Since the only way to make sure that certain fonts are not pirated by merely looking at the images on a few websites; how to figure out…
I’m not sure how you would go about finding out if someone has a pirated font… I guess you’d have to go under investigation by someone accusing you or your business of using unauthorized/stolen software/fonts and if you were without a bill of sale… Then you’d be in trouble.
I’ve always felt good about buying my software and only using fonts i’ve obtained legally.
So many other designers get away with just pirating… In a way it’s a little annoying because I’m a creator and I wouldn’t want my work pirated / stolen and I definitely can’t offer it for free all the time.
In some cases, there is no way to know since lots of fonts are commissioned for special purposes, never released for public use but end up being pirated and distributed over the Internet. In other cases, it’s reasonably easy since the same font can be found for sale elsewhere.
Sometimes a commercial font is copied, opened, a few things changed (including the name), then uploaded to a free font site. Sometimes an image of a few glyphs in the font can be uploaded to WhatTheFont.com (or similar) and identified as a commercial font that’s been pirated, renamed and distributed.
If friends or employers give you fonts, unless those people have licenses allowing redistribution, those fonts shouldn’t be used.
For what it’s worth, I designed a couple of typefaces back in the 1980s that have been widely pirated. Every now and again, I send removal requests to the free font sites. Sometimes they remove the fonts, sometimes they don’t. Within a few weeks, though, they’re usually back.
I’m assuming you mean downloading a “free” font that is similar to another font. In which case just use your best judgment. If you think it’s stolen, don’t use it or go to a legitamate site and purchase it.
In most cases, if someone is suspicious of you using a stolen font, they’ll ask you to stop using it, or pay for it. In which case comply—further issue averted.
If your talking about a site offering a “free” font that every other site isn’t, for example Frutiger. Then steer clear. If your asking the question, your judgment of the situation is probably correct.