Free fonts can put advertising agencies and their clients at risk.

Remember the old adage “if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is”? How about “Nothing in life is free”? FREE fonts are a lot like that.

The web contains a plethora of free font sites.

With a few exceptions such as SIL Open Font Licensing (OFL), downloading free fonts from the web can be a risky proposition. If you’re a reputable advertising agency, you should ensure your team stays clear of free fonts – you may get more than you bargained for.

Problems associated with free fonts:

Questionable Origins. While some fonts on free font sites may be legitimate works from original font designers, others are not. Some fonts on these sites are illegitimate copies of commercial, for sale, copyrighted fonts which have been modified slightly, renamed, and offered up as originals, which for all intents and purposes – is theft. The problem is you can’t tell which fonts are legitimate and which aren’t.

Should the original font designer of a font that was copied and modified discover his font is being used without permission (whether free or not), he is entitled to seek damages. Usually in this scenario his first point of contact would be the brand the font is being used for. This could lead to legal issues between the font designer, the agency, and the brand – definitely not good for a healthy business relationship between agency and client.

Quality. Another old adage comes to mind “You get what you pay for”. Fonts from these sites can have poor rendering quality, poor kerning, missing glyphs, created in English only, and are often only created in single weights (no italic, bold, bold italic, etc.).

Customer service and support. There isn’t any.

Solid licensing terms and conditions. Many of these sites don’t provide a EULA (end user license agreement) for the fonts that are offered. A EULA is a document that clearly outlines how a font can and cannot be used. Having a clear and concise EULA should be mandatory.

Personal use only. Many free fonts are offered for personal use only (not commercial use). Personal use is typically cases such as scrapbooking, school projects, etc.

If you’re an advertising agency, pay for your font licensing. Deal with reputable font foundries and distributors. Reduce your risk of copyright infringement litigation.

Be proactive. Let Font Shield help you manage your font licensing needs and mitigate your risk of litigation so you can get on with the business of selling your products and services.