Thoughts on Web Licencing

I've been researching the various means to embed fonts on the web off and on lately, and aside from giving me a headache with its numerous options and implementation methods, there was something about it that didn't sit with me. Foundries are starting to charge extra for the right to embed fonts on the web. I'm sure you're all aware of this by now, and from the lack of discussion about it that I could find here, I'd suppose you range from okay with it to gung-ho.

Before I go on, let me say that I am an aspiring type designer who would, if it were viable, prefer to make a living on that alone. I have not, however lost touch with the needs, wants and rights of the consumer. Therefore, I can't feel right about this "give them the car, sell them the gas" policy. Incidentally I also believe that every typeface should be available free for non-commercial uses, though that's just an ideal of my own and I respect others' option to charge for it.

There used to be a time when you owned something after you bought it.

Florian Hardwig's picture

Fonts are not cars. Having said that, you actually can buy and, somehow, ‘own’ a typeface. It is called custom type (or ‘exclusive rights’) and will cost you the equivalent of a car. Licensing a font is more akin to renting a car. Most providers will prohibit taking the fonts to the web, or charge extra for it. Just like most car rental services do for taking the car across the border.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

There are discussions on the topic. Just do a google search for "site:typophile.com web licensing". As of now, the discussion is more geared towards the quality (hinting) than price: http://typographica.org/2010/on-typography/the-webfont-revolution-is-ove...

Si_Daniels's picture

I'm not sure I follow the argument. If you accept that @font-face distribution is new functionality that has value to their customers (in the same way as extended character sets and OpenType features have value), the font designers have two options. Charge more for a font and include these rights in their standard license, or charge separately for these extended rights under a supplemental license. I think option 2 seems more sensible, most customers don't need the distribution rights.

>There used to be a time when you owned something after you bought it.

That's a myth. :-)

billdavis's picture

Tristan, you are entitled to distribute your fonts under any model you choose. I believe what you'll find is that there are some common models that tend to resonate better with customers. Yes, one of the reasons that many type designers and foundries have been slow to adopt web fonts is that they require an extended license beyond the current EULAs covering desktop usage.

In addition, as Frank pointed out there indeed significant quality and technology issues that need to be considered as part of any web fonts solution.

Stephen Coles's picture

Foundries are starting to charge extra for the right to embed fonts on the web.

That's one way to look at it. Foundries who are investing massive amounts to optimize their fonts for the web see it differently.

One of the points of my post is that a good webfont is not the same as a print font. Sure, you can do nothing to your fonts and simply allow them to be used online. But if you want to do it right, you must spend money and/or time on extensive preparation (kerning, redesign) to make it work as well on Windows as most paying customers expect. This makes it a separate product deserving of its own price.

That price is most fairly determined by the size of the user, be it a single blogger or a Fortune 500 company with a popular website.

Arno Enslin's picture

@ Florian

Fonts are not cars.

Wow! If a deserved member of this forum admits that, it is like the Pope would admit, that god has not created the human.

@ Tristan

I couldn’t agree more. Or no, I can: If someone already has licensed a font, which then becomes available as webfont, it is pure rip-off, if he has to pay for a license a second time, especially if the font was not optimized for screen use. Furthermore it is pure rip-off, if you have to decide, if you want to license the PostScript or the TrueType flavored version of a font. And it is rip-off, if you license the pro version of a font and you get only the pro version, although it also is available as subset variety.

Actually many foundries don’t sell webfonts, but webfont licenses only. Webfont does not mean, that you just pack a font into the woff, eot or svg format. Where is the effort of the foundry, that justifies an extra payment, if that, what they call a webfont, is absolutely not legible on screen? And if the half of the character set in that, what they call a webfont, can not be accessed by the browser, because it is not uniencoded (small caps in the pro version of a font, which is sold as webfont), why does the licensee has to pay the full price? And all these licenses, that forbid any modification, subsetting for example, they are beyond real life! It is like you would selling your childs to a factory and in the same time, you expect, that they don’t work there, because they could be harmed.

