Typographical Fair Usage* Standards

In the US at this moment, each instance of an uncertified copy of a typeface on your computer can be punished with a $5,000 fine.

Previously, an artist would create art and collect for output to include all images, fonts, instructions, even metadata sometimes. This would all go by hard copy to the client. Who in turn would take it to production/ the printer. This was considered “fair usage” for the client because the artist owned the font, and the printer prints it. This means that only one license need be obtained, by the artist, for “actual usage”.

Contrarily and presently, each step in the chain must own a separate license for each font. As I noted in a previous conversation, to own the Helvetica Family fully is $999.00. (That is a must own for a shop.) In other words, Monotype (or Linotype?) gets $3,000 instead of just the $1,000. This is an unfair burden on small print shops who must have a work-around.

So, as with any other industry, the big hitters are pushing the law to maximize profits - (this is normal development - shady? maybe, but predictable). The problem is our legal systems too slow to keep up with the shady practices of the large companies that infringe the rights to work and ability to do so on an even basis. And what about the struggling artist? Is he doomed to use only the font library that came with their computer? Isn’t that unfair? How can one compete against the big companies that own all the guten stuffen?

But does that rise to the level of “court consideration”? Does that rise to the level of a “case or controversy”? Is there an “actionable consideration” to bring before the courts? NO. Why? Because in order to do so, you must show 1. you suffered a loss, and 2. that loss was directly attributable to the company causing it. Besides, they aren’t doing anything illegal.

As we speak, I get art in every single day with fonts from the “twilight zone file”: fonts that are used maybe once a year. Our work-around is to have all text outlined prior to us receiving. Anyone in the business for a month knows the inherent working problems with that. But the larger problem is, that in order for me to change an “a” to an “o” I need to go find one and copy and paste it into place (if one is available on the art). If I need to reflow a paragraph, guess what? It all has to go back to the artist.

This is a “clear and unnecessary undue burden” placed upon small business and independent contractors (freelancers) that give large businesses a massive advantage. *(Please don’t tell me “yeah it’s always like that.” I know. This is not a political or economic discussion.)

Do I have a solution? Yeah. Go back to old fair usage standards because they are fair. Allow the artist or client to buy the font they want, but to be able to make it company AND job specific so that the fonts can legally travel with the art.

I’m not writing this to show I know something. I’m writing this because this is a massive expense in both time and money that constitutes an unfair and unnecessarily burdensome practice distributed unevenly and affecting the least able to defend themselves. In other words, it WILL be changed because that has always been the (basic) legal basis for large scale change in business law.

But it isn’t going to happen until we, artists, printers, copywriters, illustrators and fine artists make enough noise about it. I want you to turn this off. I want you to go to your window. I want you to open it up and yell “I’m sick and tired and I’m not going to take it anymore!” †

** words/phrases in " " are legal terms of art.*
† bonus points for anyone recognizing the reference.


I believe it is from the movie “Network”.

So what do we do then? like is there a petition or something?

You know there are some fonts that don’t allow outlining, right?
Usually you will get an error message when that happens, but best to check the EULA.
And now licenses are popping up that specifically forbid making 3D objects from the font files with a very special license. Just ran into that a couple months ago. Sorry, can’t cut your letters on the CNC to make your sign. Nope. Silly thing was, it was a free font. Until you wanted to do that.
(I think it has something to do with 3D printers proliferating.)
It’s all stupid.

You also know that Adobe is cornering the market on typefaces too? You cannot package Adobe typefaces. I’ve noticed a lot of things I bought licenses for in the past are now missing from places like Fonts dot com and some other legit type sources. Adobe has them. Good luck with that petition against something like that.

I cannot retire out of this industry fast enough.


I have tens of thousands of font files dating back to 1986. A lot I bought, some are freebies, but most I inherited when the companies I worked for went bust. I got the fonts as part of the severance package. There is no paperwork. This news is one more reason to be glad I don’t work in the land of the free. :roll_eyes:

I don’t know the process to get this done. So right now it’s just informing others and hoping someone has the right connections to make some waves.

I don’t know what to do about it, but I know the first step is to be informed. I honestly think The Graphics Artists Guild should get involved.

Maybe if we start writing/emailing them about it they can get behind it.

Yes. When that happen there are other work arounds. Mainly that happens when the metadata information about the license is lost (from copying fonts around).

erase your message

No it happens when the font is specifically engineered to not allow outlining. ON PURPOSE.
The license also says so…
A font like that is useless. Don’t even bother buying it.
The other part is that some free fonts have been coming in, free for print use, but not for “3D constructs.” Again. USELESS.
If you don’t buy them, maybe the creators would get the hint.

Fonts are used for things far beyond printing on flat sheets of paper. How do you think those enormous cut metal can letters are made? Printed? You have to outline the font. If an error message is returned, you are SOL (or you pay our markup on the negotiated price with the foundry to get the special license.)
Adobe is going to take over your world. In some respects it’ll make my life as a printer easier. Yours? Maybe not so much.

Really? Whoa. I was unaware of that, but trust your knowledge.

Yeah, a lot of free fonts are only screen versions too so they get nasty looking at print.

Yep. We use ultra thin sheet metals and vinyl printers for car logos. The guy who does the vinyl races as an amateur and his whole car looks like the Martini and Rossi classic paint jobs. :slight_smile:

(not his car below)


No, I’m talking about these:

Yeah I get it man. Think we talked past each other but I’m on the same page.

I do machinery console plating on occasion. Probably the most similar to what you are showing but right - not 3d.

Do you think Adobe Dimension will do anything about that? I’ve been playing with it over the last 6 months or so but don’t really find it too useful yet.

Can font problems be an issue when PDFs are submitted to printers, or just on projects where fonts and ID files are packaged?

I don’t know that the format matters, just the license? Anyone else have a better answer?

Cool trick:
If you pull a pdf into Illustrator and you get a font missing warning, close it. Open it directly in Acrobat, go to Flattener Preview, check “Convert all text to outlines”.

Naturally the fonts are no longer editable, so you want to save as a copy. But it’s a good way to work around on about 90% of the fonts I’ve encountered. (Doesn’t always work).

Some fonts don’t allow embedding in PDFs. I can’t remember for sure, but it seems like a warning message appears somewhere or another when a font like that is used. For those that can be embedded, I’ve not run into problems sending them to printers.

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Slightly faster trick, “place” the PDF in Illustrator and go to Object, Flatten Transparency, convert text to outlines.
Of course it all depends on what you are doing with the file afterwards. Any PDF that has to be pulled into Illustrator for any reason is often bad news. Any time I have to do that, the text is usually going to be cut vinyl. Or the fonts in a placed PDF drop out or convert to default when printing.

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