Please dont sue me!

ophello's picture

I graduated from OSU with a BFA in Applied Visual Arts last year and have been doing freelance design since then. While I was at school, we had access to a large collection of fonts. I copied them to my computer and still have them on my machine (*everyone* did this). I use them regularly in my designs today.

What do I do now that I'm out of school? I can't afford to pay for all the fonts I have on my machine...am I really supposed to make do with system fonts? Are font companies going to zero in on my house via GPS, bust my door in and arrest me for using their fonts in my work? Will the font designers rip all my posters down and declare me a thief? Will the ground open up and swallow me down to the 7th Circle of Hell?

What's a broke freelance designer to do? Free fonts are usually crap.

Si_Daniels's picture

>What's a broke freelance designer to do?

Perhaps a career move?

Paying for fonts won't make you a successful designer.

oldnick's picture

If you're looking for absolution, you've come to the wrong place. Theft is theft...

Si_Daniels's picture

>If you're looking for absolution,

Theory B. I have trouble believing any graphic designer would post a message like this, using their real name, location, educational background and web site (profile), forever linking themselves to such behavior, thanks to the power of Google. So perhaps this is an attempt to discredit a competitor or the upstanding design students at Oregon State?

russellm's picture

Fonts are tools. Carpenters and mechanics pay for their tools, why shouldn't designers?

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Worrying about this is a start. My suggestion is: try to be on the legal side. You can start by licensing the font you are going to use for your present work (normally you can charge your client a little extra so you can pay the fonts or at least a part of it). You don’t need to buy all the family, just the weights you are going to use. If your buy is wise, probably those fonts will be useful for future works, so you can save the extra charge for the time you need to buy again. Repeat the process.

Type design implies a lot of time, maybe years just to develop a single family. It’s fair to compensate to the guy who makes possible your work.

blank's picture

I use them regularly in my designs today.

Stop being a piker and charge the cost of the fonts back to your clients! Do you think a plumber would install a sink and not make you pay for the pipes?

ophello's picture

"If you're looking for absolution, you've come to the wrong place. Theft is theft..."

I'm not looking for absolution, I just want to do the right thing. A lot of designers...I dare say ALL students who graduate from design schools...do this regularly. I think it's a universal issue, not some isolated incident.

My work isn't exactly high-profile, and the most high-profile work I've done had fonts that my client already owned and had license to use so I'm not really worried that I've truly trespassed.

ophello's picture

I should probably have clarified that the majority of my work has been based out of school, and they own all the font licenses for the fonts on their machines. I assumed that while I was working there, I had free-reign to use them.

Anyway, I'll definitely start charging for font use as part of my user agreement. Thanks for all your feedback.

oldnick's picture

A lot of designers...I dare say ALL students who graduate from design schools...do this regularly. I think it's a universal issue, not some isolated incident.

Yeah, and everyone on Wall Street was double-dealing, and putting together packages that they knew would fail. We all know how well that turned out...

Theunis de Jong's picture

I think it's a good sign of a developing moral sense that you are aware that you should pay for fonts -- at the very least for the ones you are using.

Most people seem to think it's legal because the 'Web makes it easy to do, and don't spend another second thinking any further.

Steven Acres's picture

Most people seem to think it's legal because the 'Web makes it easy to do, and don't spend another second thinking any further.

I don't think the "web" is the issue here. He paid to go to school, they have the fonts (that he uses legally while he is there) and then he graduates. This isn't so cut-and-dry as everyone thinks.

And the "plumber" metaphor works above, but it's hard to draw a metaphor here: it's not a normal circumstance to be paying to work under someone (school) and use their tools.

ophello's picture

Fonts are tools.

Tools that can be copied infinitely without using resources will lose their value. It's like inflation: the more money becomes available, the less it is worth.

There is no universal accountability system in place for protecting the intellectual property of type and software designers. They're in the mix with every other type of digital media.

The problem is a tricky one:

A. people who are in college could be required to register the fonts and software on their computer in order to prevent piracy. But...

B. those kind of accountability systems are perceived as a threat to privacy and many would be against it because of "civil rights violations" and a fear of "Big Brother."

