Figma and font licensing

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Hey all.

I’m curious if there’s been a discussion about the interface design app Figma and font licensing? 
As its designs are cloud based, fonts are too, so it moves beyond cpu installs. This does not square well with cpu based licenses, obviously. 
Has this been discussed or addressed? 

Comments

  • André G. Isaak
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    Since figma is for designing interfaces, I would assume that you'd minimally want to insist on an app license rather than a cpu-based license.
  • JoyceKetterer
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    As usual I'm too busy to do any research into the specifics of the example that has raised this question and I'm just going to throw up an answer that might be to a different question but that is still definitely useful to someone.  

    In the latest version of our EULA we have language that bridges the CPU based model with cloud computing in a way that allows us to use the same EULA for both.  Section 1.e:
    Any number of CPUs up to the licensed maximum may access and operate the Font Software for desktop use, so long as the CPUs are owned by you and are being used by you and your direct employees. If you host the Font Software on a server for desktop use, non-licensed CPUs must not be given server access to the Font Software, and the number of licensed CPUs must equal at least the server CPUs plus all CPUs that have the permitted access. If you intend to install the Font Software on virtual machines for use by your employees, the number of licensed CPUs must equal at least those virtual machines plus the number of server CPUs that host the virtual machines. If you give away or sell a CPU, you must remove the Font Software from it before doing so. You are responsible to ensure that all persons who operate your licensed CPUs abide by this License.

    Since this model is for licensing of computers owned by one entity we would, of course, need an addendum to cover a scenario with a paid service but that's not so hard because we already have an instrument for students at a university that could be converted.
  • Mike Wenzloff
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    ...and the number of licensed CPUs must equal at least the server CPUs plus all CPUs that have the permitted access...
    OK. I have a few motherboards that utilize 2 CPUs. If I have a desktop license for a font that uses the CPU license model and is licensed for 5 CPUs, doe that mean with my 3 computers I am out of compliance?

    As well, if I were to have a server with multi-CPUs where I store my fonts, using a CPU-based license as written above seems to indicate it is using up two (or more) of those CPU-based license.

    Is that true, Joyce?
  • André G. Isaak
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    OK. I have a few motherboards that utilize 2 CPUs.
    I'm pretty sure that, where licensing is concerned, CPU is interpreted as 'workstation'.
  • JoyceKetterer
    JoyceKetterer Posts: 793
    edited April 2018
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    @Mike Wenzloff you are the second person to ask me that in 6 years.  The answer is that we aren't that picky and you can count one machine with two processors as one.  I would have changed the EULA to reflect that if we got the question more often.
  • JoyceKetterer
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    @SiDaniels If I had it to do over I would probably go with user rather than work station because workstation doesn't account for virtual machines where user does.  CPUs is a legacy of a time before the internet was really actualized, and certainly before cloud computing, when the options were CPU or user.  In that context CPU was more fair.  As with so many things it feels like switching now would be more disruptive to our business than keeping them as they are even though we would do it differently if we were starting now.  
  • Mike Wenzloff
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    Thank you, Joyce.

    I actually read most (I cannot say all) licenses before purchasing. Commercial use? Check. Users (typically 5). Check. Usage on goods...this is where I have seen some funny things and, in some cases, moved on to another font.

    Font licensing can be weird and often inconsistent in their language. Sometimes it's almost like they punish the user for bothering to read them. I read some that are more intricate than actual software eulas.
  • James Puckett
    James Puckett Posts: 1,977
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    Font licensing can be weird and often inconsistent in their language. Sometimes it's almost like they punish the user for bothering to read them. I read some that are more intricate than actual software eulas.

    It’s hard to craft a good font EULA. Some businesses want a EULA to read like a complex legal document—I think it makes them feel safe. Other people are happy with the total ambiguity that comes from downloading some of the stuff on DaFont. Balancing professionalism and user-friendliness is hard to do.
  • JoyceKetterer
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    @Mike Wenzloff  licensees who read the EULA are my people and I thank you.  Because I'm a nerd, I read EULAs for fun - not use, and I have to say they are a great way to get your blood pressure up.  

    @James Puckett is not wrong that it is hard to craft a good EULA, but that's still no excuse for all the ill considered ideas that are in so many of them.  Mike, you are absolutely correct that many font EULAs read like they are written to punish the licensee who reads them.  This is because there are so many dos and don't that everyone knows will either not ever be enforced or only used as leverage if there is an license enforcement over a more easily identified infringement.  That means the only people who suffer are the ones who know they are there.

    Products clauses are hard.  I think it is completely fair to want to essentially receive royalties if your IP is being used to increase the value of a product.  Most industries with this sort of intellectual output do receive royalties in this way.  (as I side note, I consider broadcast, logo, web and app clauses to be types of product clauses).  That said, do to the nature of the way fonts work in computers as well as the way users interact with fonts print forms is a really difficult kind of clause to implement (much less enforce). 

    In the last year we got rid of all print forms of product clauses because it was clear that embedding had enough use to cover the loss.  The idea that embedding, which requires more steps, would require additional licensing is just so much more intuitive.

    I should note that we still forbid letterform products.  When I say "forbid" I mean forbid not "require additional licensing for".  I labored over this because we can't stop someone from doing it in the first place and my entire life philosophy is build around the idea of accepting reality.   It seemed like a hill worth dying on.  We want to control the merchandising of our letterforms if it ever happens.  
  • Mike Wenzloff
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    Thing is (to me) that to restrict printing on physical widgets (coffee cups, pens or t-shirts) without special pricing being applied versus traditional print books? I can guarantee that the number of books have far outweighed the physical printing on widgets (as defined above). So I have never really understood that restriction, per se.

