Licensing Unit: Devices vs Users

Stephen Coles
Stephen Coles Posts: 998
edited September 2017 in Type Business
I’m curious how many of you (whether you’re a foundry writing your EULA or a consumer choosing fonts) have pondered the decision of whether to license fonts by CPU or by User. The former seems to me to be an antiquated method of accounting for printers and other devices at a single location, back when offices were more centralized, so I instinctively lean toward User. On the other hand, for some organizations it’s easier to track the number of devices on which a font is installed than it is the number of simultaneous users. While larger companies probably have a better records of people who will be using the fonts. I wonder if there are issues with this that I haven’t considered.


  • Chris Lozos
    I can't see the point. I well remember those days and it did not work then.  An employer who has a large enough company to consider that would have a an HR department to keep track of users anyway.
  • Thomas Phinney
    I think the trend towards user-based licensing makes sense in general.

    Not a bad idea to have an alternate CPU-based license on hand for the occasional corporate user who requires it—and to freely adjust pricing to reflect the change.
  • Thierry Blancpain
    We do computers for Desktop licensing but offer 1–3 as the smallest tier, which gives users some latitude if they want to install it on an additional laptop to work from outside the office, for example.
  • Robin Mientjes
    My license, which is built on @Matthew Butterick’s excellent license, defines users in the context of computers. That’s still a little vague, but it comes down to the same logic as Thierry – 1 to 3 users for the first license level means I don’t have to worry too much about computers vs users in the small scale. It likely has some issues with larger scale, but I have yet to run into this.
  • Johannes Neumeier
    The obvious (maybe?) advantage of going with users is that you don't have to get bogged down defining the technical details of what counts as a terminal / font server / cpu / machine / desktop / device. Users are more or less natural entities every Jane and Joe can count without confusion. Working on a project with 5 designers, you know how many users your licence needs to cover. Companies also know more or less how many people they have working for them, if they need to cover everybody. Also, single users don't need to worry about what devices they can use the font on.

    Now if we could find a sensible volume unit for websites...
  • KP Mawhood
    KP Mawhood Posts: 294
    edited September 2017
    To follow from @Johannes Neumeier's excellent point, what is a CPU today? Our font management software is setup to measure license count by user. To add any device that could be deemed as a CPU would be a significant headache.

    EULA definitions affect things, particularly when well-considered. CPU licensing makes sense for some businesses.

    If a EULA gives a licensee one option, it will likely be interpreted according to their "best-case" scenario (e.g. CPU, Workstation, Device, User… some other thing). It's amazing how many assumptions are made, quite a minefield. Identifying the specific details with licensors is often no less befuddling, time-consuming and riddled with uncertainty on both sides.

    E.g. It's nice to chat about the details, but it doesn't always reflect the reality. In the case of legal dispute, lawyers will argue both sides – not the "right" side.

  • JoyceKetterer
    Ug.  This is one of those things that keeps me up at night.  You all know that my big thing is simple intuitive licensing and that I am always trying to reduce customer confusion.  But you may also have noticed our licensing is CPU based...  

    I agree that the CPU model is a bit antiquated, though not for the same reasons @Stephen Coles gave.  We were never concerned with making customers secure licensing for printers and other devices.  We were, in fact, always concerned with trying to be more permissive not less.  The question one got back in the day  with "user" licensing was "what if two people use the same computer?" So, back then we went with CPU pricing in order to be able to say that a company didn't have to double pay for that one computer.  Of course, that's no longer needed.

    But the problem with the user based model is that it's still a little hard to track for companies that may not be up to date with technology for user profile management.  

    If we were opening our shop today we'd probably be using the user model.  However, change is also confusing so we decided with the last couple EULA rewrites to keep the old CPU model on the theory that all things being equal change is worse for customer confusion.  

    You may notice that our latest EULA introduces the idea of virtual machines - which starts to move towards a user model.  My hope is that by the next rewrite the customer base will have moved more in that direction and we can make that more dominant.