Font license copyright etc

Hello. Could someone please explain how the font legality works. I’m confused.

Let’s suppose I make a design like the one attached, which uses the font AvantGarde Md BT
If someone wants to buy this design from me, how can I sell the design if the font is not mine?
Do I buy it once, then I am free to sell designs which use it, or do I buy it every time I use it in a new design for a new customer?
Can someone please explain, and also are free fonts really free or what does that really mean?
I’m guessing the reply is a big legal discussion, but I want to know what really do you professionals do in practice, rather than be pointed to an enormous legal document.

Thank you. LeoJet

Well, without getting into the “big legal discussion,” it seems you’re thinking of font purchase as the outright purchase of “a unit,” whereas what you’re really buying is a license to use it. To know your rights under a given license, you have to read it. They vary. Generally speaking, you can sell a design in which the font was used, but you can’t give or resell the font files themselves to your client.

So, does that mean if I buy let’s say AI which comes with lots of fonts, do I already have the right to use them in work that I sell, or do I need to purchase them again, and AI only supplies them as a tool to create designs.

The fonts that become available (installed with apps or via Typekit) with a paid subscription to Adobe CC (full-cloud or individual apps) are licensed for your use as long as the software is installed on your computer.

Ok, so the “Jet” example I attached. I created that using CorelDraw, which is installed on my PC, which I bought legally 10 years ago. So does that mean if I want to sell that design to you for £2, that’s legal, then you can print T shirt, flyers and what ever else you want by the million, without the font creator receiving another penny from anyone? Just suppose I sold something to an enormous name such as Nike, (I know it is not even unlikely but rather impossible!), but would there ever be examples where the font police might actually do some research to see if they are entitled a big chunk of money from someone?

Setting aside Adobe fonts for the moment… There are also fonts on your machine. System fonts that came with it, and others you can add.

Free fonts. You can download to your machine, and use with usually no restrictions. Any restrictions will be communicated when you download the font.

Paid fonts. These you have to pay for to use. After you pay and download, you can use them as part of a design you sell. And usually you can continue to use them for other designs. But as HotButton said, you can’t resell the fonts themselves to anyone else. And if you sell a design to a client with a paid font, they can’t use that font for anything else. They paid for the design, not the font.

Each foundry or creator is going to have their own license. How you use the font depends on the rights they extended to you when you purchased a license to use their font. The ones who are serious about their fonts will include wording in the license relating to its use in logos. One of the dangers of using a free font (as in stuff downloaded from a ‘free font’ site) is that it may be an individual creator who doesn’t want it used commercially. Keep the hell away from that stuff.

If it was me, I’d make sure the license on that font had language specifying it was okay to use in a font. I would make sure I had a license to use it, then I would also purchase a license in the name of the client.

I appreciate all of your answers.
It seems there are possible pitfalls, and since I will only plan to sell something once in a blue moon, I’ve decided to just create my own letters. I only need 8 letters, and I had already sketched my own intention, then went looking for a font close to what I had sketched. So I will just back track and scan my hand sketch, then convert the scanned bitmap into a vector file. Thanks

Asking for clarity here. If the creator doesn’t want their font used commercially, then it’s up to them to specify that, yes? Or else not put it on a free font site? I’m not clear on the exact “danger.”

And “Keep the hell away from that stuff.” Do you mean keep the hell away from free fonts, or something else? I often use free fonts if they are right for the project, and always respect any stated limitations.

I respect your caution, but what is the danger or risk that you are concerned about?

@DocPixel It’s simply that I just dabble in graphics for amusement, and if someone once in a while decides to buy a design from me, it is purely a bonus. I never set out to design anything on a commercial basis. So, for the sake of a few hundred dollars, if there is any potential that later on there could be a potential for some legal complications, I would sooner not even sell a design in the first place. But rather than just pull the plug for that reason, I am happy to just create the letters myself, as that also amuses me too. In a previous life I was employed to engrave granite and marble etc with hand tools, so I quite like playing around with unique lettering.

I was actually responding to Mojo’s post, so absolutely not criticizing you. :slight_smile: I was confused about Mojo’s reference to danger, so asking for more detail on that.

