Commercial licenses and EULA cribbing

ahleman's picture

I've recently been approached by a small-time scrapbooking entrepreneur who wants to make a set of rubber stamps out of a couple fonts of mine, and possibly stickers, and stencils, and who knows what else. Although on the one hand such exposure could be great, on the other it could get out of control. I know Stuart Sandler and Richard Kegler, among others, have talked in these forums about some of these issues, but I wondered if others might have opinions about licensing digital fonts for non-digital adaptation/reproduction or use as "principal art."

I'm struggling to come up with license terms that protect my interests without simultaneously scaring away potential users of the fonts. P22 has developed an excellent Fair Use clause in their EULA which might serve as a model for smaller foundries to emulate, which draws a distinction between personal, professional, and commercial uses. Is it kosher to borrow clauses from other people's EULAs? Although I wouldn't crib P22's license agreement in its entirety, it does contain concepts I'd like to work into my own EULA. My "foundry" is both very small and very young, and exposure might be good for its own sake. I want the fonts to be out there in the world, getting used, you know? On the other hand, exposure in the scrapbook market is probably a dead end, commercially. There are font foundries of every size, and the license terms that make sense for one company might or might not make sense for another. Then again, perhaps a foundry is just as big as its ambitions and its professionalism.

A royalty-based commercial license makes the most sense, but I think it would be difficult to apply when both the user and the fontmaker are relatively small operations. At the moment I'm leaning toward a one-year "experimental" license for a flat fee. When the year expires both parties can review how it worked out and renegotiate for a royalty-based commercial license or terminate their relationship. Any thoughts, fellow fontmongers?

joevdb's picture

Scrapbooking isn't necessarliy the dead end we might think. There is a fortune to be made (by some) in that field. It's exploding and going upscale now. I was at the National Stationery Show last month and some large vendors show an astonishing range of type: digital, physical, and even dry-transfer (it's back!)

I attended a trend session in which the presenter actually said "Typefaces are a trend" People collect them and like them. Non-designers, even scrapbookers.

While I'm skeptical of how much some scrapbooking firms respect the licenses for fonts, I have licensed one font in this field and am satisifed it was a fair deal.

I've also been approached by rubber stamp co.s and have never been offered a fair price. One even wanted to pay $15 extra to have the right to produce stamps. Sorry, no thanks!

Joe

stampguy's picture

I'm such a stamping entrepreneur as described above, and might have even contacted some of you in the early days of our enterprise (we're about 2 months old). I just came across this forum, and wanted to let you know that this is something that we struggle with too. One of the things that we decided at the outset of our business, was not to produce a stamp without an explicit agreement in place from the font designer, and financial arrangements executed. We hope that this will set us apart in both our customer's eyes, and in the eyes of the font community as a company dedicated to fairness.

The trade off for us becomes whether the font license makes producing the stamps from it prohibitive. In our initial run, we only were able to work with font designers that made sense financially as well as from a design perspective. We have designers charge us as low as $15 for fonts, and designers who proposed licensing in the $3000+ range. Obviously, for a startup enterprise whose viability had not yet been proven, the high end ones were fairly easy to walk away from. If in the youth of our company, I offended any of you in our dealings, I am sincerely sorry.

Now to the reason I'm here:
I'm trying as well to come up with a defined offer to font designers that is fair to both parties. Our volumes are still small, so royalties are hard to do, but a structured arrangement based on quantities would be fine.

Any suggestions?

tamye's picture

Unfortunately, some (many?) of the companies making these products do not obtain appropriate licensing for the fonts they use. Some don't even bother to buy a single license for the font in the first place, but use fonts they snagged from friends or off the net. Some rename the fonts and then resell them as their own designs. These practices are nothing new, it's just happening in a new market.

I've seen several P22 fonts, the ever-popular and ripped of Cezanne in particular; of course, Stuart's popular fontdiner.com font is everywhere, and most recently, entire sticker alphabets made from Nick Shinn's FF Fontesque.

I think there is some potential here for type designers, but only if these companies start respecting the rights of other creatives as much as they demand respect for their own.

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