Figma and font licensing

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? 


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • ...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?
  • OK. I have a few motherboards that utilize 2 CPUs.
    I'm pretty sure that, where licensing is concerned, CPU is interpreted as 'workstation'.
  • SiDanielsSiDaniels Posts: 277
    The OP's scenario is another reason why font licenses (like most other software licenses) should move to a user, rather than CPU/workstation, based model. If the font is accessible to a specific set of users, we shouldn't care if it's on a hard drive, thumb drive or in the cloud, as long as the users are licensed. 
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 780
    edited April 2018
    @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.
  • @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.  
  • 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 PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,956
    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.
  • @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.  
  • 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. 
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