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Licensing Fonts for Use in Apps

When Marco Armant talked about licensing custom fonts for use in apps I did a bit of research myself because I wanted to know the modalities available for us iOS developers.

There are many businesses based on licensing fonts for use on desktop machines as well as web apps. But just to get a general feeling about this I semi-randomly picked MyFonts.com. They also have a fabulous app called What The Font? on the app store that lets you find fonts by snapping a picture of some text.

The font business has not really cared much about apps so far, but now with a Retina display in the size of an iPad this becomes a viable target market for them, as developers are trying to get an unique look by offering great fonts for apps that you read something with.

If you look at the MyFonts.com website you only find two kinds of licenses:

  • Desktop – for a single user
  • Web – multiple tiers based on many page views

What’s clearly missing in this list is a license that fits the use case for apps. You need to package the font in the app bundle to use it, but you don’t have something like page views in iOS apps.

So I asked MyFonts about that and they responded:

Yes, that is true; at present, we offer only desktop and web font licenses.

However, we are currently offering app licenses when requested.

App licenses allow fonts to be embedded into any applications including mobile, desktop, and server apps.

Embedding a font into an app allows the font to be used within the app to render any text at any size or orientation. The text may be fixed, variable or may have originated from user input.

The font(s) must be securely embedded into applications so that they can be used solely in conjunction with the application and not extractable or accessible from other applications.

The license price depends only on number of distinct apps and is based on the desktop font price:

each app: 25x / year or 75x for a perpetual license

For distributed apps, an annual license must be renewed while the app continues to be offered for sale.

For server apps, an annual license must be renewed while the app is continues to be available for use.

If an app is made available for multiple platforms, each platform-specific version of the app is considered a separate app.

Flash apps that can be run on any Flash platform count as one app.

I wanted them to further clarify this “securely embedded” part, to which they responded:

We understand that there are limitations to the extent to which you can hide fonts in the iOS environment. We just want to be sure that they are hidden to the greatest extent possible within the environment to avoid undue misuse of the property you have licensed.

So the basic price to license a single font for a single app is 25 times the basic price of the desktop font and you have to pay that every year that this app is on sale. Alternatively if you assume that this app will “live” more than 3 years, then it makes sends to go for the unlimited license which is at 75 times the base price.

They also have discounts if you want to license the font for more than a single font:

  • 2 apps: 35x / year (or 105x for a paid-up perpetual license)
  • 3-5 apps: 50x / year (or 150x for a paid-up perpetual license)
  • 6-10 apps: 75x / year (or 225x for a paid-up perpetual license)
  • 11-25 apps: 125x / year (or 375x for a paid-up perpetual license)
  • unlimited number of apps: 250x / year (or 750x for a paid-up perpetual license)

Conclusion

Licensing fonts is definitely “de luxe”. On quick browsing I found fonts ranging from $0 to $16.50. Also you have to bear in mind that italic and bold are separate type faces. So you might have to license all 4 combinations for a font.

So that would mean $16.50 x 4 x 25 = $1650 per year.

This kind of expense you would probably only dare if you are pretty certain that you will make it up easily.


Categories: Business

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