But hey, if you like designing letters and want to do it yourself, more power to you! I can’t do it. :wink:

Doc, I’m no lawyer, but my guideline is that if the creator of the font doesn’t state they are giving me license for commercial use, then I don’t have it. To me, it doesn’t matter what forum they use to distribute their work… in this case a ‘free font’ site, what matters is the license. And the licenses on those sites are screwy. It can vary from font to font based on the whims of its hobbyist creator.

A lot of fonts are only allowed for ‘private use’. Some creators request donations. Some prohibit all commercial use. Some require you to track them down and explain how you are going to use the font before they give you license to use commercially. Some of the fonts are clearly stolen and being given away through the sites. Don’t assume that because a font is free that there are no restrictions on its use.

I look at the free font sites the same way that I look at the free stock image sites. I keep away from them.

No argument on that, Mojo. And I respect your caution.

But. As a grownup professional in a grownup world, I expect that a font creator who places limitations on their font should clearly state them. And place them where they will be seen. As I said before, I will respect those posted restrictions.

Because I can’t read their whimsical minds. Hobbyist or not. If they’re going to publish their font, they need to communicate with those who might use it.

And, I haven’t seen fonts that were obviously stolen. How can you tell?

I use creative commons images, too, if that’s where the best image is for the project. Or free stock, or paid stock. If you are respecting the stated rules, paying your way and not using them illicitly, I don’t see any danger.

She said respectfully.

When it comes to the free sites, I don’t assume the person giving stuff away is the actual creator.

When I buy through a paid stock agency, or from a foundry, or Typekit, there’s a peace of mind because the content has been vetted and there is accountability from the supplier. I don’t see that level of professionalism in the free sites and that’s a red flag for me.

Had a client, they made something on their own, used an image from a free site. Getty found it and demanded $50k since it was actually their image and it was rights managed. Someone, not the real author, was giving away Getty content through a free site. The client’s lawyers had to negotiate a settlement. I’m glad I had nothing to do with it because I would have been fired.

And personally, I’ve had so much stock photography pirated over the years, I assume the same thing happens with fonts. Most telling, one of my images has only sold once on istock, but I did a reverse image search and I can find it in use on a dozen different unrelated places on the internet. Someone bought it and started giving it away or was reselling it. Frustrating.

That’s a good assumption. In my off hours I’ve been designing typefaces for quite a few years. Several of those typefaces have escaped my control and the fonts are available on the free font sites listed under various people’s names who ripped them off. I contact the font sites, and sometimes they’ll remove them. Within a few months, they’re usually back.

Even when the free fonts are legitimate, they’re more often than not terrible quality, sloppily built and full of errors of various sorts that risk crashing output device RIPs.

The only free font site I trust is, but even there, the quality is often lacking.

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Tagging on my own question to this thread.

So, what happens in a case where the clients want the original files? One will have to share the fonts with them, right?

It depends on the End User License Agreements (EULA) that comes with the fonts, but nearly all font owners, with the exception of the copyright holders of the “free fonts,” prohibit giving away their fonts unless you destroy your copies of the fonts after giving them to your clients.

It’s similar to buying a movie on a DVD. You can give away the DVD, but if you do so, it’s illegal to keep a copy for yourself.

For what it’s worth, the term “free fonts” is something of a misnomer. The license to use them might be free, but the terms of that free license are still enforceable since the fonts themselves are still owned by copyright holder.

I never share commercial fonts with clients. I tell them right up front that it would clearly be illegal for me to do so, then tell them where they can buy a copies for themselves.

Same here. Depending upon how freely we communicate, (and whether I’m actually in contact with the person in direct control of the budget), I may offer the option of brokering the purchase and rolling the cost of their license into my bill. There have been cases when a particular font, specific to a one-off job was acquired and I just let the license transfer to the client, with its cost rolled into my bill. Either way, if they get the font, they pay for the license; if we both get it, we both pay.

You MUST read the legal terms & conditions. I read the T&C for a font I nearly needed to purchase and it stated the font (going price of $90) is subject to royalty fees if your company makes $5 million dollars or more by using their font. The royalty fee was undisclosed, so they can add a royalty fee of 75% to the $5 million and be entitled to the fee.

You don’t trust dafont?

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