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Thread: How to Manage Fonts Without Feeling Guilty or Getting Sued?

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  1. #1
    Guild Journeyer Facebook Connected
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    Map How to Manage Fonts Without Feeling Guilty or Getting Sued?

    I'm a big fan of free. I use Open Office, Gimp, Inkspace, and Wilbur. Until last week, I wasn't aware that most fonts, even so-called "free" fonts, aren't licensed for all (or even most) possible uses. Although I haven't yet broken any copyrights or laws in the two commissions I've done, that's because I haven't been paid for them (with money, anyway; they were quid pro quo commissions), though some of the fonts that came with the software I have didn't include any licensing details, so there's no way for me to know for sure.

    Of course, no-one's kicking down my door over using Hanzel Extended, Narkism, or Metamorphous. I doubt I'll ever be successful enough to warrant a cease-and-desist letter even if I use pirated fonts on purpose. These fonts MAY be totally free use, but I can't find any documentation to confirm this.

    I'm not so much worried about the legalities as the principles. My conscience is uneasy with the possibility that I may have used someone else's work without their permission, because most of the free font sites out there are loaded with questionably-licensed fonts. I just honestly never gave it much thought before now.

    How do I keep my ethical and legal font-ducks in a row? Where can I find credible information on what I can use a given font for? Should I delete all my fonts except for what I can find on Font Squirrel? What are some good practices?

  2. #2
    Administrator Redrobes's Avatar
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    Id be interested to know other peoples opinions about this too. For me, I use something like DaFont and when I download it I expect to be given the license terms with it and as soon as I open one which I then discover has more restriction than I was led to believe then I just delete the download and try for another. I use FontGlancer to bring up all my font styles at once so I can see if there is a similar font I should be using. But I only have maybe 50 fonts and I know some people have many hundreds to deal with.

  3. #3
    Community Leader Guild Sponsor - Max -'s Avatar
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    If you can't find informations on it try to contact the font designer. If you still don't know what are the conditions of use, I'd suggest that keep you safe and not use them or at least only for personnal projects.

  4. #4


    I usually use dafont too and try to stick to the fonts listed as "free". Most of my projects are personal though so I don't worry too much. But I can see the concern and I definitely wouldn't want to use someone elses work in something more commercial without permission.

  5. #5


    Typically, a font that comes bundled with software (such as Myriad, which comes with several Adobe products) is licensed for use in whatever kind of media the software is likely to produce. The software publisher has taken care of licensing and included the cost in the price of the program. That may vary by foundry, but chances are extremely good that you're ethically and legally covered if you're using a font that was bundled with a major piece of commercial software.

    There is also a distinction between the font—the software that renders the typeface, and the typeface—the glyphs themselves. They are treated as distinct by US copyright law, where copyright only covers the font file—the algorithms used to render the typeface. The situation is different for Redrobes because under UK law the typeface itself is protected.

    Here's a useful article: The Law on Fonts and Typefaces: Frequently Asked Questions « crowdSPRING Blog
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist

  6. #6
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    Some of the free font sites out there offer information on the usage of the fonts themselves. Free Mac Fonts, IIRC, tells you by font which ones are free to use commercially and which ones are not. I used to have this same conundrum, since the maps I produced ended up in role-playing game books. In the end, I just decided to play it safe and either buy the fonts I wanted to use, or stick with fonts that came with my computer. Thankfully, there were plenty of large font collections that just cost a few bucks. Most of the fonts were junk, but the ones I did like made the purchase worth it. For me, it was all a matter of risk management. I wasn't looking to rip anybody off, so if that meant spending a few bucks to illustrate work I was getting paid for, I had no problem with that whatsoever.

  7. #7
    Guild Adept TimPaul's Avatar
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    Don't steal. That's pretty simple to understand.

    If you download a free font, you can use it in any design or map you want. You aren't violating copyright. Since they put the font out there for free. That is the end purpose of fonts.

    If you buy a font, you can still use it in your designs and maps. Without violating any copyright.

    DON'T give the font files to someone else. THAT is violating your agreement with whoever sold you the font.

    That's it.

  8. #8
    Community Leader RobA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimPaul View Post
    If you download a free font, you can use it in any design or map you want. You aren't violating copyright. Since they put the font out there for free. That is the end purpose of fonts.
    As mentioned by a few folks, many free fonts are distributed conditionally - i.e. "free for personal use" and as such can't be used for commercial (or even corporate) purposes.

    Over at 1001Fonts Free For Personal Use License (FFP) · 1001 Fonts their interpretation is (added bold is mine):
    In this license, 'the given typeface' refers to the given .zip file, which may contain one or numerous fonts. These fonts can be of any type (.ttf, .otf, ...) and together they form a 'font family' or in short a 'typeface'.

    1. Copyright
    The given typeface is the intellectual property of its respective author, provided it is original, and is protected by copyright laws in many parts of the world.

    2. Personal Use
    The given typeface may be downloaded and used free of charge for personal use, as long as the usage is not racist or illegal. Personal use refers to all usage that does not generate financial income in a business manner, for instance:

    - personal scrapbooking for yourself
    - recreational websites and blogs for friends and family
    - prints such as flyers, posters, t-shirts for churches, charities, and non-profit organizations

    3. Commercial Use
    Commercial use is not allowed without prior written permission from the respective author. Please contact the author to ask for commercial licensing. Commercial use refers to usage in a business environment, including:

    - business cards, logos, advertising, websites, mobile apps for companies
    - t-shirts, books, apparel that will be sold for money
    - flyers, posters for events that charge admission
    - freelance graphic design work
    - anything that will generate direct or indirect income

    4. Modification
    The given typeface may not be modified, altered, adapted or built upon without written permission by its respective author. This pertains all files within the downloadable font zip-file.

    5. Conversion
    The given typeface may be converted to other formats such as WOFF, SVG or EOT webfonts, as long as the font is not modified in any other way, such as changing names or altering individual glyphs.

    6. Distribution
    While the given typeface may freely be copied and passed along to other individuals for private use as its original downloadable zip-file, it may not be sold or published without written permission by its respective author.

    7. Embedding
    The given typeface may be embedded into an application such as a web- or mobile app, as long as the application is of personal use and does not distribute the given typeface, such as offering it as a download.

    8. Disclaimer
    The given typeface is offered 'as is' without any warranty. and the respective author of the given typeface shall not be liable for any damage derived from using this typeface. By using the given typeface you agree to the terms of this license.
    -Rob A>

  9. #9
    Guild Adept foremost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimPaul View Post
    If you download a free font, you can use it in any design or map you want. You aren't violating copyright. If you buy a font, you can still use it in your designs and maps. Without violating any copyright.
    There's different types of licenses with pretty much everything. Some allow you to use the font unconditionally, but just because you purchased it or downloaded it doesn't mean you can use it for monetary gain.

    In general, personal use is fine. But that doesn't include making money with it. Licenses would vary between fonts I'm sure.
    The best maps are the ones we like the most after looking at the longest.

  10. #10
    Guild Master Facebook Connected jtougas's Avatar
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    I agree with most of what has already been said. I used to have a massive font collection but over the years I've pared it down to about 35-40 that I use most of the time. I am not a commercial artist so I don't really worry too much about copyright issues. All of my fonts come from Dafont and I always make sure to only use the ones that are licensed for "free" use. If you ever plan to do any commercial work make sure to do your homework on who owns the font and whether or not it is licensed for commercial work.
    I am the breath of Dragons...The Song of Mountains...The Stories of Rivers....The Heart of Cities.... I am A Cartographer....

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    Everything I post is free for use and redistribution under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 licence, except where noted otherwise in the thread.

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