font piracy--help me out here, please

frustrated's picture

i'm in the midst of a giant shitstorm (please excuse the expression) here with some other people and i need YOUR help.

i have announced to these people that i will not knowingly use/touch ANY "illegal" softwares, including fonts. in my mind, this was pretty straightforward: there are 2 ways that i'm aware of to obtain a given piece of software--either pay for it, or steal it.

this created the shitstorm, and now we're down to "what is legal? what is illegal?", so i'm asking you (many different professional type people) for input.

can you direct me to anything that will explain to me CONCISELY and IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS what precisely is allowed in font usage in the USA? do typographers/type designers get to make their own rules/laws? who/what governs this stuff? i was told that "these guys make up these rules and they SOUND like LAW but that doesn't MAKE them LAW."

i was told that "if you go to a type designer's website, you can often set a sample word or line using their font(s)," which is obviously true. "furthermore, you can now outline that type or copy the rasterized result and what you've ended up with is NOT their intellectual property" etc … what do you think of this? or, more precisely, what do you KNOW about this, legally?

one of the people i'm arguing with is under the impression that there are ways to legally circumvent having to pay for a type font (see outlining suggestion, above). do you know if there ARE? not necessarily what's "right", but what's LEGAL?

me: "what would you say if you met one of these type designers face-to-face, knowing that you had their goods on your mac and you hadn't paid for them?"
the response: "i'd tell 'em straight to their face that i had pirated copies of their fonts and now maybe we can work together to create a better situation for everyone involved. they'd probably be glad that i was so honest and forthcoming about admitting it."
as THE TYPE DESIGNER, what WOULD you say to that?

finally, i'm having to respond to "if you ask TYPOGRAPHERS about this, of COURSE you're going to get responses that agree with your viewpoint." … comments?

MY viewpoint is simple. you either PAY or STEAL. i'm unaware of any other practical options for obtaining PAY FONTS.

if you could take a few minutes from your undoubtedly busy schedules and help educate here, i'll be in your debt. i'm fighting for your rights, and because i'm ignorant (and do not understand legalese, typically), i'm in a battle that's going nowhere fast. i want to present an airtight case (SIMPLY, QUICKLY, and in a STRAIGHTFORWARD manner), if possible, proving that one HAS to PAY for a non-free typeface if they're going to be using it in any way.

thanks very much for your consideration, and if you choose to respond, i thank you in advance for your help.

i remain anonymous, for obvious reasons. but please know that i am trying to do the legal/morally sound/"right" thing here.


cdavidson's picture

Generally, when it comes to all things law, you need to speak with a lawyer. This doesn't mean paying for one - perhaps you have friends who are practicing lawyers. You should speak with them.

The reason is simple: law is complicated. Anyone who does not have the equivalent of an LL.B. or J.D. simply isn't qualified to inform you of legal matters. There's a reason why law is a 4 year degree in most jurisdictions. 'Bush lawyers' as some people call them – that is, people who think they know about the law because they've personally been involved in a contract dispute, have been to Court, have engaged in personal study of the law or have had legal problems themselves – can only provide you with their own experience. Law is double sided. Knowing what is relevant and irrelevant, and why something is relevant or irrelevant, takes a University degree. And when we're talking about IP law, this is an incredibly detailed area that only a professional lawyer can properly assist you with.

Finally, what is legal and illegal is impossible to say unless you can provide us with the actual fact scenario.

PabloImpallari's picture

> you either PAY or STEAL. i'm unaware of any other practical options for obtaining PAY FONTS.
You can also get commercial fonts that comes bundled with software (for example, Photoshop or Illustrator) as the designers where already compensated by software companies buying OEM licenses.

And, you can also use Libre Fonts, released under the SIL Open Font License. In many cases the designers where also compensated in advance. In other cases, the designers released them for free without seeking compensation. Also, when a font has the SIL Open Font license attached, it makes it 100% legal for anyone to use it for commercial projects (as opposed to free fonts whiteout any license attached).
In many cases, Libre fonts used to be "Pay font", that have now been re-released under a Libre license (for example you can find font by Sudtipos, Type-together, TypeSetIt and many other commercial foundries on Google Webfonts)

Sebastian Nagel's picture

so i'm no lawyer, but from common sense:

A creates a product from his own idea and craftsmanship. He does this to earn a living, get rich or die trying. He finishes the product and puts it on the market with his own terms and conditions that seem to be appropriate to him (use only if you pay price X, use only for your own but don't share, ...).
B looks for a solution for his problem, and finds the product of A. He sees that it would solve his problem, and examines the terms and conditions to make use of it. If the conditions are appropriate to the problem (price, rights, etc.), B pays for the product and agrees to use it within the terms that are part of that contract.
So for commercial fonts this means: if the conditions to use it include that you must have payed for it – that's it, and there's no way around.

On the special case to write some words in the font on the designers webpage and trace it: the use of commercial websites often contain ... terms and conditions, where might be written that you can use the word generator for preview purposes, but not use the generated images in commercial projects without purchasing the font.

hrant's picture

Here's one problem:

A creates a product from his own idea

Impossible to be 100% original. Which means A owes something to society, the same society that B belongs to.

This BTW is why I believe the no-mod clause typical of contemporary EULAs is immoral.


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