I think piracy in this century is a huge issue and no single party is dealing with it fairly. The RIAA is suing the hell out of a few unlucky people, yet the perceived damages they did by sharing music was often blown completely out of proportion.

It's a story of the Big Suits "trampling the rights" of the little guy. It's a paranoid parade of confusion and conflict with no end in sight. Millions get off the hook and a few people are made to pay for their actions. This is clearly the wrong way about it. It is also the only way we've figured out.

When a brilliant type designer slaves away three years to create a typeface that people want to use, they've really created something untouchable and invisible. This is the struggle that type and software designers face when publishing fonts.

As I continue my freelance enterprises, I will gladly start purchasing licenses for the typefaces I use. I simply haven't been able to afford it. I'm not a criminal -- just going through a learning process.

If colleges would offer a font umbrella and allow graduated students to work with their college's licenses legally until they are able to pay for licenses themselves, then we'd have at least a temporary solution. I also think my teachers should have talked about this stuff more. It was only ever mentioned in passing and most students never talked about it. The attitude was "there's nothing we can do to stop it, so why bother?"

Arno Enslin's picture

I have the dark vision of a one-hundred-post-thread with Ferraris, Audis and Porsches and with masses of little men that sneak through the cables and that ride on electromagnetic waves with all the golden glyphs on their backs and the kerning in their pockets.

oldnick's picture

It's a story of the Big Suits "trampling the rights" of the little guy

Perhaps in an alternate universe, "owning" tunes and fonts might rank right up there with Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, but not in this one, Junior...

Nick Shinn's picture

Forget about the fonts you already have installed -- whatever their legal status.
When you get a new project, use it as an opportunity to acquire a new typeface that is just right for the job at hand.
So many fonts, so little time.
You might find yourself falling back on certain faces that always come through for you, in which case, sure, pay to license them.
Myriad Condensed and Scala were those faces for me, when I was art directing back in the '90s. And Helvetica, although I am loth to admit it!

ophello's picture

I'll probably cough up the money for a couple emigre fonts as well as Akzidenz-Grotesk and Roswell.

Are the fonts that came installed on my machine licensed for my use commercially?

type.nasos's picture

choose 2-3 fonts, that suits ur design.
Since you are not student anymore, and you getting money from projects.
Start putting on the side a certain percentage % of your profits for fonts
as you said, fonts are good tools, treat them back nicely.
And in notime you will have a good font library.

Richard Fink's picture

@all

As I continue my freelance enterprises, I will gladly start purchasing licenses for the typefaces I use. I simply haven't been able to afford it. I'm not a criminal -- just going through a learning process.

This guy reminds me of me and every other aspiring professional musician in the pre-digital era. (That's pre-digital, folks.)
At that time, purchasing the "sheet music" for popular songs was an impossible proposition. Pricing was geared for the amateur whose purchases were few and far between. And, of course, jazz tunes weren't published at all - somebody had to sit down and write out the melodies and chord changes.
The answer was - what was called at the time and probably still is - "fake books". These were black market compilations of tunes written out by professionals for other professionals and music students. (Also, the quality of the fakes were better than what was sold to the public, too. The chord changes (harmonies), especially, tended to be more accurate.)
At the Berklee College of Music, there was one fake book that everybody had and it was an indispensable "textbook" (but, of course, you couldn't buy it in a store) and you carried it with you all the time.
It was ironically titled "The Real Book" as a play on the phrase "fake book" and because of the accuracy I mentioned - to musicians, an inside joke.
Far from harming anyone, it served a great good. I wish I still had my collection of fake books, but they got lost in the shuffle years ago.

I can't imagine how an aspiring designer is supposed to learn to handle typefaces if they don't have a "learning" collection.
That's just my take on ophello's post - I think it's for real. And even if he isn't, his problems are.
Not looking to debate this back and forth. He just reminded me of me.

Rich

aluminum's picture

The great thing about actually purchasing type rather than just downloading them en masse is that it forces you to curate, which I find an important part of the design process.

