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LUC DEVROYE


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Apostrophe on Emigre

Replay of an exchange on comp.fonts from May 2, 1999, regarding Emigre's methods. The italic text is what is commented on by Apostrophe, and the non-italic text is his. Here we go.

[Frank Werner]: You surely had this discussion here before, but forgive me, I'm new here. So what do you mean they have no fonts to protect? If Zuzana Licko (IMHO one of the greatest type designers of our times) decides to sell her fonts, what's wrong with that? You don't have to buy them if you don't like them. And if Zuzana and Rudy Vanderlans tell Tim to protect their copyrights, what's your problem?

My problem is Starback's methods. My problem is Emigre's sky-high pricing and ruthlessness. Of course you don't think that I care much for the designers, but that's just misinformation on your part since you just got here and don't know much about me or the way things happen in this group. Tell me, Frank: how much do you think Emigre pays the designers from the sale of their fonts? And tell me, Frank: do you like the font policing templates that you saw on Starback's page?

[Frank Werner: I admit font copyrights are treated a little different this side of the pond but I think stealing is still stealing or how do you call it when you put some fonts (which aren't yours) on your website and do nothing more than calling them Jungle Jane or so? Personal revenge?

It seems that not many people understood what I did. My point with those fonts was that nobody can do anything about fonts being posted. Not legally, anyway. Did you check those fonts yourself?? Are you absolutely sure that those fonts were exact replicas and not knockoffs or clones like ones legally done on a regular basis by WSI and Brendel and Softmaker and URW and Bitstream and Adobe and oh so many people out there for the sake of nothing but financial gain?? When Starback contacted Geocities with his highly heated "send me his contact info ASAP" demand, was he absolutely sure that the fonts on TypeWrong were Emigre's?? He sure wasn't, because there were some clones of Emigre fonts that were there that he didn't even notice, with GIFs as big as his head. All these so-called "foundries" out there have so many clones/knockoffs it's incredible. Of Emigre fonts and everyone else's. But what does Starback elect to do instead of going after those? Of course, go after the ones who are not even benefitting from cloning the fonts. Doesn't that strike you as fundamentally wonky? Don't you think that the "real" cloners who want to make money from their clones are the ones with the restitution that Starback and his likes seek? Do you think accusing people of being thieves just because they ask about a font is even civilly acceptable?

I think you feel like Typography's Robin Hood but I guess EMIGRE is not the Sheriff Of Nottingham. You just seem to attack individuals all the time. you never said a single word that honored the designers or if you consider their fonts unique. And they must be great or why do all the people always want their fonts (for free)?

I've said many words about the designers. Go to www.dejanews.com and run a search on Apostrophe (') and read up. The designers are not the ones playing cops and robbers. Most designers don't give a damn. Many designers give out their fonts and are honoured that their fonts are being collected. On your other point here, some Emigre fonts are good, but not great by a mile. People want their fonts mostly because of Starback's methodology. Trying to control a public medium causes this sort of backlash. Seems that Emigre are very short-sighted in their mighty strive for exclusivity. First they hire a bulldog who knows nothing about their own fonts to police the net for them, then they don't see that the bulldog's methods are not working at all. And in their own little spotlight, their independent designers get a wing and a prayer when their work is sold, and they seem to think that exclusivity is reason enough for robbing people blind.

You just seem to deal (see, I didn't say "steal :-) with objects, maybe I would see things different if you showed at least a little bit of typographic passion. EMIGRE took graphic design a big step further and I only wish you'd recognize this instead of being destructive.

A step further? How so? I don't think they did. Most of their good designs are by Barnbrook and Deck. Barnbrook and Deck sell their fonts through other companies as well. Not the Emigre ones, of course, because Emigre wants exclusivity. But do you really think that we wouldn't have seen the fonts sold by Emigre if Emigre wasn't around? Think again. If you think that Tarzana and Modula and Hypnopaedia are the best fonts in the world, then I regret to tell you that your taste is in perils. If Licko and Vanderlans want to sell their fonts for a million bucks, that's their business. But Barnbrook and Deck sell their stuff for much cheaper elsewhere, and Emigre doubling up prices because of exclusivity doesn't say much for humanity in terms of anything other than plain old drooling over the buck and taking advantage of other people's hard work. Do you know the story behind the Mason font, how Mason is not Mason? If not, look it up and see. You ask me to respect the designers, but what about asking Emigre to respect theirs? And proving a point is not being destructive. I've had Starback threatening me with his lawyers forever, but barking remained barking. I received a letter a day for weeks from the guy. Same thing in every one of them: take the fonts down or we'll sue you. Didn't take the fonts down, and they didn't sue me. Instead they contacted Geocities, and Xoom, and Freeservers. Where's the damn lawsuit?? I have lawyers waiting to eat Emigre alive on this one. But no. Emigre, once respected by many people, now are just hollow threats, lies, scare tactics, greed and plastic reality in the eyes of the people because of Starback.

It's sad to see you waste your indisputable powers on the wrong side, how about posting the entire SSI archive?

I like the side I am on just fine. I didn't take this side just because taking this side was contrary to the norm. For every post like yours I get against me, I get 100 thank you noted from people who support my beliefs and encourage me. The SSI archive has been posted many times when Paul King used to hand around here. You never know. It might get posted again. So keep an eye out.

P I didn't experience Rich and Tim's "ways of protecting fonts are questionable. inconsiderate and intellectually insulting". What makes you think so? At least you admitted there must be something like a protection of fonts. And...haha...what did (that nice guy) Ethan Dunham do to be filed under "sheep"?

Accusing people of being thieves the first time you meet them is inconsiderate and intellectually insulting. Legal threats that can't be backed up are intellectually insulting. Dunham was a nice guy at one point, and he may still be a nice guy for all I know. But there was a time a few months ago when he was trying to police the web the same way Starback does, with the exact Starback wording and chill. What's a nice guy like Dunham doing acting like that? To his credit, his prices are what should be the norm out there, and I do appreciate his realism about designing for a living. I don't much like the we-support-typeright link he has on his site, but then again, we're not on each other's Christmas list, so no love lost there. '

Maybe I should reconcile with you a little and tell you that I agree with you when it comes to Bruno :-) (But mostly because of his awful English.)

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Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html