Are poor font choices putting you at legal risk?

Look around. Typefaces (fonts) are used in virtually every type of media that exists, however they are perhaps the most taken for granted tool in any creative toolbox.

At first blush, fonts may seemingly be innocuous little pieces of software, but in reality they are someone’s intellectual property, every bit as much as illustration, photography, and music are – and are protected by the very same copyright laws.

Choosing a font to use on a commercial brand is a much bigger responsibility than you might think.

Creatives spend hours searching for the “perfect” font that will align with the messages in their designs. While aesthetics certainly play a pivotal role in font choice, properly licensing fonts and using them in a compliant manner is even more vital. Failing to do so can lead to expensive (and embarrassing) litigation due to copyright infringement.

Font licensing is a shared responsibility between agencies and brands.

Font licensing is WICKEDLY confusing!

Take a look at the current state of the font industry – no wonder it’s confusing!

There are over a million fonts and growing steadily – type designers graduate from global universities annually.

There are thousands of type designers/font foundries/font distributors (for simplicity, going forward we’ll call them “foundries”). Each foundry has their very own unique terms and conditions stipulating exactly how their fonts can (and can’t) be used. These terms and conditions are defined in their End User License Agreements (called a EULA).

It’s a huge mistake to assume EULAs from all foundries are the same – quite simply, they’re not. There are no standardized licensing terms in the font industry. While some foundries offer “generous” or “simple” licensing allowing wider use of their fonts, others can be significantly more restrictive, requiring additional licensing extensions to be purchased depending on how the font will be used.

Language (legalese and technicalese) in EULAs can be intimidating and ambiguous unless you have font licensing experience and knowledge of the technologies and terminology.

There is more than ONE font licensing model. The basic model (called “desktop”) is the standard for design and most print, however separate licensing must be secured for fonts used in websites, HTML5 digital banner ads, and mobile apps. Depending on the complexity of a given campaign or project, some or all of these licenses may be necessary.

Font licensing is no longer the sole responsibility of agencies. Font licensing is a shared responsibility between agencies and brands. Some licensing models are the responsibility of agencies while others are the responsibility of the Brand. Both parties must be cooperative and transparent in securing the necessary licensing. Licensing gaps can put both parties at legal risk.

The web is chock full of sites offering “FREE” fonts. Most free fonts have no business being used commercially – using them can be a risky proposition. Many free font sites contain pirated or plagiarized fonts. Remember the old adage “The best things in life are free”? Not so much with free fonts.

The font industry is far from static – many of the above points WILL change over time. Keeping up with these changes is extremely challenging.

Font foundries and font designers expect full compliance with their EULAs. Licensees must be prepared to read, sign, and abide by the EULA of each and every font they license.

With all the confusion around font licensing, how do you know if you’re licensed properly?

Font Shield can help mitigate your risk. We are font licensing and font management experts. We know the fonts, the foundries, and the licensing models. What’s more – we have years of experience in internal advertising agency production and know how fonts are used in their projects.

Neither a font foundry nor font designers, Font Shield has extensive font licensing experience and can help brands and agencies navigate their font licensing needs and mitigate any pitfalls so they can get on with the business of selling their products and services.

Take the fear out of font licensing. Look at our services and then contact Font Shield.