Font license dissertation opinions

craig atkinson's picture

Hi everyone

My name is Craig and I'm currently in my third year of BA (Hons) Graphic Design. I am in the process of writing my dissertation, and my chosen question is: In what ways are free font license websites affecting the type design industry and professional type foundries?

To summarise I am going to investigate:
- how and why have free font websites developed
- opinions on free font websites and how often people use them.
- the legality issues with font licenses to see what part this plays in the industry (commercial licenses, piracy and intellectual property)
- the wider debate of amateur vs professional in a number of creative industries.
- how it is affecting professional foundries

I'm going to leave the subject open without questions, but I would really appreciate if you could briefly explain your views and opinion on the subject.

Any reading recommendations would also be greatly appreciated

Thanks in advance
Craig

oldnick's picture

- how and why have free font websites developed
Because lots of free fonts were available, and people like free stuff.

- opinions on free font websites and how often people use them.
Some are great, some suck. People use them as often as they want free stuff.

- the legality issues with font licenses to see what part this plays in the industry (commercial licenses, piracy and intellectual property)
Which legality issues? People tend to remember what benefits them personally, and ignore what doesn’t.

- the wider debate of amateur vs professional in a number of creative industries.
Many professionals—such as myself—started out making free fonts. OTOH, many gifted amateurs provide the world with some very usable fonts, and a lot of hacks serve up pure-D crap.

- how it is affecting professional foundries
Some people get spoiled, having access to free stuff, and thus tend not to respect the IP rights of professional foundries…IMHO.

hrant's picture

{To Follow}

Karl Stange's picture

Are you making a clear distinction between free fonts with commercial licensing, such as those released by foundries to promote a larger family (e.g., Museo from Exljbris and Lido from Storm), those which have no license or only a vague indication of how they can be used (e.g, "Free for Personal Use") and fonts which employ a range of established open source licensing models such as the SIL OFL, GNU GPL with font exception, Apache, MIT, etc...?

All of the above are frequently misused and misunderstood, particularly in commercial environments. Quality and integrity are major issues in all of these cases and no easy sweeping statements will cover every circumstance and eventuality. Also, as many people have pointed out in other threads, what retail costs may be saved by using "free" fonts are often picked up in other ways, such as time and effort in working around poor design and execution, and in many cases the realisation that there is a very good reason why people charge for licensing professional, beautifully crafted and engineered fonts.

Chris Dean's picture

@craig atkinson: When asking for help on a bulletin board for something as important as a dissertation, be sure to cite it properly, lest your committee bust you for plagiarism. According to APA 6.0 the proper way to do this is:

Dean, C. (2012, October 25). Re: Thread title (Online forum comment). Retrieved from http://url of the thread

In this case, replace my name and date with the time and person who answered your question.

oldnick's picture

Also…what separates an amateur from a professional anymore? Some noob purchases some design software and instantly declares himself an auteur or an artiste: increasingly, this forum is being visited by self-styled pros who wish us to be awed by their awesomeness, and reassured of their creative genius. Bulldookey, dude…

Typogruffer's picture

I was just wondering what happens to the above three spam posts? How soon do they get deleted?

Chris Dean's picture

As soon as a moderator sees or is told about it.

*poof*

Gone.

Thomas Phinney's picture

There are free font sites that have only fonts that can legitimately be there, and there are “free” font sites that have a noticeable number of commercial fonts, illegally. The latter tend to really tick off the retail font designers and foundries.

Other than that, the question should not be so much about the web sites (they are just a distribution mechanism) but the availability of free fonts. Mostly, they suppress the market for casual font purchasing, and reduce the market for inexpensive and semi-pro quality fonts. But they certainly do affect the total market. The degree of impact varies widely for each type designer and foundry. People who do a lot of commission work are relatively unaffected.

Cheers,

T

Nick Shinn's picture

What has this to do with graphic design?
If you were studying medicine, would you be writing a dissertation on how generic drugs have affected the pharmaceutical industry?
Surely this is a topic for post-graduate study in some other discipline (business, economics), unless you can put the focus on examining the effect of free fonts on the design of letter shapes.

hrant's picture

Well, as Thomas implied economics does affect actual design: anybody who makes trendy retail fonts is hurt more by quick-n-dirty plagiarism so might end up switching to serious text face design and/or private commissions. A dissertation on such a trend would be quite cool.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

Yes, that was what I was suggesting—exploring the effect of economics and copyright on the shape and function of designed work.

craig atkinson's picture

Hi everyone
My apologies for the slow reply, and thank you for all your responses

Let me try and respond to each reply:

@oldnick that definitely summarises the research I have done so far. I was also going to try and research the wider debate of amateurism vs professional not only in design but also in photography, music etc.

@Karl Strange at the moment I am just starting to work on the essay, so I am looking at both the different variations of fonts which are "free for personal use", but also the illegal use of commercial fonts through distribution such as sharing fonts with friends, downloading from torrent sites etc. I understand that this is really quite vague at the moment, but I am hoping through research the wider argument I can work down and focus on the most important section, and rewrite focusing on that.

@Chris Dean thanks for your help, will make sure I credit properly throughout and in the bibliography

@Thomas Phinney that's interesting, I didn't realise there were some that were distributing commercial fonts like that illegally. Can anybody point me in the direction of one of these sites (not to use obviously, but to name and shame in the essay. If this is not allowed on the forum then do not worry)

@Nick Shinn That is a very good point, I am still in the early stages of writing, so am working quite broadly at the moment. Like you say, I feel like focusing on the shape and design of the type would be much more relavent to my studies.

@hrant very interesting idea. The hunt for further research begins

Typogruffer's picture

Edit *Pirate site removed *

hrant's picture

Please don't link to pirate sites. {Thank you for removing the link!}

As an aside Craig, you just provided -to me at least- some more evidence that using the "@name" format is no good (especially for people -not you- who also succumb to improper capitalization).

hhp

Karl Stange's picture

Craig, valid a comment as you may feel it is, my surname is Stange not Strange.

hrant's picture

You see what I mean? :-) And putting a colon would be an ugly patch. Really, just put the guy's name followed by the lowly comma.

hhp

HVB's picture

SPAM Note - posting by "RuthDavid".
When you remove it, is it possible also to remove THIS msg so it doesn't further confuse the thread?

- Herb

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