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What is a font really worth:
So these guys charge you to write a EULA, then what?
I am always wary of companies that don’t tell you who they are in “About Us”.
What has this to do with Frank Martinez?
A quick WHOIS check confirms what I expected:
Domain Name Owner:
THE MARTINEZ GROUP PLLC
55 Washington Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
So is the point of this to work out pricing of custom, corporate, and OEM licenses by comparing them with the Frank Martinez’s collection of old contracts? Thus allowing type designers to share pricing data without forming an illegal trust?
I would like to formally introduce myself and DigitaLingo to the Typophile community. My name is Frank Martinez and I am the founder of The Martinez Group PLLC. I recently formed and launched DigitaLingo.com, as a service and website devoted to assisting small and medium sized foundries with complex licensing matters. In apologize for the length of this post. However, in view of the comments thus far, an explanation is warranted.
For the past 30 years I have been active in design and typography, the last 15 years of which as a patent examiner and attorney specializing in the licensing and protection of font software and works of design. DigitaLingo was born out of those experiences, but it is not an attorney or lawyer service.
In a nutshell, DigitaLingo is algorithmically based and was created to optimize the licensing value of font software in OEM and large licensing inquiries. We have surveyed the licensing models in use by most of the foundries and, using over 40,000 data points; have modeled an optimized pricing model that is based upon 6 algorithms. These algorithms were modeled to incorporate, (i) the foundry value assigned to a font, (ii) the market value for the type of font, (iii) the market value for the overall type of use desired by a licensing party/licensee, and (iv) the additional uses (outside of the customary desktop uses) that are to be licensed. Once initiated, the DigitaLingo process will automatically value the font software and populate a licensing document with the party names and addresses, identify the fonts, the licensed uses, any restrictions and will then transmit a draft licensing document to the parties for review and signature, all “on the fly” and on the cloud.
The documents are stored on the cloud and are retrievable by the foundry at any time. In addition and if desired, negotiations, if any, can be conducted via the DigitaLingo platform, providing a single site for preserving the history of a licensing deal. As can be expected, a foundry is free to alter the terms or the prices as they may desire once the documents are transmitted for review. However, our testing and the “stealth mode” use of the pricing models indicate that they can be very accurate in optimizing valuation for the foundry.
In developing the pricing model our goal was find a model which accurately captures, for foundries, the value of font software in the plethora of modern uses in existence, while being responsive to what the market (users/purchasers of licenses) will pay for fonts in such licensing arrangements. The desktop model is, in my opinion, grossly unsuited to accurately capture the value of font software as it can be used in the digital world. I have referred to the additional value of fonts in the digital world as the “reflective value” created by fonts; that is, the additional value that fonts create when used in OEM and digital, commercial, entertainment and other value creating ways. DigitaLingo was created to capture that additional value for the foundry.
Most OEM and large corporate font inquires are negotiated by experience corporate representatives whose unsurprising goal is to maximize the value of a font license purchase for the licensee. Most small and medium sized foundries do not have access to the same set of negotiating tools and market information that a large licensing party has at their fingertips. Because of our experience in licensing, negotiating and litigating font software infringements, we do. More importantly, DigitaLingo is our effort to distill that experience into a set of tools that any foundry can use. If a foundry so desires, we can represent them in the negotiations, not as lawyers, but as a business and font advocate. We are currently working on tuning the algorithms and as the data set grows, the algorithms will be tuned further. In addition, we are currently developing a suite of automated font software copyright filing tools to assist the font community in protecting their work. It’s a process and any comments and/or suggestions from Typophile members and others in the design and font communities will be welcome.
I’ll interpret that as yes and yes.
I am always wary of companies that don’t tell you who they are in “About Us”.
The photo of the unmanned workstation is almost haunting!
Two issues. First, DigitaLingo is about the mathematics of license valuation based upon the value a font creates in its various uses and the value that the font purchasing market will pay for font software. DTF's comments illustrate the reasons why font designers struggle to make a living and/or to get the proper value for their work. DigitaLingo is not merely a lawyer using old documents. The next time you fly, ask yourself why does the ticket cost more when you fly on a Friday and return on a Monday or when you fly on a holiday. It's a simple thought experiment, but highly illustrative. It's the valuation being responsive to demand. DigitaLingo creates a mechanism to capture that value for foundries. I have a BFA from Pratt Institute, I worked at Landor Associates and The Schecter Group as a production director, where among other duties, I set up kerning tables and purchased font licenses for use with client projects. For the past 13 years I have taught Intellectual Property Law in the MFA Design Program at SVA in New York where I advocate for an understanding of good typography and licensing. I am not unaware of the issues that confront designers and typographers. Fonts have an intrinsic value that exceeds their use on the desktop. The web isn't static why should font valuation be stuck in the 19th Century?
Second, the empty workstation - I sit in that chair about 60-80 hours per week, sometimes more. I'll post a regular picture if it will make all of you feel better.
Looks like a great service. However, I agree with Nick that it absolutely should have your name and very impressive credentials on the site. Why not?
ps. The M with crossed Bezier handles is not a good idea to show on the first page. That's a no-no, at least in PS based fonts.
> DigitaLingo is algorithmically based
Do you have third-party assurances that DigitaLingo does not run afoul of any antitrust law? And how do you keep DigitaLingo accurate over time? Are users expected to report back how much licensees actually paid for the license?
…M with crossed Bezier handles…
The software algorithm doesn’t factor font aesthetics or technical properties into the value equation.
So the “true value” claim should perhaps be amended to “reasonably accurate market value”.
Frank, it’s a worthy idea, but being dissected at Tyophile is par for the course.
