What to do about our fonts after we die?

 A collection of good fonts is valuable part of our estate after we die, but ensuring its continued financial exploitation in the best interests of our beneficiaries is probably difficult.
I know that The Type Founders are keen to do deals, but I'm curious if anyone has had thoughts or ideas for the inevitable event.
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Comments

  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,367
    Whether the license is even transferable might depend on the license, no?
  • I'm not thinking of this from the perspective of a licensee, but as a type designer with a library of fonts the ownership of which would be transferred to my family. They would not know how to exploit the IP, so the obvious thing would be to have a reseller and the family receive royalties.
    The other option would be to sell all rights to the fonts for a lump sum, the price of which would need careful consideration.

    I wonder if any of us here have made these arrangements, and how best to do it.
  • KP MawhoodKP Mawhood Posts: 291
    edited November 4
    Whether the license is even transferable might depend on the license, no?
    I second this. I remember trying to hunt down missing licenses at OUP (aka orphan licenses). If we couldn't find the source, we wouldn't proceed with the risk unless absolutely necessary (i.e. impossible to extract from a reprint). This also held true for licenses that neither had a shopfront, nor a valid email address.
  • I'm considering donating mine to a national charity.
  • Donating proceeds to a national charity sounds fine but I doubt they know how to sell fonts.
  • George ThomasGeorge Thomas Posts: 602
    edited November 5
    Donating proceeds to a national charity sounds fine but I doubt they know how to sell fonts.
    I would not expect them to know how to sell the fonts. It would all have to be planned carefully ahead of time.
    A printing museum is also a possibility.
  • A type designer of my acquaintance recently had a severe stroke, so this topic has been going around in my mind as well. Like many of you, I have a family that doesn't have any interest in my font business. I've been mulling over various options, but the one thing that's clear to me is that I need to start figuring this out in earnest. 
  • Donate fonts to company which name starts with M? :smile:

    Design schools might be one of the options.
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 696
    edited November 6
    Paraphrasing Gore Vidal, my legacy is what I will put to the fire before I die.
    Haters-traitors don't deserve it and helpers don't need it. There were hundreds of the first kind and the others I can count on one hand.
    Smash that Disagree button all you like.


  • After having dealt with both my parent's estates recently, and knowing that some estates can be very complex, having a clear account of the things we own is a great help to those we leave. I would go as far as saying that it is irresponsible not to have a plan in place.
  • Miles NewlynMiles Newlyn Posts: 189
    edited November 6
    @Vasil Stanev Don't you have loved ones, spouse, children, that you wish to benefit from your efforts in life?
  • @Vasil Stanev Don't you have loved ones, spouse, children, that you wish to benefit from your efforts in life?
    Going a bit off topic here, but in my view inheritance is one of the least fair financial institutions. It perpetuates the value of capital over work, and gives capital to people who have done nothing to deserve it.

    That being said, I can fully understand that people want the best for their kids.

    Anyway, I guess all I'm saying is that there is something to be said for donating monetary value to some charity or government. Letting it go to waste by not making any arrangements seems wasteful indeed.
  •  …, but in my view inheritance is one of the least fair financial institutions. It perpetuates the value of capital over work, and gives capital to people who have done nothing to deserve it. …
    Do you have children? (if I may ask –)
  • Yes you may ask, no I don't, but it's also irrelevant for the point. Like I said, I can imagine the desire to leave them something behind. One could also argue (against my previous point) that inheritance is all the more important in a world where capital is more valuable than work. I guess it's a matter of pragmatism vs idealism, and I'm only presenting an argument on the idealist side. Do with it what you want.

    If I were the government, I would tax the hell out of inheritance, but I'm not the government :)
  • I know politics is everywhere but I thought  this forum was a serious one and not another Twitter or Facebook. Some last interventions are completely off topic with the spirit of this forum!
  • Yes you may ask, no I don't, but it's also irrelevant for the point.

    If I were the government, I would tax the hell out of inheritance, but I'm not the government :)
    Yes, this is going to turn off-topic, but I feel strongly inclined to make one more remark on this.

    1st, to have children or not is definitely not irrelevant for the point. (I have one child.)
    If you raise a child, this certainly influences your view on certain things. 

