Tuesday, February 20, 2007

free font downloads

Ah, so you arrived here expecting some free font downloads, did you?

My economics professor always taught us one simple concept: TANSTAAFL. Short for There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Likewise, in many instances, there ain't no such thing as a free font. Free for you may mean stealing from me.

If fonts are free, then why do foundries and individuals charge for them? Or, if they're worth paying for, then how can some web sites give them away for free?

There are individuals and foundries who do create original fonts, and distribute them at no charge. Free for you. There are also many, many fonts available on free font web sites that are derivative or blatant knock-off designs of commercially-available typefaces. Stealing from me.

Foundries charge for them because there is inherent value in the type designs, and the usefulness to others for their own commercial uses. They are valuable software, and legally protected as such. Foundries charge for them, because they take weeks and months to create. At this point in time, few, if any, foundries are using the Creative Commons licensing model.

If a font adds any value to what it may be used for, then isn't it worth something in and of itself?

Organizations such as TypeRight argue for the legal and ethical use of font software. Creative Pro asks "Is it stealing?" Either way, education is the key to understanding.

It's admirable when an individual creates something like a font and makes it freely available, but that is their choice to do so; not every type designer or type foundry is obligated to follow the same course. It should be the creator's choice, not because somebody liked the original and tweaked two or three beziƩr points and called it an improvement and an original work. Just like with music, there's no inherent right to have access to another's work without compensating the creator.

What would Walt Disney think? TANSTAAFF.

PS: Check out the Google Adwords on the right, and you can see how interested people are in free fonts for mac and pc. (If they make it past the Adwords filter!)

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