Subject: Free Software Business Models
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Wed, 20 May 2009 03:16:38 +0900

Dave Crossland writes:

 > As someone looking to improve free software fonts, there are two
 > routes open to me: Find a way to get people who don't demand
 > proprietary-font-developer wages to publish free software fonts, or

I heard an interesting anecdote recently about why all free fonts for
Japanese suck: the people who have artistic talent don't want their
fonts used on porn sites.  This is one case where what are often
called "author's moral rights" really bind on free software, I think.

 > find a way to pay font developers who currently work in a proprietary
 > software business model with a free software business model.

Hm.  One unusual factor is, why would a customer be willing to pay for
a font in the first place?  For the same reason that movie stars are
willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for designer clothing --
so they can get a unique look.  In other words, such customers get
positive value from high prices, because they are a barrier to entry
to the *customers'* rivals.  So you can sell the font under a free
license because in general the customer is not going to want to give
the font away.

What you can do, then is sell the font "cheaply" with a free license
(which the customer will value in case of defects, or a need to adjust
paramters for scaling that was not originally envisioned, etc), and
then charge them for exclusivity.

Of course in that case you'll want to have the contract say something
like "you get a free license, but *I* won't sell it to anybody else
for 2/3/5 years".  Eventually you want it to be not just free, but
available to the public, as well.