Some of you cannot decide, what they want to be – exalted creators or manufacturers. Especially body text typefaces are not primary art, but objects of utility. But many license agreements are so beyond real life, that I think, the licensee obviously is only allowed to put the fonts into a vitrine. One example: The license agreement of TypeCulture. The user is not allowed to embed the font into PDF, but has to convert the outlines. And in their specimen you can read, that the font may be printed more fat, because it was converted. On the other side this license was obviously no protection, because Expo and Expo Serif are floating around the web in original condition. Really, a psychiatry can only come to the conclusion, that the authors of those agreements are paranoid. And auto aggressive, because there are probably many potential licensees, that don’t purchase licenses, because they had to break the license, if they want to do anything else with the fonts than putting them in a vitrine.

Except from that there are masses of people, that are willing to accomplish cultural contributions for free. But they have to pay for each and everything. They cannot publish their work, because they would be liable to prosecution. And in the end the world looses their work. Alternatively they could do extra work for earning the money for the payment of all their digital materials (which cannot be stolen, because they are not physical stuff). And the more they work for money, the more they loose time for being creative. There is a point, at which strong copyright restrictions lead to cultural impoverishment, because you only can be creative, if you are professionally creative. And commercializing in art often ends in banalities.

Tristan Bowersox's picture

—One of the points my post is that a good webfont is not the same as a print font. Sure, you can do nothing to your fonts and simply allow them to be used online. But if you want to do it right, you must spend money and/or time on extensive preparation (kerning, redesign) to make it work as well on Windows as most paying customers expect. This makes it a separate product deserving of its own price.

I agree with this. To clarify, I was referring to what Arno is talking about—the webfonts by licence only. And even if there are optimized versions of a font available, I reserve the right to convert a non-optimized version I already own into a .woff, etc and use it on the web. That's something I can do for myself, as opposed to optimization which is legitimately a service done for me. It's ridiculous to charge for the former. I see it as being in the same category as trying to charge for the right to print a font on certain types of paper.

—Fonts are not cars. Having said that, you actually can buy and, somehow, ‘own’ a typeface. It is called custom type (or ‘exclusive rights’) and will cost you the equivalent of a car. Licensing a font is more akin to renting a car. Most providers will prohibit taking the fonts to the web, or charge extra for it. Just like most car rental services do for taking the car across the border.

The car metaphor is weak here. Having exclusive rights to a font is more like owning an entire line of cars, or maybe having a single custom car made. The renting argument doesn't make any sense—you don't return fonts, they can't be damaged, etc. If anything, a car-rental-related parallel would be if a new street was just paved and the rental place wanted to charge extra for you to be able to drive on it with their car. But really I don't think any of this car talk is illuminating or useful.

Ray Larabie's picture

Shop around. Some font companies don't charge extra for web embedding through certain sites. Some charge a little more for autohinting and a CSS stack. Some allow you to do your own conversions.

Incidentally I also believe that every typeface should be available free for non-commercial uses, though that's just an ideal of my own and I respect others' option to charge for it.

Be careful with that. I used to offer a lower or zero price for non commercial use. When I investigated, I found that customers don't understand the meaning of personal use. Personal use apparently means "I'm going to personally use this font for my business."

Ad agencies were constantly buying personal use licenses to use for commercial use. Roughly half of the personal use purchases were from domains which happened to be ad/design agencies.

I think it's human nature to buy the lowest price item and ignore the license agreement. If you make a font free you may as well make it free for commercial use because that's what people are going to use it for anyway.

Arno Enslin's picture

The expression personal use invites to misunderstanding. Non-commercial use is the better expression in my opinion.

Micropayment like Flattr could be an alternative to the free non-commercial use. And I assume, that it is easier to make out the illegal use of commercial webfonts than the illegal use of fonts in documents, that are created for printing, because in most cases you don’t have access to the digitized document, PDF for example. But in case of a webfont you can download it and check, if it is legally used.

Edited: Micropayment shall mean in this context, that not the owner of the website pay for the font, but the visitors of the website. The owner of the website places a button with the text “webfont donation” on his website. (But not on each page. Only on the start page.)

Or why not do the following: Someone wants to use a font for a non-commercial project. The address of the project is xyz.com. The commercial license costs 50 dollar per style. You could sell it for 10 or 15%, if it is used in a non-commercial web project and you only accept payments from an email-address, that belongs to xyz.com, alphabeta@xyz.com for example. In this way, you could check, if the project is really not commercial. As far as I remember you can connect a Moneybookers-account with more than one email-address.

