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6.10.2009

F Is For Font

I've written about the difference between owning and licensing media before. But now I'm delving into a whole new world of media production:

Graphic design.

And with graphic design comes fonts. Fonts of every shape, size, style, and feel.


Fonts -- Yes, yes, I know

You have to buy fonts to use them--unless you can find them legitimately for free. But what can you do with them? What does it mean to have a "copyrighted font" at your disposal? I mean, if you read some of the legal documents it appears that all you can do it buy the font and look at it on your own computer and no where else (not even your other computer).

So I started digging. Here is what I have found:

  1. Fonts are technically "software" now which means:
    • a) You can't give copies of it to others, or put it on another computer unless you have permission from the people who hold the copyright
    • b) You can't modify the font or change the name as this would be like altering code
    • c) You probably shouldn't embed a font into a document unless you're sure you're allowed to
  2. If you have any questions about what you can and can't do with a font, check the EULA (end user license agreement)
  3. Every EULA is radically different from all the others, so check the EULA if you have questions
  4. Seriously, no one can give any legal advice; the EULA is supreme
  5. ...it is impossible to find a copy of any font's EULA

Yep, that wasn't helpful.

Here is what I have concluded: If you have a license to use a font--and you do if you purchased a copy of Word, Photoshop, or paid for your computer's operating system (which is typically included in the price of your computer), or have downloaded a program/operating system legitimately for free (like a Linux distribution or GIMP), or have paid for a font you downloaded--then the following rules apply:

1. Do not share the font. Just like software and other digital media, you can't share, copy, or give away this font to anyone else.
2. Feel free to use the font. The big, scary copyright laws seem to have much more to do with protecting the font file, and less to do with how you can use that font file in your programs. For instance, yes, the EULA may say that you can't "modify the font" in any way--which would seem to imply that you can't take your Liquify tool and stretch the bottom of the "R" a little, but this is not the case. You just can't go into a font editing program, stretch the "R" a little and resave the font (as that would be a derivative work).

So, near as I can tell: Feel free to use the fonts in your programs however you like to make logos, header images, layouts, and other fun images. It is absolutely within your licensed right to do so.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

2 comments :

-)_-. said...

lol Papyrus

Luke said...

<smile> Yep.

~Luke