You don't need hundreds of typefaces. Typically, you just need one or two that are right for the job at hand.

John Hudson's picture

Rich: I can't imagine how an aspiring designer is supposed to learn to handle typefaces if they don't have a "learning" collection.

In this case, ophello reports that as a student he had access to a large number of fonts, which he then copied to his computer and took with him when he ceased being a student. Presuming -- a big presumption -- that the school had legitimately licensed all those fonts for use by its students, there you have both the learning collection you suggest is necessary and the legitimate learning context in which it is used. If someone failed during his or her time as a student to learn to handle type while having access to such a collection, that is either an individual failing or reflects badly on the school and its curriculum; in either case, it isn't resolved by an individual making copies of all those fonts and continuing to work with them after he or she has ceased to be a student at that institution.

Ophello, the first thing for you to do, if you genuinely want to do the right thing, is to delete from your system any font for which you do not have a license that permits it to be installed on your system. You will still have a lot of fonts left: fonts that came with your system, fonts that came bundled with software, plus any fonts that you have licensed. In fact, you'll still have enough fonts to constitute something like Rich's ‘learning collection’ if that is what you want or need. Some of these fonts will be appropriate for some jobs, and for other jobs you can build the price of new font licenses into your design fee.

Chris Dean's picture

"Theory B. I have trouble believing any graphic designer would post a message…"

Agreed. Sounds like an angry friend, troll or someone trying generate dialogue about the cost of fonts to simply monitor the conversation that follows. That, or some sort of bizarre attempt at "social media networking."

Fail.

Steven Acres's picture

I wouldn't say delete them. What's the point? Just don't use them/publish your works using them.

I'd say keep them, as a way to test purchasing options in the future. There's no harm in having them for your own experimental use, especially if in an upcoming project you decide one is necessary for the design. You can easily test it out and then decide if you want to purchase your own copy.

JamesM's picture

Do college design classes even teach about font licensing? (I graduated in the days before desktop publishing, so it wasn't an issue in those days.)

Steven Acres's picture

In my experiences, colleges don't really teach about "fonts" (as a whole)... they leave that up to you, which I prefer. Especially not licensing. This definitely helps separate the ones there for a degree and the ones there for passion/actual interest. In my Senior year, there were people who had been there for 4 years with me, but still had no idea of the difference between Opentype and Truetype or who Herb Lubalin was. It would be nice if they delved into licensing, however.

Classes can only cover so much, you know? There is a type design course as well, but it's only offered to graduates. I wanted to take that course, but not enough people (less than 5... I don't understand it) signed up, so it was dropped. Guess I'm stuck to training myself again.

BeauW's picture

My college taught a bit about licensing- and they were very strict about not allowing us to copy fonts from their computers.

ophello's picture

Agreed. Sounds like an angry friend, troll or someone trying generate dialogue about the cost of fonts to simply monitor the conversation that follows. That, or some sort of bizarre attempt at "social media networking."

OR...I'm a real person and everything I've said is true. Why is that so hard to believe?

I'm getting kind of annoyed with the animosity in here. I didn't kill your cat. I just have fonts on my system from college, a few of which have been used and the vast majority of which are simply rotting on my hard drive.

I think I've made it clear that it is my intention to start purchasing fonts regularly.

oldnick's picture

I'm getting kind of annoyed with the animosity in here. I didn't kill your cat. I just have fonts on my system from college (99% of which have never been used in any of my work, BTW. They're just there.)

Well, what exactly did you expect? A number of members of this forum, myself included, derive their sole source of income from the sale of their fonts. Your lame attempt to excuse your behavior with the bromide "everybody does it" doesn't hold water; everybody did it on Wall Street, and it cost the American taxpayers the better part of a trillion dollars to clean up the mess. I am willing to bet that you wouldn't attempt to pilfer a music CD from an actual brick-and-mortar store, if only because getting caught would have unpleasant consequences. What in the world makes you--and, evidently, every other member of your generation--think that theft of "non-tangible" items is any different? The bottom line is the same: the people who put out the effort to create the digital goods you enjoy don't get paid for those efforts, plain and simple...