Addition: Yes, why not place the licensee under the obligation to specify, on which website he wants to use your font? If you see, that your font is used on a website, that is not stored in your database, you know, that it is illegally used. If the website is non-commercial, the user pays 10 or 15%. If it is commercial, he pays 100%, but he gets additionally a free license for the print version of the font. But letting the customer pay twice (the FontFont model for example) is rip-off.

Arno Enslin's picture

And an idea for Germany: The citizens pay a culture tax dependent from their income. And they get a Flattr coupon for the tax. There could be different kinds of Flattr coupons. One for music, one for movies, one for software. If the citizen does not redeem the amount of the coupon in a certain period, the remaining amount is moved to a culture money pool. With the money in the pool projects like the renovation of historic monuments could be financed. Or a commission, that consists of non-politicians, which have outstanding services to culture, distributes the money to cultural projects. At the moment in Germany mainly politicians decide, which projects are worth to be financed, although most of them seem to miss any aesthetic feeling.

PabloImpallari's picture

Arno
I didn't know that Flattr existed. I will give it a try
Thanks!

Rob O. Font's picture

If one thinks of web font serving, as web font embedding, I'm not surprised. If foundries charge only for a license, for the customer to do all the the rest, that'd be an issue.

>I reserve the right to convert a non-optimized version I already own into a .woff, etc and use it on the web.

...that's clear enough! I want to reserve that right too! How many fonts do You Own?

David Sudweeks's picture

Or a commission, that consists of non-politicians, which have outstanding services to culture, distributes the money to cultural projects.
What would prevent the politicization of such a public servant position?

Nick Shinn's picture

I'm all for micro-payment, and look forward to the day when neural implants assure me a fee every time someone reads text in one of my fonts.

But then as now, type publishers will no doubt be free to decide how much they want to make off their work, be it a lot, a little, or nothing at all.

The market is wide open with products and licensing options, and this thing will sort itself out.

I would rather a fair market decide the outcome, not a bureaucracy.

Following my practice of distributing through multiple online retailers, Shinntype web fonts are available in several licensing options (FontSpring, WebINK and MyFonts), and the types I designed for FSI as Web FontFonts via FontShop. As always, it will be interesting to see how the different retailers and financial/technical/licensing formats fare relative to one another.

Richard Fink's picture

Nothing like a case study:

Coles has a point in that a web font ain't a print font. And the two require separate handling. (Amost always - IMHO.)
Now, Fontspring offers @font-face licenses. But if you take a look at Beaufort Pro, Nick Shinn's font - as a hinted TTF on the @font-face demo page - it has some glaring wierdnesses even in the mid-size range. Due to the hinting, of course - I'm looking in Windows GDI. I'm sure as a print font, it performs great.

This happens a lot.

Is someone going to pay more for a font adapted to browsers because it's free of distracting irregularities? (That does kind of seem like what SC is implying.)

Don't know. But it seems unlikely.

On the web, for anything in digital form, you compete with free. That's very difficult, of course. But the fact.

Nick Shinn's picture

Due to the hinting, of course - I'm looking in Windows GDI

It looks pretty good on a Mac screen.
I make no apologies for how it appears on Windows at certain sizes.

I supplied FontSpring with "desktop" OpenType CFF files, and they made the conversions to the web formats.

As I see it, the responsibility for screen-font appearance is split five ways:
- Foundry
- Reseller (also something of a manufacturer)
- User's device manufacturer
- User's browser application
- Web site designer: caveat emptor. The web designer is tasked with choosing a suitable font for the web page design, just as with print.

And to an extent, end users can bump up the type size if they want to improve the rendering.

However, as the typographer and font licensee, it is the web site designer who ultimately bears the most responsibility, and will control the market and how this plays out.

Also, in future there will be better screen resolution, and Windows will improve its font rasterization to take account of how poorly it deals with all these fonts which are now available through @fontface, compared to Mac :-)

Arno Enslin's picture

@ Nick

Also, in future there will be better screen resolution, and Windows will improve its font rasterization to take account of how poorly it deals with all these fonts which are now available through @fontface, compared to Mac :-)

I cannot comprehend, how someone can be in the opinion, that fonts are better rendered on the Mac.

And to an extent, end users can bump up the type size if they want to improve the rendering.

