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A question of legitimate font use on graphic props?

May 6, 2016

When you want to start a graphics business there are many things you need to get before you start, some of them are obvious like graphics software, decent printers and a range of paper medias. However some software, like fonts, are a grey area indeed. You get a certain set of fonts with your software obviously and there are hundreds of free fonts on the Internet. However the quality of these is hit and miss at best, especially the free fonts, because obviously they want you to buy the full version, and why not, creating a new font isn't just a five minute job.  Free fonts come with certain restrictions on use, but how many people actually read those notes attached, a font labelled as free isn't necessarily going to be free to use commercially. When you're going to be selling graphics these are the points you have to consider. 

 

We're just starting out with our own business, being part of bigger companies previously meant not having to worry too much about software licensing that was all taken care of.  Now we're responsible for everything and it's a little scary. It's obvious that if you use someone's artwork or photography without permission, that person can come back and demand any price they want from you after use. But font licensing, how does that work exactly?

 

There are many websites that sell fonts, great easy we'll just pay for it. Hang on which sort of license do you need? And have you read the terms and conditions? I took some time to read through the terms and conditions and the differences between licenses, and where certain points make perfect sense others were left unclear.  Did I need a law degree to understand this? Being a small start-up company means access to lawyers is a luxury we can't currently afford. So does it really need to be this hard? 

 

First define 'Font', well it is actually the software used to create the typeface, so to use one you must obtain a license from the font foundry (the creators) you don't actually purchase the font. The license sets out how you may use the software and for what purpose, it may say how you can use it commercially i.e. Sell no more than 250 units/ printed items per year. When designing for film and television the pound signs usually start to get way higher. Most 'desktop font licenses' which is your standard type of license (web licensing is a whole different ball game) say that they are not for use in motion pictures and television. However here is where it gets complicated, does that mean that a film/TV production company may not use it without a special license on the film (i.e. credits on screen graphics). We are not a production company, we are selling prints to a production company and do not pass the software on to them at any point, so where do we stand? Special font licenses cost way in excess of what we can charge a client for a graphic prop, for example a bottle label.

 

On the web site myfonts.com in their EULA (End user licence Agreement

 

 

) they state "You agree that you may not use the font software or portion of it (unless you obtain additional licensing) in the following cases: as part of broadcasting video or film. Broadcast and film usage refers to the use of the font software in titling, credits or other text for any onscreen broadcast via television, video or motion picture." But also state a special license is required for commercial use, while another font website 'Hype For Type' says you can sell up to 250 units.

 

We bought some fonts from 'Hype For Type' who state that it can't be used by motion pictures and tv, as well as saying you can sell up to 250 units per item, which would suit us. I contacted them to clarify whether their non use for film and tv meant on screen graphics as that would be a font and once printed out it becomes a typeface, to my understanding anyway. Despite saying on their site that they are happy to answer any questions, they did not even acknowledge mine. So I am left back in the grey, but with a better understanding of EULA, fonts and typefaces at least.

 

The research will continue and I'll report back.

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