What is a glyph worth?
April 1, 2010 11:18 AM   Subscribe

I designed a display font a few years back and released it free for non-commercial use. I occasionally get requests to use words or letters set in the font for commercial purposes. What is a reasonable amount to charge?

Does the amount charged vary based on the breadth of the usage? If it's a major corporation or a small business? If it's just some guy selling t-shirts for his band? If they want to use one letter? A word? An arbitrary amount of text?

Is there any threat that my work will be used in a trademark and that I'll therefore lose the right to use it in some contexts (or further license it in those contexts)?

Is there any particular phrasing you'd suggest for an agreement to allow its use? Something about "worldwide non-exclusive use in all media" or the like?
posted by aneel to Work & Money (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if it helps, but here is the Open Font License, as cited by the League of Moveable Type, a group that advocated open source fonts.
posted by General Malaise at 11:43 AM on April 1, 2010

Is there any threat that my work will be used in a trademark and that I'll therefore lose the right to use it in some contexts (or further license it in those contexts)?

I am not a lawyer, but with fonts in the US the part that you have a copyright on is the actual font file itself. It's possible to have a trademark on the font name, or a design patent on the font design, but neither of those are automatic. You do automatically own the copyright to the font file itself, which is basically a software algorithm for displaying your typeface.

If, for example, you posted a full alphabet of your font on your site at a decent resolution, someone could copy and paste those letters into whatever commercial material they wanted and they would not be breaking your license or infringing on any of your IP. Or they could draw your font freehand after studying it. If they use your actual font file for commercial use though, they would be breaking your agreement and if you sued them in court you would probably win.

So no, there's not any way that letting people use your font can directly reduce your rights to your IP, because you'll own the copyright regardless and due to that users will need to abide by your license agreement to use it.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:56 AM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

High-end designers are probably not going to be interested in your font, so the inquiries you're getting are probably from individuals and small businesses - small enough to want to use a cool font they found on the internet, small enough to not be able to pay very much, small enough to be able to change their minds if you make things difficult. So make things easy for yourself: charge a small fixed fee (say, $50) for a non-exclusive license. If it's a band, suggest that you'll take some merch instead. You'll be happy, they'll be happy, you won't need to pay for a lawyer. Everybody wins.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:36 AM on April 3, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers.

I usually do tell bands and paintball teams and the like that they can use my designs on their t-shirts in exchange for a t-shirt. Sadly, I've never received a t-shirt. I did get some posters for an Austrian dance event featuring one of my photos, though.

The particular request that prompted this question was actually from a toy company that has produced some very successful toys in the past, so it's possible that the design would go into wide circulation. However, the figure I quoted them ($150) seems to have scared them off.
posted by aneel at 9:00 PM on April 7, 2010

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