This proposal is so devious. I will for sure neither expect from the visitors of my website, that they bump up the type size, nor I will define display sizes per default. If that is required, than I prefer Arial, Verdana, Georgia, Trebuchet MS. Except I want to embed a font just for decoration or headlines.

I have asked Bitstream/Myfonts last week about their consent, that I subset Charter BT Pro. I am still waiting for a concluding answer. In case of Charter, it should be less problematic to give me the consent, because Myfonts is a subsidiary of Bitstream. If they insist in their beyound-real-life-EULA and if they expect, that I am waiting another decade, until the most used browsers can access all the unencoded characters in that font, I will not license it. Except from the missing encoding I want to subset it, because I don’t need all characters and I want to keep the files small. Just kick this absurd prohibition to modify anything in a font to trash! If I wanted to “steal” a font, I would just download it from a Russian website, because you only can break agreements, if you agree in agreements. So where the hell is the sense in the prohibition of modifications?

@ David Sudweeks

What would prevent the politicization of such a public servant position?

That is indeed a problem. How to ensure the independence of those commissions? At least I would expect, that no member of such a commission was/is member of a party. And naturally there should not be financial dependencies. Members of that commission had to make public, for which companies they have worked in their lifes, from whom they get money, in which organizations they were/are member and so on. But that is partly the same, as I expect it also from politicians and it cannot be all.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I make no apologies for how it appears on Windows at certain sizes.

Don't get me wrong: I agree that this burden can not be on the type designer, but you still have the responsibility to offer a product that is what it claims to be. IMO, many type designers don't when it comes to web fonts.

blank's picture

Don't get me wrong: I agree that this burden can not be on the type designer, but you still have the responsibility to offer a product that is what it claims to be.

Why should the burden of explaining how a font will render as text on Windows be dumped on type designers? Nobody expects type designers to explain that black italic type sucks for text in print. Web designers should be testing fonts themselves and making their own decisions about appropriateness and not expect type designers to hold their hands.

Nick Shinn's picture

… you still have the responsibility to offer a product that is what it claims to be …

It's a web font: the format is for web use, and so is the licence agreement.
As far as the rendering goes, the distributor presents a "cascaded size" specimen for potential licensees to appraise its appearance in action -- which is a better "look-see" than purchasers of fonts for print get—unless there is a comprehensive offset-printed specimen, which is quite unusual these days.

Web designers should be aware that all these new fonts they can now use instead of Georgia and Verdana are not hinted to the same standard. That's the trade off: way more selection, not so good rendering on Windows.

PabloImpallari's picture

To summarize:
- There is a concern that B&W hinting on most web font is not good for windows users.
- There is another concern, that licenses should allow the buyer of a webfont license to subset the font, to make OT features available (be it SmallCaps, OsF, Swash, etc..)

All I have to said, is that both concerns seems valid, but you have to keep in mind that all this web-fonts thing is really new and it's still evolving from his first steps.

Luckily, in some time:
- Web browsers will evolve and support OT features (I believe that the latest FF betas already support some OT features. FF 3.6 already have ligatures enabled by default) and hopefully sub-setting won't be needed (apart from file size optimizations).
- How fonts renders on Windows will evolve too??? I really hope that.

Manual TTF hinting to achieve a quality similar to Verdana, Gerogia, etc... is really really hard and time consuming, not to mention that only few people master that art.

As I see it, 4 or 5 years from now, fonts will render better (even without hinting), and OT features will be supported.

And good bless the new display technology, allowing for 4X pixel resolutions.

Santiago Orozco's picture

TT Hinting has never be as important as the last year and a half, it's for sure that most web typefaces don't make the cut for start licensing as webfonts, that for most indie foundries costs are prohibitive.
But, we'll get there soon.

As Nick points out, it looks a good strategy to test the fonts on several licensing models.

Richard Fink's picture

@dunwich type

"Web designers should be testing fonts themselves and making their own decisions about appropriateness and not expect type designers to hold their hands."

So, let me get this straight, except for the two weights/styles of Lorimar that you are offering for free, web designers should test the rest and not expect you to hold their hand. (And gee, I was looking forward to that, too... ;)

Is it on the p2p's already? Let me know and I'll test them out. And you can keep your hands in your pockets. But I won't be testing at $30.00 a throw. For thirty bucks, YOU test, not me.
It's not that you're wrong about testing, it's just that what you're saying is absurd in light of the demand that the user first buy, and then test.