When I first saw the site not knowing you had an involvement, I thought, "if I want that kind of material, I will go to Frank Martinez instead of some under-welming website." Trust is a big factor, don't shy away from it.
These are some cogent questions. Regarding antitrust, it is not our intent to dictate or control pricing. Which is why we generate a draft document for review by the foundry. They are free to change the pricing, the algorithms provide a "market pricing band". To be fair, the pricing band is pretty accurate, but we are not the font police, the foundry is always in control. Issues with the Unfair Competition and Anti-Trust folks at the Federal Trade Commission would only arise if we had the power to dictate pricing across the font industry or if every foundry in the USA elected to use the DigitaLingo pricing structure in lockstep.
DTF raises a good point regarding accuracy over time. Algorithmic based valuation is by its very nature a constant process. It has to be reviewed constantly because markets change. However, as the data set gets larger, it is possible to becomes more accurate and to better predict pricing and usage trends. In order to keep DigitaLingo accurate, we will have to constantly review pricing, licensing patterns and types of uses patterns as well as other factors, so as to provide more accurate market pricing for foundries.
Regarding aesthetics, We apply "multipliers" or factors that are responsive to intended uses by the licensee. It is my contention that aesthetic decisions and licensee responses to aesthetic considerations are reflected (incorporated) in sales volumes and "types of uses" history for a font. Technically, it is possible to add a modifier or "factor" that reflects aesthetic considerations into our set of pricing algorithms. However, the questions arises - Who's aesthetic sensibility do we use as the model for the factors? I stand by the term accurate since I was merely referring to observable numerical sets.
Nick: thank you for the note, I shall be less "sensitive" in the future.
This all sounds pretty cool. Taking the non-designer work out of the designers hands is something a lazy typedesigner like me appreciates very much! The 'How it works' video doesn't work though... It appears to be a single image.
I don't think it bodes well that the site uses Google fonts.
Was a contribution made, at least? :-)
Frank I am curious —
1) Where do you get your “40,000 data points” about pricing? If the answer is from your work on past font licenses, how can Digital Lingo's customers be sure that those data points are not protected by attorney-client privilege, contractual nondisclosure, etc.?
2) DL says it offers access to “sophisticated and experienced business and legal professionals” yet elsewhere says that it “does not offer legal services or legal advice.” Assuming for the sake of argument that those statements can peacefully coexist, who ultimately bears responsibility for the quality of a DL license? DL, or its customers?
3) How does DL plan to detect and resolve conflicts of interest? One could imagine a scenario where an OEM licensor is seeking bids from two (or more) foundries. Both foundries, unbeknownst to each other, sign up with DL to assist. The foundries are adverse to the licensor, but they are also adverse to each other, since if one gets the license, the other will not.
4) Since you are the “man behind the curtain” in either case, how does a foundry benefit by using DL instead of just hiring you directly?
Thank you for taking the time to post your comments.
1. The 40,000 data points are derived from publicly available information and the process associated with deriving a valuation is proprietary.
2. You are well aware that “access to experienced assistance” does not comprise an attorney client relationship. The second part of your question implies that the DL licensing document is a document provided under an attorney client relationship. The “standard” DL license document is derived from over a decade of experience preparing such documents and is intended to provide a sound basis for a licensing relationship between the foundry and its client, it is not an attorney negotiated document and the DL client is free to amend or alter as they may desire. If a licensing request is extraordinarily complex or burdensome, and upon the specific request of the DL client, the matter could be referred to an attorney for individuated evaluation, preparation and negotiation. If no such request arises, the document is automatically prepared according the DL user’s input and delivered.
Currently, foundries choose to be responsible for the quality of their own documents. Many of them are self-created, some professionally drafted and they exhibit significant differences in form and efficacy. We have some experience in these matters and we are confident in the quality of the basic DL license.
3. The DL algorithmic pricing evaluations are based upon a DL client’s pricing disclosures. They are not pooled with other client’s prices nor are they compared with another foundry’s pricing. A DL client’s prices are not made available to other DL users. We are well aware that potential OEM licensees will shop for bids and they frequently disclose to a potential licensor-foundry the prices they receive from other foundries to drive down prices. DL does not participate in or enable that practice since it distorts valuation. Notwithstanding, the decision to license and the ultimate price a DL client accepts is always in the control of the DL user. The DL user may or may not vary from the derived price, either as they are so inclined.
4. The corollary to being the “man behind the curtain” should the exhortation to “ignore that man behind the curtain.” DL is an attempt to provide an easy to use set of tools that give small and medium sized foundries access to knowledge that may be too expensive to access and implement under normal circumstances. As noted above, if the licensing inquiry is complex or very extensive, it may be appropriate for the DL client to seek professional assistance. Admittedly, my law firm is experienced in and available for such tasks, but other professionals are also available. The DL user is free to use the advisor of their choosing.
Finally as a general statement many of your questions spring from concerns relating to attorney ethics regulations. The concerns you have voiced are genuine, but absent specific facts, hypothetical examples become an exercise in legal or academic metaphysics. DL is not an attorney service, it may draw upon experience associated with a legal practice, but that does not mean it is the practice of law. Extending your reasoning and without umbrage, one might inquire as to whether an attorney client relationship exists simply because one purchased a copy of "Typography of Lawyers". In addition, who would be responsible if a court or administrative agency misinterprets a document by reason of the formatting and type usage advice of the lawyer-typographer-author? Absent specific facts, who knows?
Talk about a robust defense. :-)
To me it seems your product addresses
the small-to-medium foundry niche well.
Allowing people to delete the original post in threads is one of the most absurd features of this site.
(Still love the site, but these flame-outs are a real shame...ruin lots of good archival information)