font-licensing-is-ill,-please-help-heal-it

For some years now I’ve been baffled by the almost standardized font licensing, but for the better part of those years I thought and hoped things will turn around.

Instead, it’s 2020 and things are getting worse, sellers are adopting mindlessly the same model, so I’m finally writing this.

I’m talking about the desktop vs. webfont licensing — the most absurd licensing model out there. In case you are not familiar with it, or you just want to make sure I’m talking about the same one you’re thinking, let me offer some details.

Desktop fonts pricing

For desktop variants, fonts can be used in an unlimited amount of projects, and for each project graphic designers get paid. Some fonts are even used in television and streaming for series and movie titles, and I don’t have to mention what kind of money and perks that kind of projects bring for their creators.

Yet desktop fonts have a fixed one-time payment price. Please keep that in mind while I mention webfonts.

Web fonts pricing

So… webfonts. Lately, I don’t think I found a shop or marketplace where webfonts were not priced per domain and/or per number of pageviews. It’s a complete mystery how somebody thought this pricing is fair, who told them websites make money per pageview? Or make money at all for that matter?

To sum up:

Desktop designers get paid for every project they make with that font one-time payment
Web the vast majority of websites make NO money or are not even commercial projects pay per domain and/or pageviews

I must mention that the desktop variantusually costs less or the same as the smallest webfont price, while the web variant quickly jumps to hundreds and thousands of dollars.

It’s hard to argue with that kind of “logic”.

Web example

To give an example: FontsArena.com peaked in November 2019 at 53000 of pageviews. Yet it’s a passion project, a website that includes free fonts, typography news, and original articles written by me (Alina). It only makes a few dollars per month, which don’t even cover hosting, let alone the other expenses like CDN. Actually, most websites are not made for profit, or are simply unprofitable.

And before you ask, yes, FontsArena uses a premium font as webfont, which I purchased from the last place I found that didn’t limit my pageviews.

I use premium fonts for my personal projects whenever I am able to purchase without pageviews limit, simply because otherwise it’s prohibitive.

Who has hundreds — and in some cases thousands — of dollars or euros to spend on a font?

Even if the website is profitable, that is still a way too big expense to be justifiable. It’s something accessible only to big companies and big budgets.

I’m sure there are many other web designers out there that would be able to budget in some projects premium fonts, if they had the same price as desktop variants. Yet they end up searching for alternatives because of the prohibitive pricing.

As time passes by instead of changing licensing to something sensible and logic, sellers and marketplaces further widen this abysmal gap between essentially two formats of the same font.

There is no extra work in converting a desktop font to a web version. So nothing justifies the current situation.

Shame!

I know that in the day and age we’re living this is a first world problem. I’m not saying by fixing it we fix the world. I’m just saying we’d have a visually better web and sellers will have more money in their pockets. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, they’d have a lot of sales, not just the occasional one from big-budget entities. But they’re either blind or — worse case — simply can’t be bothered.

If you can, please help fix the license model and bring it to the logic side!

Thank you for bearing with me on this one.

Alina

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