And BTW - I think developer Ethan Dunham at Font Spring has done a bang up job.
But what is, is. Just wanted to get a range of opinion and find out how others see the situation. Sorry to put Nick Shinn on the spot, but he's a big boy and I was glad to hear his views, too.

blank's picture

It's not that you're wrong about testing, it's just that what you're saying is absurd in light of the demand that the user first buy, and then test.

With Fontspring it’s possible to view web fonts, using whatever browsers you wish, in a wide range of sizes, before purchasing. What assurances am I supposed to provide a user that would be of more use than actually seeing a preview of the fonts in a browser?

Rob O. Font's picture

>What assurances am I supposed to provide a user that would be of more use than actually seeing a preview of the fonts in a browser?

30 days for free testing? A history of quality? Documentation of the font's recommendations for use?

>... but you still have the responsibility to offer a product that is what it claims to be. IMO,

Lol, you mean just because it's called a web font, and offered on a web font web site, it should work on the web?

>I would rather a fair market decide the outcome, not a bureaucracy.

The fair market is snow-blowing money at solutions centered on unhinted ttfs, smart rendering and resolution-appropriate devices, brought to us by a bureaucracy known as Apple. Now what?!

Frode Bo Helland's picture

James and Nick: I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with you. To me, this feels just like those advertisements where you can buy a telephone for $1 but in reality won’t get a usable product unless you spend a hundred times that for the subscription. It’s all in the fine print off course, but nevertheless bad ethics.

Arno Enslin's picture

@ Nick

When you are talking about Windows, it sounds like you would talk about a potato, that is only eaten in Papua New Guinea. But it is just the other way around: Apple is the food, that is eaten in the Pampa.

If the license is for webfonts and if the format is a webfont format, it does not mean, that it really is a webfont. Woff is basically a container for the source font. And the license is totally unimportant with regard to the question, if a font is a webfont. Wow, I have a font with the license to be used as webfont. It must be a webfont. Where is the logic in that? Wow, I bought a fish. Doesn’t matter, if the fish is dead or made of plastics. I have the license to believe, that it is a fish. And therefore I can put it into my aquarium.

@ Pablo

Even if the most used browsers support OpenType features in the near future, I would like to keep the file sizes small. I want to remove the characters in Charter, that I will not use on my website. The superior alphabet for example. Except from the fact, that I don’t need it, it is incomplete. And I don’t know yet, if I need the small caps of the bold style.

Charter Pro renders on XP with the ClearType module very fine. It is more legible than Georgia! I don’t know, whether it is delta hinted.

Nick Shinn's picture

If the license is for webfonts and if the format is a webfont format, it does not mean, that it really is a webfont.

Arno, the train has left the station.

There is no technical standard for web font rasterization or hinting, which seems to be your main issue.
In order to open up the typeface world to web designers, and make available the vast range of typefaces promised by "@fontface", which, after all, is the point of the exercise, foundries and webfont distributors are selling types that have:
- a web licence
- format that works in web browsers to support "@fontface" and protect the rights of licensor and licensee
- TrueType hinting

De facto, that is the general definition of "web font".

The fair market is snow-blowing money at solutions centered on unhinted ttfs, smart rendering and resolution-appropriate devices, brought to us by a bureaucracy known as Apple. Now what?!

What am I supposed to do David, miss the boat on a point of honour?
Would you have I not make Shinntype fonts available for web use, because they only have basic hinting, not delta?
That would be poor business.

My fonts are distributed as web fonts by reputable companies, following the direction in which the industry is going.
Those distributors approached me and wanted my PostScript fonts, as is, and said they would turn them into web fonts (licence, wrapper, and TrueType autohinting), which they did.

The ball is in the web designer's court.
The smart ones will use fonts such as Beaufort more for display than body copy.

It's not like a font isn't a web font just because it's not delta hinted for optimum rendering in small body text.

Where is the logic in that?

By that criteria, any magazine display font that reads poorly in body text is not a print font.

Stephen Coles's picture

Well this goes to show that personal preference has a lot to do with screen render quality: Arno says he likes his Charter better than Georgia, and Windows rendering better than Mac, but I prefer Georgia on Mac any day over what I see in that spindly, boney, pixelated image above.