    2nd, your desire to “taxe the hell out of inheritance” is pure envy and communism. It’s the safe way into hell for a civilized society, because the possibility of inheritance as such (of whatever kind) is a means for accumulating values, potentials and achievements, not only pecuniary ones.
    Transfering these thoughts to the issue of a type designer’s legacy, the money aspect will in most cases be only a secondary one. For a lot of my typefaces, they developed over the years and customer relations play an eminent role in their ‘fate’ and future prospects. Who is going to continue this, one day? This question bothers me most. However, this is for sure: if my legacy would one day get “hell-taxed” off after my passing (as you suggest) by some anonymous, irresponsible and incompetent state body, only because of the fact that I took my final lodging under the lawn, this would be definitely also the death of the work of my lifetime, the long-term users of my products being the aggrieved party in the first place.

  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,236
    I've been releasing some of my older/less profitable fonts into the public domain, and I plan to keep doing that. But I don't know how that type of thing could be executed in a will.
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,206
    I've been releasing some of my older/less profitable fonts into the public domain, and I plan to keep doing that. But I don't know how that type of thing could be executed in a will.
    You just let your executors figure it out 😂
  • Rob BarbaRob Barba Posts: 80
    I don't have any kids and I'm not particularly close to my nieces or nephews.  I've been considering giving the rights and company over to an art charity/foundation when me and my wife pass, and thankfully they'd know what to do with it.  But even thinking about it, well, it's both one of those things that you need to and yet dread at the same time.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,298
    This thread is about the fonts, but I hope some of you are also thinking about posthumous homes for your libraries, sketches, papers, etc. Odds-wise, not many of you will be become the subject of some future historian's interest, but if it happens that sort of archival material is priceless. 
  • The Central Lettering Record has been kind to archive some of my original drawings. I don't know if this collection is still being updated.
  • those who disagreed, some reasoning, anyone – ??


  • I fear that this discussion is getting too political, and this is probably not the best place for such a debate. I had a major part in that, so I apologize for derailing the conversation. I will respond to Andreas and then leave this thread.

    @Andreas: I have the feeling that our political views don't align, and that is fine. For some background to my view, you could for example read this (an account is free). My main reason for disagreeing, however, is your insistence on the importance of me not having kids. In my view, this is an 'ad hominem' argument suggesting that my opinion is somehow less valid or important than someone else's because of who I am. This is a dangerous train of thought that does not foster an open and productive debate. I believe we should be having discussions with a diversity of people and ideas, based on the quality of the arguments rather than who supplied them.
  • I'll bite :)
    Yes you may ask, no I don't, but it's also irrelevant for the point.

    If I were the government, I would tax the hell out of inheritance, but I'm not the government :)
    Yes, this is going to turn off-topic, but I feel strongly inclined to make one more remark on this.

    1st, to have children or not is definitely not irrelevant for the point. (I have one child.) 

    If you raise a child, this certainly influences your view on certain things. 
    It didn't change my view on this topic at all: I'll be 40 next year, I have two kids now, my son is nearly 3 years and my daughter nearly 6 months.

    I should additionally disclose my experience on the other side: My parents died young, in 2003 and then 2004, orphaning myself and my two sisters. Due mainly to life insurance payouts, but some pensions and residential properties, the estate was about £1,600,000. 

    About £250,000 was not taxed, which was about the value of the single residency suburban provincial home we lived in, and then the remainder was taxed at 40%, so after probate the estate passed on to each of us about £350,000. 

    The effective inheritance tax rate I paid was about 33%.

    This seemed fair to me, then and now. Is this "hell taxed"? I'm not sure, curious what you lot think 

    2nd, your desire to “taxe the hell out of inheritance” is pure envy and communism.

    I disagree strongly with this statement. All states today are socialist - arguably since the end of the gold standard under FDR and certainly since the end of Keynes' Bretton-Woods system under Nixon; they can not continue under pure capitalism, and require state intervention to survive. So, the only question is, will that socialism benefit the few, or the many?

    Communism is properly defined as the post-capitalist era of humanity, meaning the abolition/obsolescence of capitalism, surplus value, paid labour, money, taxes, and therefore the state. So the idea that the state taxing people is communism, is a weird exaggeration and contradiction in terms. It can only be mere socialism. 
    It’s the safe way into hell for a civilized society, because the possibility of inheritance as such (of whatever kind) is a means for accumulating values, potentials and achievements, not only pecuniary ones.
    Initially, this seemed very romantic and idealist; since non-material value (like the fact a person did a thing when alive, or held particular values dear) has by definition no commodity form of value, and therefore no convertibility to the money form of value, it therefore isn't subject to taxation. If so, it would seem to me that human civilization remains in its present medial form, between feudalism and leisure, completely unaffected by the estate tax rate of any jurisdiction. 

