Licensing that allows a small company to send the fonts to their service providers.

As a design studio choosing and assigning typefaces for clients, our biggest font-related issue nowadays is this:
We (studio) license typeface for our own use, client (company) licenses for their use. Later they involve at least a social media agency (service provider) in small to medium business scale.

Does creating a license for small businesses that already encompass the sending of the fonts for at least two other service providers (or more) make sense?

I know fonts are software, but it seems to me that, as in a logo or any other brand asset that is delivered to the client in the end of a branding project, a font could and maybe should be an item that the business can make available hassle free for their suppliers.

Maybe there should be a skyfonts/fontstand/typekit of the sorts that would allow the company to activate/deactivate the licenses to certain suppliers and keep control.

I know fontsmith does brand fonts, perhaps it's just a matter of talking to the foundry and setting up a special license that allows for that?


  • Hi, also having a Design Studio, but never sending font files to my clients or service providers as printingcompanies etc. Just deliver pdf files for the finnished products. A logo for example, I always produce the original making fonts to Bezier curves, outlines, then no one that uses the logo for different purposes nead the original font.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,433
    edited October 2017
    Rodrigo, are you talking about printing or website use? If your font  EULA allows embedding, then PDF will do the job.  If your designs will be depicted using webfonts hosted on a site, then you have a different story.
  • Darden Studio has a Distribution License, which sounds like what you're describing, but I don't know how common this type of license is amongst other foundries.
  • For corporate typefaces, I'm under the impression that a license for supplier usage is often agreed. For everything else, most font licenses model software licensing - with the exception of emoji fonts that sometimes model image permissions.

    In the communication of "what a font is", there's a choice for you. That choice will frame how the user view fonts, as they try to box it into something that they are more familiar with. Technology does not solve license management, particularly outside a locked down system (i.e. an entirely different company). 

    If the initial price points for licensing a font were higher, I might think differently. But, they're low. It affects the wider conversation and user assumptions. The brave idea of spending money on a high quality product becomes an education piece.

    So yes it makes sense, price accordingly.
  • Hi, also having a Design Studio, but never sending font files to my clients or service providers as printingcompanies etc. Just deliver pdf files for the finnished products. A logo for example, I always produce the original making fonts to Bezier curves, outlines, then no one that uses the logo for different purposes nead the original font.
    Not talking about how to deliver files for production/printing, rather at the moment the brand book goes out the door and the client needs other people to do work on his behalf.

    @Chris Lozos same.

    Say a social media person/company needs to use CompanyX's font to create instagram/social media content.

    Darden's Distribution license is probably very close to what I'm describing, thanks Michael Jarboe

    Thanks for your insights Katy, it seems like allowing for the distribution would entail higher initial prices, indeed. Maybe and addon license for distribution is the way to go as a foundry. Then educating the clients about it, your right!
  • @Rodrigo Saiani  I'd be happy to discuss the Darden Studio model with you.   Certainly the intent is to permit exactly what you're describing.  If we're missing some need please let me know so I can look into it.

    The purpose of our distribution licensing is to provide an option for companies who use a lot of contractors for short term products.  The licensee can get the distribution license at the cost of four times a license for the same number of CPUs at one location and in exchange they can permit an unlimited number of contractors to use the fonts over the life of the license (so long as the number using the fonts at a given time doesn't exceed the licensed number).  The licensee is required to keep a log and ensure that contractors delete the font when they are done with the project. 

    You can read the document and a q&a on it here.
  • @Rodrigo Saiani How much (more) do you think your client would pay to be able to share the fonts with, say, five different companies working on their behalf, no licensing hassle required?
  • @Johannes Neumeier I really don't know. 4x as @JoyceKetterer sounds like a good number. It may depend on the size of the company and where it is located. There is a big gap in understanding and valuing of font licenses in Brazil (where I'm located).

    But it's seems like the kind of thing that's not quite being thought out by many foundries while looking like a pretty common daily problem for graphic designers in general.

    Thanks for all the insights!
  • Actually you avoid the CPUs issue installing fonts per computer (users), such as I know design studios use Universal Type Client for example which is managed by those using the fonts on the same shared local server. 

    Isn’t much you can do about clients distributing fonts it happens, working as a  in-house designer in the past, clients would package fonts with image assets to create artwork. I’d just uninstall fonts sent over most of the time once finished with a project. 

    There are still brands out there allow users to download commercial fonts as part of their brand assets. What you can do is, whoever is doing the design work, get the client to incorporate a contract agreement not to redistribute/reuse any content.  
  • @Luke Freeman There isn't anything you can do from a technical perspective to prevent licensees from installing the fonts wherever.  This is the nature of fonts - we can't prevent copies from being made.  But we'd all go out of business if we name the number of licensed copies in the contract. 