Arno Enslin's picture

That’s Georgia, as it is displayed here (ClearType value 1.5):

.

And Charter Pro, this time with ClearType value 1.0 (maximum):

.

The shapes of Charter have a tendency to be a bit more open (bigger counters) and I think the rhythm is better. I wonder, if you really would prefer Georgia on the Mac, if you could compare these fonts.

Richard Fink's picture

Hey Berlow, stop picking on type designers. That's my job!

To get back to licensing - and leaving "quality" (whatever it means) alone for the moment, I find it tough to come to any conclusion about web font licensing except that we are at an impasse.

A Mexican standoff of sorts caused by the fundamental nature of digital tech.

Let's consider two general classes of developers looking to use web fonts:

1) Those working on existing sites looking to "swap out" text-as-images and SIFr generated text. And, to some extent, the web safe system fonts.

2) Those working on new sites or redesigns.

The first group is probably a lot more amenable to the services solution, at least at first. They're swapping font-like elements for actual fonts. And they know what they are looking for. (Something like what they are already using but in another form.)

The people in the second group, however, can't come away happy under the current system.
Most web protoyping is done in Illustrator/Photoshop and - barring a ground-breaking new app - that situation will continue for the foreseeable future.
And without an installable font how do you preview anything resembling what you're proposing for the client?
"Well, we're showing it you like this, but you have to imagine it with that font there."
Anybody who's ever had to pitch a development project to a client or management will find this hysterical. Once you use the word "imagine" you're ordered back to the drawing board.
And once they sign off, if anything's different in the final project, you'll be called on the carpet.

The current system just forbids previewing. The price structure forbids it. And if you want to show a variety of fonts, the costs are nuts.

But is the type industry about to suddenly change to a "try and then buy" lending-library type of solution?

One three-man web design shop out of Indiana reported to me:

"We don't like the idea of having to charge clients additional fees for fonts! Up till now we've struggled with what to do with fonts and haven't reached a solution.
We're playing with ideas and, perhaps mistakingly, are looking for economical solutions."

I think that's very typical of what's going on. Barriers at every turn.

One solution would be for the Adobe apps - or an Adobe competitor - to have a feature for breaking free of the system fonts and directly accessing fonts for preview just as the browsers now do, but with, dare I say it, some kind of DRM restriction built in. (Just an idea off the top of my head. I don't know if I'm in favor of it, or opposed!)

Extensis' WebInk app - from what I've seen of it - is a step in this direction.

But that's where we stand today - a standoff.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

What am I supposed to do David, miss the boat on a point of honour?

This sums up the problem.

Richard Fink's picture

@dunwich type

Sorry, started waxing eloquent and forgot about ya.

Yes, you are doing about all you can do. It's true.
But I gather you get my point that the buyers on the other end are caught in a bind also. It isn't laziness. It's fear of having bought something with no ROI if it proves inadequate for whatever reason. Few web devs can afford to speculate in this way.

I'm reminded of a video Erik Speikermann did at ATYPI 2009 where he painted a picture, very charmingly and optmistically of how the web would just kind of naturally accept a situation similar to what happens in the print industry. With the font figured into the total cost and everybody lives happily ever after. (I hope I'm paraphrasing accurately. Erik's upbeat, winning personality masks all doubt about the plausibility of the scenario. It's so reasonable and so right, surely it will come to pass!)

Look, you can make anybody swallow anything if you've got enough negotiating power, but the structure, the rhythm, the expectations in web work are entirely different and those who do it are not going to twist themselves into pretzels just because Puckett or Fink have got bills to pay.

But enough already...

Stephen Coles's picture

Arno, here's how Georgia looks in Quartz (OS X), albeit slightly darker gray:

Yes, Quartz’s soft antialiasing might seem blurry until you get used to it, but I prefer the added weight and its trueness to Georgia’s original form over single-pixel, snap-to-grid crispness.

Arno Enslin's picture

@ Stephen

The blurry effect is just that, what I dislike. You are right. It is a question of personal preference. And for sure it is also a question of habituation. But even if you dislike the look of Charter on Windows, you probably can see, that the thickness of the strokes is very even (because of the good hinting and in contradiction to many other webfonts). I am not competent in TrueType hinting, but my impression is, that Charter is very well hinted. And it also is very well legible, if it is printed. And it is very robust with regard to the printing conditions. I want to use a webfont, that also looks good in print. Well, it is not optimal for my poems, but I have very different kinds of content and at least Charter looks not totally strange in combination with my poems. No font can cover all kind of texts. I want to use the same font on my whole website. Charter black (the upright only) looks nice as display font.