John Hudson's picture

Steve: I wouldn't say delete them. What's the point? Just don't use them/publish your works using them. I'd say keep them, as a way to test purchasing options in the future. There's no harm in having them for your own experimental use, especially if in an upcoming project you decide one is necessary for the design. You can easily test it out and then decide if you want to purchase your own copy.

The original post indicate that ‘ophello’ wants to ‘do the right thing’. Unless a license for the fonts specifically permits their installation for test purposes as you suggest, any installation of this fonts on a system is unlicensed. Believing that one is not doing any harm is not the same as doing the right thing.

ophello's picture

Your lame attempt to excuse your behavior with the bromide "everybody does it" doesn't hold water

At no point did I ever attempt to "excuse myself" from anything. I was stating a fact without qualifiers: everyone pirates. Everyone. It can't be stopped and will never be stopped unless the internet gestapo puts a strangle-hold on every computer connected to the internet – which is a solution that I dare say even you would be violently opposed to. The consequences of piracy are not black and white, as you'd like them to be.

By the way...the argument that pirating music is "hurting musicians" has been debunked repeatedly by people who know a lot more about this stuff than I do. The music industry is doing just fine. Their CD sales are slumping because it makes no sense to burn the fuel to create the plastic and spin the data onto them and print them and package them and ship them and label them and sell them in a store when one mouse click does it all in the blink of an eye. It's a stupid waste of resources to print physical CDs.

Auto-Tune EFX is a piece of pitch-correction software (which I own, BTW) that doesn't work unless you have a special USB dongle with licenses on it connected to your computer. That seems like a solution to me.

ophello's picture

Here's a utopian idea. Tell me if you think this would work:

Font designers are all paid in full by one single type foundry. If you spend 9 months creating a typeface, you are paid for 9 months of work. If you're starting out, you pay the font foundry to advertise it for you and see if it becomes popular or useful. The more often your font is used, the more shares of the company you get.

The foundry makes money from membership fees, advertising on their website, holding design conferences and type workshops, and licensing their software security protocols to design companies like Adobe who agree to make their software work exclusively with the foundry.

Users pay a monthly fee and get access to any font they want for as long as they want. The more they pay, the more fonts they have access to. The fonts can only be used by purchasing a special USB dongle that activates their use on the computer. They aren't actually stored on the computer but exist entirely on the internet and cannot be downloaded or pirated.

Problem solved?

William Berkson's picture

>The music industry is doing just fine.

You lost me there.

ophello's picture

I'll repeat myself: the music industry, aside from CD sales, is doing just fine. True fact.

jasonc's picture

>>I'll repeat myself: the music industry, aside from CD sales, is doing just fine. True fact.<<

Should I send you the list of musicians I know that can't survive on the money they make as musicians? Or should I just point you to the sites where you can download their music without them seeing a dime for it?

ophello's picture

Do your musician friends utilize the internet to promote themselves? Twitter? Facebook groups? Do they perform regularly? Sell merchandise?

When I say "music industry," I'm referring to the RIAA and the Big 5. Musicians themselves have a lot to learn about making it in this economy. Trent Reznor is a good source of info on making money as a musician.

And if they can't "survive as musicians," is that necessarily the fault of piracy? It's easy to blame piracy but you can't just connect the dots directly.

Most musicians starting out giving their music for free. It's a new paradigm, and it sneaked up on us fast.

Nostratypus's picture

Is it a Duck
Behind this treachery?
This Thievery?
Nay, I say.
'Tis a Beaver.

John Hudson's picture

What does music have to do with this? Fonts are professional tools, not consumer media. Ophello has identified himself as a graphic design professional, i.e. someone who uses fonts to add value to his work and who makes money from that activity. There is no parallel between professional tools and consumer media, whether one is talking about physical form or digital.

Si_Daniels's picture

>'Tis a Beaver.

Perhaps its a case of a Beaver catching Duck font envy...

http://www.kval.com/sports/local/48921497.html

JamesM's picture

> It's easy to blame [music] piracy but you can't just
> connect the dots directly...

