The right to use a font designed by someone else for any or all comrriu-
nications is acquired from the foundry that created the font and is
granted in the form of an end-user license agreement, or EULA. Some
foundries will allow a supplier to administer the license agreements for
a font, but the agreement itself is always between the licensee and the
foundry that created the font.
foundry to foundry and may vary depending on the scope of the desired
use. Licenses usually grant permission for the licensee to install a given
font on a certain number of computers. However, licenses can also
describe use on printers, periods of exclusivity for custom typefaces and
distribution rights. If you have questions about what you may or may
not do with the font you are using, the best thing to do is to contact the
foundry or supplier of the font.
You need permission to alter a font for use in your design.
Because the software that describes a typeface is automatically subject
to copyright protection upon its creation, any version of the original
font is considered a "derivative work" under copyright law. It is because
the adaptation is derived from copyrighted software that describes the
typeface that the revision should not be considered an authorized deriv¬
ative work. It cannot be used for commercial purposes without violating
Some font licenses allow the licensee to alter the characters in a font or
to convert the font to other formats. Other foundries do not allow
derivative works at all without permission. Therefore, many designers,
when asked to create a derivative work, have made it standard ethical
practice to get permission from the font designer before altering any
If you need to find out who designed the font you want to alter, you
may refer to the copyright information identified in software such as
Adobe Type Manager. You may also contact the foundry or font supplier.
You cannot share a font with someone who does not have his or her
own license to use it.
Font software may not be given or loaned to anyone who does not have
a license to use it. Therefore, misuse or unauthorized copying of a font
that belongs to a client or your employer is an infringement of the
designers rights and could subject you to legal action.
When the client is the "end user" of the license agreement, the designer
may not take the font with him or her when the project is over, even
though it may mean another license must be purchased for the next job.
You can embed a font in a file to have it viewed or printed by others.
A font may only be sent with a job to a service bureau, consultant or
freelancer if the contractor has a license for the font or if the license
agreement makes provision for it. When necessary, it is acceptable for
font data to be embedded in file formats such as EPS and PDF for
printing and previewing purposes.
This is an issue of ethics, respect and law.
There are tangible and intangible consequences of using a font without
a license. If caught using a font without the proper license, the licensee
will have to purchase the correct license for the font, and, in some cases,
pay damages to the originating foundry. More importantly, the use of a
font without the proper license could prevent a professional designer
from being fully compensated.
It is the value of the intellectual property of a colleague that is ultimately
at stake in the licensing of fonts. To purchase the proper license for a
font, especially as a practicing design professional, is to recognize the
value of a colleague s work, to respect the practice of another designer
and to uphold the integrity of the design profession.
Use of Fonts
Copyright: © American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) 2001
Editorial content: Allan Haley, et al, for AIGA
Reprinted with permission.
Use of Fonts is one topic in the AIGA business and ethics series, a
range of publications dealing with ethical standards and practices for
designers and their clients.