Thursday, July 12, 2018

Font Debacle!

So, I encountered a moral dilemma earlier this week. The dilemma had to do with an unlicensed font on a trilogy I had just commissioned and paid for but hadn't been told about. The dilemma was - Was this done on purpose - meaning did the artist cut corners to make a buck - or was it an honest mistake? If it was the former, do I have an obligation to the community to warn others? Is there a pattern of behavior here?
I went back and read through the interactions I had with the cover artist just to be sure I wasn't being mean and nasty like she accused me of being in her last message.
I don't think I was. Dense - yes - because I just didn't get it, but mean and nasty and out to get her - no. I even said that to her - that I wasn't out to get her, just to understand.
While I was trying to understand why I hadn't been told up front about something that could have compromised both my writing career and an artists career, the artist was willing to change the font on the covers. I should have just left it at that - but that moral dilemma cropped up in my head. If others had the same font - did they know they had to get the license or were they not told like I hadn't been?
I still don't understand why I wasn't told up front that I had to obtain the license for something that was delivered and paid for and never mentioned during the conversations on the multiple discussions regarding the covers.
It was only when I wanted to use another artists work and that very same font, that I was told the font was only available for personal use. We had to contact the font owner for info on a commercial license and the new artist didn't feel comfortable with that.
Well, I had had cover artists ask other artists that they knew owned the commercial rights to a font to see if they would be willing to do the text on the art.
So I asked the one who did the trilogy if she had the commercial license for what was on the covers she delivered earlier in the week.
Only after I reached out to ask if she had the commercial license that I was told I had to buy it. Hers wasn't transferable.
That's when things went down hill.
I was trying to understand what she was telling me. And admittedly it just wasn't computing. If she had the commercial license, why would I need to also get it. Never mind why she didn't tell me in the beginning.
This is the first time I have ever encountered a cover artist who I contracted telling me that I was responsible for a font license that they were advertising on covers in their pre-made cover group.
I did not get it.
Had it been one I had seen and wanted that she didn't have, that is a different story, but she had several pre-made covers with this same font that were auctioned.
Then she told me this was the norm.
The author is responsible for font licenses.
Perhaps she meant in this instance, but that is not the way she came across. Then she removed me from the premade group. She said all her authors know that fonts are their responsibility. The way she responded was as if to make me feel stupid for questioning her. Which set off several alarms in my head.
She did make the change to a legitimate free commercial font, but in the meantime, I had already contacted the font owner regarding the original font but still hadn't heard back from him as the conversation escalated out of control.
I felt as if she had taken advantage of me because every cover artist I worked with before always informed me of license issues up front, not a week after the sale when I came back and asked.
I tried to explain this - she took it as an attack - I told her I wasn't out to get her, just trying to understand the situation because I didn't and with all the other cover artist issues coming to light - I admit, I was paranoid that she was cutting corners.
Well, after we parted ways, the font owner finally got back to me. He does require a per title license for his font. So she wasn't wrong, but I would have never known this if this conversation hadn't occurred.
That still bothers me.
Then he asked where the artist got the font (which I had asked in the course of the train wreck of a conversation - for this font as well as the others on the art she has sold me just to make sure there were no more surprises that I would eventually encounter).
The others checked out, but this particular font was the only one that was unverifiable on the bundle site she said she got it from.
Come to find out, the place she got the font never reported the sale of that font to the font owner (I'm not clear if he never sold it on that platform or if the sale was never registered). So he said he would love the receipt so he could give it to his lawyers.
Well, I made the mistake of asking if the artist had it. Not pretty at all - so I'm just leaving this here. And no, I won't name names, but suffice to say, neither of us will willingly work together again.
So the moral of this long and sordid story for both sides:
Authors ask for references, ask for proof of stock licenses, and font licenses, ask about illustrations - are they original or doctored pictures, you as the author have the right to this information as well as asking for proof if there are questions. If someone gets uppity about you asking - that is a red flag.
As for the cover artists out there, do not assume that the author knows they are responsible for font or stock licenses. Spell this out in your terms of service if that is the way you do business, if it isn't there, then it isn't clear. If you are using something as a placeholder to sell your art, and someone points to it and says I like the one you used on XYZ, tell them there is additional licensing costs BEFORE you use the font, or picture, or illustration. Assuming that the author knows this is a recipe for a law suit later on.
And finally, to those cover artists that are cutting corners to make a quick buck despite the risks they are opening the authors to, karma will catch up to you.

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