Oh dear... I started out sympathetic to you, Ophello — you were looking for advice on how to start making things right -- but now you seem to be veering in the general direction of defending piracy, or at least implying that it doesn't do much harm.

Some of the folks here make their living selling fonts, so piracy is going to be a touchy subject, to put it mildly. As the ship captain said in Master & Commander, "You've come to the wrong shop for anarchy."

I liked Nick Shinn's advice -- just use your upcoming projects as opportunities to gradually build a nice collection of legal-obtained fonts.

ophello's picture

If you read all my posts, you'd see my line of thinking.

What does music have to do with this?

A lot, actually. Name this:

1. A form of digital information that people work hard producing?
2. Sold through "official" outlets?
3. Millions get away with pirating it?
4. A few unlucky pirates are fined disproportionately to make up for lost revenue?

Fonts and music both fit into these categories. While I admit that they aren't the same thing, the discussion became centered around piracy in general, and that's why I brought it up.

...you seem to be veering in the general direction of defending piracy, or at least implying that it doesn't do much harm.

You miss my point, again. I am not defending piracy. I am saying there is nothing anyone can do about it. There's a difference.

As for music: http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/news/industry_news/is_piracy_really_killi...

War on Piracy is like the War on Drugs or the War on Terrorism - it will never end.

Bendy's picture

Oh never mind.

type.nasos's picture

mmm, i miss something, despite whatever piracy,
when you choose a song, band to accompany
your design, if thats for example an AD, tv spot or
what so ever, try do that without a proper license.
Of course, you can obtain it in seconds from pirate
websites, but use it commercial its a total
different story. If you want to compare industries,
compare their usage, not so general.
I dont believe noone will give a crap if you print in
a pirate font, a note to the back of your sister "kick me" or "cut my hair"
but if u gonna get money out of it, well thats a different story.

Rob O. Font's picture

>Please don't sue me!

Okay. I'll make sure you are on our do-not-sue list.

>War on Piracy is like the War on Drugs or the War on Terrorism - it will never end.

Well, the wars on drugs and terrorism most assuredly end for individuals.

Cheers!

JamesM's picture

> You miss my point, again. I am not defending piracy.

Ophello, when you use phrases like "internet gestapo", and when you imply that piracy doesn't really hurt the content creators all that much, it's gonna create that impression.

Ray Larabie's picture

It's fun to make music industry analogies with fonts, believe me, I try. There are more differences than similarities between digital music and digital fonts.

Similarities:

Fonts and music can be easily downloaded, distributed and shared.
Fonts and music are subject to fashion. Some songs/fonts are classics, some are not and diminish in value until they're eventually considered ironically cool.

Differences:

Fonts are tools for professional designers to use in their businesses while music is usually for personal use. When someone uses a font, they're likely "broadcasting" it in some way: using it on a website, a poster, and album cover . . . the font gets seen by many people. That can have the negative effect of overexposure. A novel display font doesn't seem as novel when it's seen by the public. Music normally isn't broadcast by illegal downloaders. While illegally downloading music can reduce the number of potential sales, listening to it doesn't actually reduce the perceived value of the music. I can listen to a pirated song 1000 times and it doesn't affect the perceived value of the song to other people. Unlike music, the fashion cycle of fonts is based less on trends and more based on public exposure of individual fonts.

Kwesi Amuti's picture

So let me get this straight...not a one of you responders have done what the original poster has done to find out about a typeface or its inner workings or used an unlicensed font for an overly insistent client or that first design job to get you on your feet?

Interesting...

aluminum's picture

There's are as many similarities as there are differences when comparing different types digital IP infringement (or physical theft, for that matter).

The only sure thing is that, on Typophile, you're naturally going to come up against a majority that don't like it.

William Berkson's picture

Whether in music or fonts, the idea that piracy doesn't hurt the producers in any significant way I think has nothing to do with ethics, law, or reality. It is just a convenient self-deception by those who want to pirate and not feel feel too badly about it.

Nick Shinn's picture

Don't get me started on bundling, Bill :-)

Arno Enslin's picture

I have the dark vision of a one-hundred-post-thread …

Halftime.

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