However, the topic is web licencing. I am focused on Charter these days. And I still don’t know, if Bitstream/Myfonts gives me the consent, to subset it, if I purchase a webfont license.

butterick's picture

In the long term, no professional web developer will want a hosted webfont service. They will want to get a WOFF file, put it on their web server, and get on with it. Any type foundry serious about being in the webfont business needs to tune into that. FontShop, WebFont, MyFonts are already selling self-hosted licenses. Good for them. I hope others follow suit.

Quality is a separate issue. Hinting, for instance, is great for people who need hinting. Those who don't — e.g., people who are exclusively targeting iOS — won't care to pay a premium for something they don't need. Foundries are free to make whatever bet they think is right and make their case to the customer.

Previewing is a separate issue. MyFonts has no preview system. That's bad. TypeKit, last I tried it, had an inaccurate preview system. That's even worse. FontFont has fontfonter.com, which is good. Tim Ahrens has a similar kind of previewer for Facit.

Pricing is a separate issue. I have reservations about subscription-based and usage-based pricing. But if foundries can make it stick, good for them. No idea how "ethics" come into it. Customers who need these rights can pay for them. Some foundries will eventually roll those rights into the main license; some won't. Compare PDF embedding. FontShop allows PDF embedding in its standard license for FontFonts. Other foundries charge extra, or don't allow it at all. Life goes on.

apankrat's picture

@Nick -

> The smart ones will use fonts such as Beaufort more for display than body copy.

I just happened to spend over a week pouring through Serifs in a search for a heading font. Here's a shot of Beaufort at 30px on Windows, courtesy of FontSpring -


To put it bluntly, such appearance is unacceptable for any form of production use. Unless someone's is targeting exclusively Apple devices, Beaufort is simply not fit @font-face use an offering it for sale as a "web font" does not make much sense as it will be bought either by a mistake or due to a shear professional ignorance.

A foundry is certainly entitled to make money off these people, and it can certainly point a finger at FontSpring saying "They sold it", but in the end it reflects poorly on said foundry who allowed a subpar version of its product to be sold in the first place.

Arno Enslin's picture

people who are exclusively targeting iOS

Those people are in the minority. Probably less than 0.25% of all websites are exclusively targeted to iOS.

Tristan Bowersox's picture

@Nick
I would rather a fair market decide the outcome, not a bureaucracy.

The slave trade was a free market. A laughably extreme example, but what I'm saying is that my concern is ethical. The right to use a font file in a certain way is not the foundry's to grant, the consumer already has it.

The conversation has drifted somewhat, but I'm glad to see I started such a lively discussion. I didn't see anyone mention Google Fonts yet; do you see it as viable? (http://code.google.com/webfonts)

Again, sorry about the slave trade example, but I'm not going to bother coming up with a different one :P

Nick Shinn's picture

I said fair, not free.

blank's picture

The slave trade was a free market.

The slave trade was the exact opposite of a free market. Think about it.

fontspring's picture

We admittedly offer products that may not always render well in Windows. However I think Fontspring bests many distributors offering third party fonts because our webfonts are always autohinted instead of a “dumb” conversion from OTF->TTF that others seem to use. (This same autohinter, used by our sister site Font Squirrel, is converting thousands and thousands of webfonts every month.) By doing this we open the webfont market to all font designers. You may argue whether this is good or bad philosophically. Our experience is that the vast majority of early adopters understand the rendering issues and choose accordingly. Foundries who 1) invest their time and money in hinting their fonts by hand and 2) Offer those fonts as webfonts are quite rare as you know. I see this as a temporary problem and a tradeoff worth making to move the font business forward.

butterick's picture

The right to use a font file in a certain way is not the foundry's to grant, the consumer already has it.

No. It's the opposite. The customer has no rights to use a font except those that the foundry grants as part of the license. That's the standard model for all proprietary software. Sorry to be a nitpicker, but there's enough Typophile threads that are polluted with urban legends like these.

