By Jim Kidwell
Product Marketing Manager at Extensis

Quite a few of you, that’s who! They can be long, boring, and filled with legalese, but reading them can save you from costly missteps.

They’re font licenses, also known as the End User License Agreement (shortened to EULA). These documents cover what you can and cannot do with the fonts that you licensed. While typeface designs cannot specifically be copyrighted in the USA, the software that’s used to make them display properly on your computer can. This is why fonts are pretty much licensed like other pieces of software.

Do you read the font licenseThe company that I work for, Extensis, makes the font management utilities Suitcase Fusion and Universal Type Server. During a recent webcast about Server-based Font Management, I surveyed attendees and asked them the following question:

When you purchase a font, do you read the font license?

I was happy to see that almost half of the survey group actually read them. Since the survey was of people who are specifically interested in managing their font collection using a server, I was happy to see these results. That being said, in the wider market I’m not as confident that we would see as much interest in reading the details of each font license. I would definitely like it to see that percentage even higher.

Many type foundries (those who create and sell fonts) have worked to make their EULAs simpler and easier to understand. That being said, there are still many situations where you may need to purchase an extended or modified font license.

Some of the conditions that may or may not be permitted, or where foundries may require you to purchase an extended license include:

  • Embedding into a PDF
  • Embedding into an distributable application – “there’s a font for that!”
  • Embedding into an eBook
  • Utilizing a single character or glyph prominently in a logo design
  • Selling a product that consists primarily of featuring the font (such as a mug with an inscription, a shirt with a phrase on it, or magnetic letters for a fridge)
  • Converting a font from one format to another
  • Modifying the font in a font editor
  • Using a font as a web font

These conditions vary by foundry. First step is to definitely read the EULA that came with your font. Can’t find a copy? Check with the foundry. While foundries vary in size, so you may be communicating directly with the creator of your favorite fonts.

So, if you’re already on top of this, good job!

If you’re “less than confident” about your licenses, I encourage you to take that first step today. Knowing what your rights and responsibilities are will help you create with confidence.

Once you’re started down the right path, you might want to centrally manage your fonts and font licenses. We’ve created a document at Extensis that will help you determine if and how server-based font management could fit into your team. Take a minute to check out the Server Based Font Management Best Practices Guide (Free PDF)