    As regards film credits, titles, signage in a film or building, et al? Naw, I get that part. I have clients I'll do a series of work for (brochures, pricing lists, newsletters, books etc) for that get one price. But the drug companies and large publishing houses I do similar work for? Nope. They get a different price in part calculated against their gross revenues.

    This topic has at one and the same time fascinated and frustrated me. It is sometimes hard to do the right thing. It is far easier these days being semi-retired—I don't have 7 people I am trying to herd (keep compliant being one of those tasks).

    While I have made fonts beginning in about 1990 (with a long break in there), I have only done so as bespoke fonts (and or drawing the inked design or doing OT Features) and while I refer to the agreement in the font licensing field, it is a contract that is not really different than my design/layout work. 
  • Stuart Sandler
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    It's been a few years since this thread was created and I thought it'd be a good time to check in on Figma's use of fonts. Here's what I found: https://www.dittowords.com/docs/handling-missing-fonts-in-figma

    Basically if it's not installed locally on your desktop, it's not useable to Figma. I find this approach refreshing and it does a lot to protect foundries by not simply openly allowing any and all found files to be uploaded willy-nilly just by clicking an 'I own the license' checkbox like Adobe CC and Canva do.

    This MAY not be the case with the larger Organization and Enterprise plans at Figma but I have no way to test this as I don't have a Figma account.

    Certainly as users move to on-demand browser based design tools where fonts are concerned, there is still an opportunity as a foundry to collaborate with or restrict ones fonts to be on-boarded without some sort of meaningful proof of license ownership or a meaningful gateway that would encourage customers to purchase fonts they wish to use on a per-platform basis since desktop EULA's don't extend to transferring the font files to any 3rd party let alone an online design tool.
  • John Butler
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    In this age of multi-socket, multi-core workstations, replace “CPU” with “interrupt controller.”
  • jeremy tribby
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    Basically if it's not installed locally on your desktop, it's not useable to Figma. I find this approach refreshing and it does a lot to protect foundries by not simply openly allowing any and all found files to be uploaded willy-nilly just by clicking an 'I own the license' checkbox like Adobe CC and Canva do.

    This MAY not be the case with the larger Organization and Enterprise plans at Figma but I have no way to test this as I don't have a Figma account.
    I can confirm it is not the case - being able to upload a font to figma and have it serve your organization is one of the organization and enterprise plans' selling points

  • Thomas Phinney
    Thomas Phinney Posts: 2,770
    edited December 2023
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    I can also confirm this capability exists in at least the enterprise plan.
  • Stuart Sandler
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    @jeremy tribby and @Thomas Phinney thank you for the confirmation. Indeed that is disappointing news and in fact adds insult to injury knowing that perhaps the largest organizations who would be in fact require larger desktop End User and possibly require usage beyond default EULA terms are end running them via this mechanism.

    I'll see if there is a party at Figma I can connect with to explore a more meaningful remedy to what is at minimum unlicensed End Users.
  • James Puckett
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    It’s probably time to add a section about cloud apps like Canva and Figma to EULAs.
  • Thomas Phinney
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    I think what would be super reasonable would be a way for Figma Enterprise and Organization accounts to make fonts available only to subsets of users, and/or to work with cloud-based font management solutions.

    In other words, if a cloud app is going to start to do font management by making fonts available to all the users on a group account, it needs to finish the job.

    I did some consulting for Figma back in the day, starting almost exactly a decade ago.
  • Stuart Sandler
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    @Thomas Phinney ultimately, organizations such as Figma, Adobe and Canva have no incentive to finish the job. Truly, they're only concerned with making sure these platforms are easy to use for their users and they don't wish to be bothered with providing a meaningful gateway for either font license validation or purchase.

    Further, I don't think font management software providers can or want to perform the task or the responsibility of licensing audits which is in part why Monotype has taken this role on to its sole benefit (eg. Free font audit = All font licensing via us)

    Ultimately we must all realize the buck stops at the foundry level as there are no advocates, safeguards or programs in place with these organizations.
  • Christopher Slye
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    Stuart, I can’t tell what your proposed solution is. You say “some sort of meaningful proof of license ownership.” Do you want heavy-handed DRM? What would you have instead of a click-through acknowledgement? I certainly understand that click-throughs are weak as a mechanism to impose accountability on end users, but what could any application developer do that wouldn’t completely alienate their customers? I don’t think there are a lot of good options.

    At Adobe, I firmly insisted (to the point of annoying various product managers) that “cloud fonts” uploaded by a CC user only be available to that user — i.e. that uploaded fonts never be shareable with other users. (Since I left, I believe they’ve implemented one or more enterprise plans that allow company-wide sharing of fonts.) This has always seemed to me a rational way to implement this kind of feature — a good compromise between license security and user convenience. Believe me, even that click-through message was seen as unnecessary user friction by most product PMs at the time.

    As for a font EULA that doesn’t allow the licensee to upload the font to a web app or service so they can be used by that user, I think that’s really shortsighted. Per-CPU licensing is useful in certain cases, but in general I think any EULA today should allow the end user to install and use a font wherever they want — for their own use; I don’t mean making it available to unlicensed users.