EULAs: No Modifications Clauses.

Some font vendors (e.g. Adobe) specifically allow modifications of their fonts, but many (I suspect most) specifically prohibit any form of modification in their EULAs.

I can think of a number of reasons (three main ones, really) why foundries might want such a clause but, as someone who isn’t actually involved in the type business, I have no idea of whether the reasons I’ve come up with are actually the same reasons which motivate font vendors.

I was wondering if anyone who includes a no-modification clause in their EULA might be willing to share their rationale on this issue.

Any insights would be appreciated,



  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,402
    Raise expectations of what, James?
  • edited November 2017
    I've hranted on about this a few times before.
    Short version: the no-mod clause is unethical.
  • Thanks, Hrant, for the links to earlier threads which I hadn’t seen.
  • Some inexperienced upstart design company make amends to your font for a new corporate design package, and when it all goes 'tits-up' the situation gets reflected on you.  - Been there, seen it!
  • Modify your lawnmower, and the warranty is gone. The undue expense the manufacturer incurs is spending the time handling the support call, and demonstrating it was modified. Unless you're a behemoth like Microsoft that has to worry about armies of clueless and potentially public-image–destroying customers who don't even consciously pay for the product, these costs are negligible, certainly in our field. Especially in comparison to the mini-lifetime you spent actually making the thing. 

    Foundries have increasingly taken up the no-mod clause because they can get away with pointing at each other's use of the clause while potentially entrapping customers who naturally have never read the EULA, because they're humans who have a life. For every customer who ruins your font and wastes a few hours of your life trying to get you to fix it, there's another customer who has to either dump your font or modify it behind your back because you want to charge him an arm & a leg to do it some time next month.

    The "purity" perception @Thomas Phinney brings up is also something to put in its place. A font never belongs completely to you, and you're not some ethereal being incarnate that conceived this immaculate thing only you could ever understand.

    The risks come with the territory. It's not ethical to have what is essentially a hidden cost of licensing your fonts, and not ethical to pretend the design belongs 100% to you.

    It's high time to start concertedly shaming EULAs with a no-mod clause.
  • I presume the main motivation for a no-modification clause is that it is perceived as discouraging font piracy. After all, modifying a font involves work, and so people might be tempted not to do that work twice.

    The obvious argument against a no-modification clause is that after a font is used to prepare a document, the document can then be modified to change the appearance of the characters in it. Modifying the font for one's own use just makes it easier to achieve the same result.
  • Every creator has a right to disallow modification of their work, and as long as the EULA forbids the distribution of the modified font "software" I can see two reasons why someone would be against modification:

    1) support, as many people have said. This one is easy: say you won't support modified versions in the same EULA
    2) questionable design choices. If your typeface is rekerned badly, or some glyph is changed by the customer and then this modified font is used to create their logo or to print their annual report, someone might say, "Lord, this is an ugly font, who designed it? - Looks like Foo by John McTypedrawer. - He must be a terrible designer". This might happen even if your EULA forbids mentioning your name if your font is modified.
  • The risk of questionable modifications does not seem like a good reason to me for a no-mod clause. Why? Because there are already many perfectly legal ways to mess up the way any typeface looks: by switching from metrical to optical kerning; by using extreme tracking values; by applying outlines to the glyphs; by slanting Roman glyphs instead of using designed italics etc. As we all know, these are things that can easily be applied to entire documents – not just to individual glyphs. And as we all know, these are not just theoretical possibilities, but users do this every day.

    Given this, what’s the point of prohibiting users from fixing a kerning value? I’d recommend type designers to relinquish the idea that they have any control whatsoever over the way their typefaces are used once the fonts have gotten into someone else’s hands – for better or for worse.
  • This one might be missing: To charge for executing to said modifications.
  • I have a hybrid of these things. You can modify the fonts, but you can’t redistribute, you can only use the modified work within the limits set by the license you paid for, I can’t offer support, and I recommend hiring me if you want to retain support and, last but not least, have the modifications done by a pro.
  • Ben BlomBen Blom Posts: 250
    Hrant H. Papazian: It’s high time to start concertedly shaming EULAs with a no-mod clause.

    Is this a call for intolerance—by someone who advocates diversity and tolerance? The contents of EULAs are, in the end, a business decision. It doesn’t make sense to draw the shame card for this.

  • edited November 2017
    This one might be missing: To charge for executing to said modifications.

    @Robin Mientjes I'm very glad to hear you allow modification. Yes, definitely no redistribution in any case. But how do you define "pro" and do you try to mandate that?

