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I wonder, would you pay more if a font license allowed modifications for personal use and on behalf of clients?
I think that the number of designers who would even want to, and are actually capable of doing so, is so low that any answer could not represent enough of a sample to be seriously considered when pricing fonts.
Like I said on Twitter, I think it's an interesting idea. You'd have sort of a consumer / extended license split. I'd ideally like the modification-friendliness to be an add-on that can be bought after purchase as well (since when one licenses a font one wouldn't necessarily already know if mods might be needed). This might make «normal» customers feel good for not paying for rights they don't need, and make «extended» clients happy too because paying an additional fee and modding oneself (provided one is capable of doing so) might seem more interesting than commissioning changes directly from the foundry (so the latter would of course lose some of the revenue from commissioned modifications, which would likely be much more expensive...).
It would indeed be nice if buying a font would be like
buying a new car, where you have a list of options that
add to the price, like a moonroof or heated seats. And
for the easily-overwhelmed shopper we could have
preset packages like cars have "Sport", etc.
So what's the list of options a font could come with?
I’m all for making things simpler. I’d rather reduce the "not allowed" list and raise the price, than add a lot of options. Options are nice, yes, but why not just make something great and stick to your guns?
Because you're not the user.
As a user of type, I would pay a modest sum for the right to modify. If the modification was to add more characters, improve the letterfit, etc, I would charge the extra modification fee back to my customers. I would of course first recommend to my customers that they not use such a font, but people get caught up in fashion.
To be clear: I wouldn't (usually) charge my customers for the needed work, only for having to pay the publisher more for the right to fix their font. If you find that too brutal, sorry. It would be different if the modifications anticipated were for, say, one-off logo use. But if the work is to fix the spacing, add extra characters, etc., it seems odd to have to pay for the right.
An interesting option would be that the right to do this kind of work was free, but the additions would have to be made available to the font publisher at no charge, so they could, if they chose, include them in future releases. That would make the end user think hard about the whole issue. I view my modified fonts as giving us a competitive advantage over other typesetters. To then give the font publisher the right to add my work to their fonts would (in my mind) lessen that advantage. It would make us end-users think about the issue with the shoe on the other foot.
Having been on the other side of the table (as a type user), I know the frustration of having the skills but not the permission to fix issues. Modifications for personal use should, IMO, be a given. Apart from the financial side, what is the arguments against allowing designers to modify on behalf of their clients as well?
It is an interesting question, Frode. I think the difference between the European and U.S. copyright laws points up the obvious on the question of allowing designers to modify fonts on behalf of their clients as well. In the States, you can copyright software, but not designs. So to be legal, you copy the font into the background layer of FontLab, then delete all the points on the front layer -- all you have is a gray mass that sort of represents the character(s). Then you autotrace. The result is legal, but also terrible. You will spend considerable time fixing the autotrace to get anything useful. Then make your modifications for the client. Being able to modify the font itself should cost less than your time is worth to do the the work of recreating the font. That way, everybody wins.
In Europe, I believe the copyright laws are different. But all that really means is you have to add a person who can draw, while looking at the characters. Then, all the etc. BTW, I believe some parts of the European copyright law are more reasonable than in the States -- It is a confusing situation.
Aside from the law, the point remains: if starting with the original font saves you time, then the font publisher is due some compensation for that savings.