based distribution platforms and their increasing control/strongarming/abuse of the toll fees. This is a brief that is much more complicated than it sounds. What's been tried so far, over and over, is adding more and more platforms. The results have been pretty unimpressive every time. Check the falsely attributed definition of insanity there.
    The distribution platforms are just a way for us, independents or otherwise, to make our fonts available to people who may want to license them. So what if we collectively went to those people and told them Hey, these guys are just taking too much cut from us, so we'd appreciate it if you licensed the fonts directly from their publishers/designers/foundries instead of the distributor you're familiar with? You've got to believe people who actively look to buy font licenses are reasonable and would most likely rather not be part of a shakedown transaction/practice.
    I remember in the early-ish years when the internet and software booms were crossing paths, all the software companies talked about "user education" and "evangelizing". These days all that stuff is bundled under some kind of targeted advertising umbrella. So basically this collective thing would probably be best formed as some kind of mom-and-pop, buy-direct, support-the-independent trade/lobby group of folks who are willing to dissociate themselves either partially or fully from the mainstream distributors with whom they have grievances. The dissociation part would be the sticking point for most of us. But I tell you: I've tried it myself, and I couldn't be happier with the results. The distribution channels have increasingly become little more than costly, privately-run and quite rigged search engines for people who already know which fonts they want to license, so why not use the main (free) highways instead of the toll bridges to lead them directly to you.
    Of course, this whole thing is just talk until some people get together and come up with a plan, road map, cost/time risks, guidelines, etc. Human nature being what it is, most of us will be on the fence until whatever the group aims for seems to be within reach, then it just may grow into something bigger.
    I'm sure Dave can get us some kind of targeted advertising deal with the gods of digital marketing  ;)
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,017
    edited June 2023
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    @Patrick Griffin
    The distribution platforms are just a way for us, independents or otherwise, to make our fonts available to people who may want to license them. So what if we collectively went to those people and told them ‘Hey, these guys are just taking too much cut from us...’
    If it were that simple, there would be no distribution platforms, at least not for foundries that have their own online licensing platforms integrated into their websites, which I would say is one of the definitions of being a foundry these days (as distinct from someone who sells only through distributors).

    Foundries use distributors to access more potential customers than they can reach directly and, in the case of established distribution platforms, to try to leverage an existing platform customer base and apparently effective marketing strategies. If it were possible to directly communicate with all the customers of a distribution platform, who would use distrbutors?

    Something like an advertising campaign to encourage customers to buy direct from foundries seems likely to have limited impact, because there is no clearly associated action path, at least not one that competes with the convenience of one-stop shopping at a big distribution platform like MyFonts.