    However, upon re-reading it closely to reply here, then I realized my initial reading was a misunderstanding: As you go on to say in the text quoted below, your achievements in creating a typeface are to a large extent subject to that typeface being in continual use. The type history books are filled with 1,000s of designs that have never been digitized and have become extremely obscure. Proprietary software and fonts are by definition locked up behind very very long copyright terms, and that means, if the heirs to your estate don't figure out a way to keep these fonts available for use, they will fall out of use, and in a grim way, compared to if they remain in use, they cease to exist.

    And I expect a downside you see with making the fonts in an estate libre upon the designer's passing, is with passing up the "potential" you state - by which I believe you mean, the potential for on-going economic-rents to accrue. I would be surprised to hear that such speculative pecuniary value is factored into any estate tax assessment, though.

    Transferring these thoughts to the issue of a type designer’s legacy, the money aspect will in most cases be only a secondary one. For a lot of my typefaces, they developed over the years and customer relations play an eminent role in their ‘fate’ and future prospects. Who is going to continue this, one day? This question bothers me most. 
    Perhaps this is, then, the upside, to leaving the OFL release of fonts in a Will: Everyone in the world is at liberty to use, modify, redistribute, and modify+redistribute, the work. Then the answer to, who would continue it, is answered with, anyone who wants to, including the users themselves.

    (During some extended time-off paternity-leave benefit from my employer this year, I returned to the work of an author and polemicist whose work I much admired and influenced me when I was studying the MATD, 2007-2008; John Taylor Gatto, an arch USA school critic. He concludes one of his essays: "After a long life and 30 years in the public school trenches, I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.")
    However, this is for sure: if my legacy would one day get “hell-taxed” off after my passing (as you suggest) by some anonymous, irresponsible and incompetent state body, only because of the fact that I took my final lodging under the lawn, this would be definitely also the death of the work of my lifetime, the long-term users of my products being the aggrieved party in the first place.
    I have no experience with this, but if you really mean you would expect the title to the work to be transferred to the state, I would really be surprised to learn that is how estate taxes work - in any jurisdiction. Rather, in the probate process the value of the estate is assessed, and if there is not enough liquid capital to pay the taxes due, then the executors will liquidate capital, until there is.

    So really I think the question here is, how would the value of the copyrights to typefaces be assessed in probate? I guess, if you run your business as a LLC or LTD or whatever your local corporate shell form is called, then the copyrights are owned by the company, and the company has equity represented as shares that are reported annually in the company tax returns, and so the money form of value of the typefaces becomes bound up in the money form of value of the company equity, and your estate would include the number of shares you own. Based on the publication of such returns by type foundries in jurisdictions like the UK, I understand the value of such companies is rather low - and likely below the UK threshold for estate tax. So, no liquidation ;)

    If you really want to (legally!) minimize estate taxes, though, then you set up a trust, and transfer the title of various capital, including things like real estate, to the trust, before you pass, so that those things aren't part of the estate.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,236
    I wish there was a digital locker where I could store public domain versions of my fonts. Every five years, I'd be required to log in to prevent them from being released. Then when I get crushed by an elephant (probably how I'll die) they'll get released into public domain without requiring the Disney mandated interval.
  • Eris AlarEris Alar Posts: 378
    Hey all, mod here, as a few have noted this thread has been derailed a little. If the intersection of politics and type design are topics you wish to discuss regularly raise it with the mod team and we will see what can be worked out. As it stands, this thread is primarily about the practical steps someone might take to ensure their work finds a home when they themselves die. Thanks for keeping it civil. 
  • Eris AlarEris Alar Posts: 378
    @Ray Larabie could it be a part of your will that your work goes to somewhere like The Letterform Archive or Archive.org or a similar institution? There is also The Public Domain Review who might be worth looking at as they might have resources to help? 
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,236
    @Eris Alar I suppose they could go there. But someone who hasn't been flattened by an elephant would have to place those fonts into the public domain, and I don't think they'd have the authority to do that.
  • Eris AlarEris Alar Posts: 378
    in my mind I my mind I was thinking you could potentially use one of those places as your digital locker, set it all up with them ahead of time and then have it in your will that they release them? 
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