If you, in your career as a professional font designer, want to make your fonts free for noncommercial use, or offer them under a liberal commercial license, great. That's your choice. But those are rights you grant your customers as the owner of your work. Until then, those rights don't exist.

The slave analogy is both inappropriate and unhelpful. I sense Godwin's Law about to kick in…

John Hudson's picture

Tristan, as others have pointed out, the standard model for software including fonts is licensing, i.e. what you purchase is a license that grants certain rights to the use of that software and that may also reserve other rights. Unless a font license explicitly grants a permission for web linking with @font-face you can't assume that your purchase of that license includes such permission.

In this model, the rights granted or reserved, like the price, is determined by what the market will bear. If all font users declined to purchase licenses that did not include permission to convert to and serve WOFF or another web font format, then foundries would need to respond to that. Of course, they'd likely raise their prices as part of the response, in order to recoup some of the income they would lose from being able to sell separate web font licenses or subscription services. And you might give some thought to whether you might not actually prefer a licensing model in which you pay a smaller amount for discreet rights rather than a larger amount for an exhaustive bundle of rights.

Specific legal jurisdictions may have some say about what rights might be reserved, which are fair play, etc., but the basic licensing model is the same. Even open source software operates under a licensing model, just one in which few or no rights are reserved (but which may, in fact, involve imposition of responsibilities, such as requiring all products incorporating the open source code to be available under the same open source license).

I see it as being in the same category as trying to charge for the right to print a font on certain types of paper.

If a license were to prohibit printing a font on a particular type of paper, that might be perverse -- although I can think of reasons why a font designer might desire such a restriction, just as I can think of reasons for restricting the range of sizes at which a font might be used, i.e. to prevent users from making a the type designer's product look like crap --, but it would be entirely within the rights of the font license vendor to impose such a prohibition.

Rob O. Font's picture

AE> Probably less than 0.25% of all websites are exclusively targeted to iOS.

Is that 1 in 400? Lol. Sorry. I couldn't help it. My tummy says more like 1 in 750,000 to 1 in 2,500,000. And?

Nick, I'm not sure you're on the boat as much as ya put your fonts on it, waved farewell, and are hoping they land well as web type. At least you finished drawing and spacing them! More than can be said for some. In general, I applaud your unstated stand to say the hell with windows rendering and all this silly format bs.

Hopefully, in the near future, you'll be able record in metadata what your fonts are good for, so downstream that data can inform users n smart apps of your recommendations. (this is also 'bout all that's Missing from the whole dang OSX-iOS solution too). We'll see my pretties, but it looks more n more like freedom's just another word for more fonts not to use.

Té Rowan's picture

Oh, Berlow... Now I have "Me and Bobby McGee" stuck in my head, ya ... !

Arno Enslin's picture

Is that 1 in 400? Lol. Sorry. I couldn't help it. My tummy says more like 1 in 750,000 to 1 in 2,500,000. And?

And? I am the one, who should ask and. And then all the more! If you are not interested, how your website looks on Windows, although the very most people are on Windows, you are an idiot. Webdesigners seem to know that better than you, David.

butterick's picture

1) There's more to the Internet than websites. iOS lets you develop apps that are native, "web apps" that behave like apps but live on the web, and hybrids in between. (Many "native" apps you can get today are essentially a light wrapper around a web browser.) This approach is apt to accelerate with the advent of HTML5. Because these apps are based on web technologies, webfonts will provide the typography. But Windows is not an issue.

2) The huge installed base of Windows is a fact, but not always relevant. Specific sites may have substantially different usage profiles. For instance, I run a website where only half the visitors are on Windows, and only half of those use XP. I have two choices (as all web developers do): spend money on a webfont solution that accommodates the lowest common denominator, or use platform-specific CSS to give Windows users Georgia, and something different for everyone else. The best business decision is to spend my dollars on features that all the visitors can appreciate, not just 25% or 50%.

I also consider the problem from the other direction: if half my visitors are on Mac, why should I limit myself to fully-hinted webfonts? Because that imposes unnecessary design limitations.

Again, I'm glad folks are doing fully-hinted webfonts. For some websites, they will be essential. But for others, they won't be practical, and not because the people who run those websites are "idiots."

Richard Fink's picture

I love that line in the song about the iOS:

♫♪♫ "Hintin' ain't worth nothin' but it's free..." ♫♪♫

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