    BTW, I would further stipulate alerting the foundry before modifying, giving credit to the original when the modified version is promoted, and sending the resultant modification to the foundry. Besides accounting and accountability, these create an opportunity to critique the modification (perhaps even learn from it) and promote your own solution (culturally and financially). 
    Ben Blom said:
    Is this a call for intolerance—by someone who advocates diversity and tolerance? The contents of EULAs are, in the end, a business decision. It doesn’t make sense to draw the shame card for this.
    Society is not a business decision. Pressuring people to change behavior you find immoral is not remotely intolerance. It's how we become something much more than individuals on a farm.
  • For what it's worth, I allow modifications of my fonts because I am only secondarily a type designer and primarily a graphic designer. The number of times I have needed to modify a font in the last ten years is under a dozen, but each time the change made a huge difference to a job or even recurring tasks. Reasons for needing a mod have included an errant kerning pair, a missing character (é - I'm looking at you) and problems with glyph outlines that made the postscript printer puke spikes through my text. None of these were hard things to fix, and the production environment I was living in would not have allowed time for me to politely inquire of the original designer to fix them. The idea that I shouldn't be allowed to fix errors is absurd to me, especially when I'm dealing with a font that comes from a lessor designer (in which category I include myself). The idea of a no change clause strikes me as more specific but in the same category as not allowing fonts to be sent to a printer. Impractical.

    A clause that states that the designer is in no way responsible for modified fonts is eminently reasonable.
  • Ben BlomBen Blom Posts: 250
    edited November 2017
    Hrant H. Papazian: Society is not a business decision. Pressuring people to change behavior you find immoral is not remotely intolerance.

    I don’t see a relationship here with society at large. Selling a EULA, is selling a package of rights. I don’t understand, why not including a specific right in such a package (the right to modify), can be called ‘immoral’. Please explain.

  • edited November 2017
    @Ben Blom I try to see relationships. It's not merely not including a right, it's excluding one. One that you've inescapably enjoyed yourself when making the typeface, because you stood on the shoulders of others. You must therefore make your own shoulders available to society. Taking advantage of legalisms (and the human nature of avoiding them, like not reading a EULA) to make more money and/or fan your "Don't touch my Art!" ego is immoral.
  • Ben BlomBen Blom Posts: 250
    edited November 2017

    Most inventors stand on the shoulders of earlier inventors. Most songwriters stand on the shoulders of earlier songwriters. Etc. Is that a reason to limit one’s rights to one’s invention, song, or...? A natural right to modify other people’s fonts, is just a pipe dream.

    Hrant H. Papazian: Taking advantage of legalisms (and the human nature of avoiding them, like not reading a EULA) to make more money and/or fan your “Don’t touch my Art!” ego is immoral.

    If this would be true, then this would be true too:

    Taking advantage of other people’s work to make more money by offering one’s service to modify other people’s work and/or fan a “Do touch other people’s work!” mantra, is immoral.

    I think both these statements are untrue. Perhaps there is a lot not to like in these statements—but there is no immorality to be seen in them.

  • edited November 2017
    The reviewer recognised it as a derivative of one of ours and raked us over the coals.
    Is there a typo there? The reviewer raked you over the coals for what, exactly?
    JoyceKetterer said:
    decent amount of infringements do start with an unauthorized derivative of one kind or another.
    Even more start with unmodified versions...


    Once you say No in the EULA, you're encouraging underground modification, which I contend is what ends up harming your reputation most, not least among your customers.
  • @Hrant H. Papazian  I've already had this conversation with you and don't need to do it again.  I'll engage with new people on this topic only.
    Sure, but since discourse is not about you and me, it would be useful to link to past exchanges.

  • as others begin to figure out and implement what "Open Source" fonts mean, 
    What does that mean? :)
  • "That"? can be an adjective, conjunctive or some other stuff, you can look it up?

    In other news, Plex, e.g. has 2 binaries published. Decovar has two ufos published. Not an easy spot to openly develop, to or from. And there is not just one reason for these things. But it is one reason I always start with a 2048 quadratic master. And the facts that
    1. no font tool will open other tool's binaries and generate the same binary, and
    2. no two font tools will open the same binary and generate the same binary and
    3. no source format can be opened by all tools, and even if it could be
    4. no two tools would generate the same binary from that same source,
    5. and no tools actually help the user much to know the effects of mods they make,
    ...all mean mods can happen all over the place that are not known to the casual or intermediate modifier. So, right now, I think, you rationalize "open source" to mean whatever it can. Later, is the future. That's all that means.

  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,175
    edited November 2017

    It seems iA Writer had no issue making a useful derivative of Plex, despite no source files and build script. 

    So do all these unintentional mods you mention matter? Seems not to have mattered for iA. 

    You mention Decovar. Since the decovar UFO sources are the ones actually used for development, and the build process you took to generate the binary you distribute is documented, it should be possible for any one to follow that process and get a binary which differs only in trivial ways (timestamps, etc.) If they use another process, that's up to them. 

    For me the important thing isn't in these details; it's that if the license is libre, the details can be changed by anyone who cares that they be different. 
  • It is a big world out there Mr. Crossland; if you to pick a practically font-free application that Only offers the user choice of language and input of words, that’s a little bit different from most applications. And, you want to choose a typeface family that has zero installed-base of documents, so no one cares about the consistency of the font, good. Then also pick a font that has no visual history. Congratulations plex works. 
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