    As a practical matter, these things usually only get identified as a part of a license enforcement triggered by some other more easily identified violationation. 

    However, it is still very much worth it to say that the license is not transferable.  Otherwise we'd be dramatically weakening the EULA. 

    Additionally, we've had several license enforcements where the client did exactly what you describe, we identified it by asking as a part of enforcing another clause, and the distribution addendum which was a part of the settlement represented a significant amount.  
  • If i ask a furniture make to make a table for me, i don't go and buy the wood for them.

    The problem is the resistance to paying for fonts when design agencies (suppliers) find it so easy to pirate. I don't see any other issue.

    Brand books should include the details of the fonts used and from whom they can be licensed. The supplier then buys a license for the fonts, and passes the cost back to the client when they invoice for the work. If the client is a large organisation, they'll use larger suppliers who should be buying the appropriate larger license.

    Distribution licences are a one-size-fits-all solution and that allow the client to distribute type in an unlimited way - this is bad business. The DardenStudio distribution addendum, and others like define the limits this but i doubt any licenses really log and adhere to the defined quota of distribution.

    Distribution licenses don't represent the value of usage, they only make the value of type harder to perceive, and suppliers more resistant to licensing.
  • Licensing varies so much from vendor to vendor that the expectations become difficult to manage. This feels more pertinant than piracy. Is piracy a symptom of resistance to cost or complication? 

    Would you feel the same with trial licensing? I understand the hesitation to license, if that license does not add value to the business (i.e. it is not used further than a mock-up, which may not be shown to the client.)

    I use Netflix and GoogleMusic because it is easy and has a cost that is accepted by an international market. Not all font license models scale well from individual use; they can become costly for the larger  licensee in a way that does not reflect the market. That said, there are also some good models.

    @Miles Newlyn The agency / third party licenses for their usage, which is typically desktop only. The client will need to license for the larger usage, or have the license transferred (which not all licenses permit).

    Why is a distribution license bad business if it improves the licensing experience throughout the licensee's workflow? The price reflects a licensee's autonomy to distribute a product, to ease their workflows. If the gap between price and usage value is too wide, what needs to change?
  • @Katy Mawhood
    I piracy is a symptom of laziness, it's quicker to say 'email me the fonts' than get thr accounts dept. involved.
    It's bad for business because for see it as discounting as a counter to laziness. My solution is to value distribution rights highly.

  • @Miles Newlyn
    Our business has multiple projects each year to manage font usage, to ensure that everything is licensed correctly. Hopefully, we're not the only ones.

    I'm saddened that vendor efforts to ease the workflow may be considered as "counters to laziness" – rather than helping your customer. It's for the vendor to price accordingly.
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 740
    edited December 2017
    @Miles Newlyn  I think you fundamentally misunderstand what a distribution addendum from Darden Studio is.  It is NOT a one size fits all solution.  Distribution licenses name the number of simultaneous CPUs permitted.  And, I remind you that it is four times the cost of a basic license for the same number of CPUs - which I think of as valuing it highly.

    The idea is not to prevent piracy.  I don't consider what you're talking about to be exactly piracy (which I think of as intentional stealing of software).  The lazy passing around of the font files by people who don't really understand the license is something else. But, as previously discussed, we can't really prevent either.  People who don't read, or don't want to bother to take out their credit card again will never do what they are supposed to do.  The various licensing instruments we create are by their very nature for the clients who do put in some effort to follow a license.

    When we came up with the distribution addendum we weren't thinking about piracy at all.  We had a very large client with a custom font who did a lot of short term projects and didn't want to pay full price for each contractor to have a perpetual license that the contractor would only use for a few months at most.  This seemed like a reasonable request to us.  Also, we're always happy to get a large sum of money now instead of a slow trickle over many years and this instrument allowed us to do that.

    We later realized that clients using retail builds of the fonts (which the contractors could continue use when the project ended) might also find it useful.  For those with the sort of scenario above it does save money (which is how we justify the mark up).  But over time I've realized we get a lot of clients buying distribution addenda who don't do short term projects.  They just don't like the idea of paying for their contractor to have a license that can't be transferred.  So they pay a premium to keep all licensing in their own name.  Personally, I don't get it but I'm glad I can provide them with a license that suits their disposition and I'm happy to take their money.

    The great thing about being a small company is that we can be flexible for our clients.  I find that usually leads to us making more money - not less.  I think your attitude is short sighted.
  • Miles NewlynMiles Newlyn Posts: 205
    edited December 2017
    I've no argument with your points Joyce, we do precisely the same - we both have short sighted attitudes, but i don't know what the long sighted one is.

  • @Miles Newlyn  Then I don't understand where your initial assertion was coming from.  Do you know of other foundries with something like a distribution addednum that is one size fits all?  Can you describe it?

    Also, what exactly is it that you do in these cases for your clients.
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