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LUC DEVROYE


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Critique of Google Web Fonts

John Hudson writes this in 2011 when the Google Web Font project was siscussed by the typophiles: The trouble with all this talk about 'the new age of copyright' and its travails is the widespread failure to recognise that we're still, also, living in the old age of copyright. The corporate exploitation of intellectual property law, the use of such law not as a protection of creative work but as a business model, the ranks of lawyers and lobbyists, tend to obscure our memory of what copyright has done and should do: protect the right of creative individuals to commercially exploit their work and to limit the unremunerated exploitation of that work by others, including or especially exploitation by companies whose resources could not otherwise be opposed by individual creators. The fact that the owners of capital have found ways to exploit copyright and other intellectual property law for their own purposes simply confirms the nature of capital, it doesn't render the protective function of such law obsolete. So while the pundits and the lawyers are busy debating copyright in the context of new media possibilities and old media intransigence, there are still creative individuals whose work is open to various kinds of exploitation, including exploitation by multi-billion dollar corporations whose resources allow them to leverage far more value from the work than the individual creator could. One of the ways in which this old exploitation takes place in new dress takes advantage of open source and libre idealism, by which companies avoid paying fees commensurate with the value they derive from creative works by convincing young and naïve designers to give their work away for free because it is good for society, the digital community, etc.. I'm getting tired of people representing major corporations writing to me asking me to consider making this or that font available under the Open Font License. They want the fonts because they can derive value from them that will in one way or another -- it hardly matters what the engame is -- add to their profits. So they can damn well pay for the fonts.

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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