Virtually all graphics workflows include fonts, but very few organizations adequately track font usage throughout their enterprise. Unfortunately, their lack of ability to track their fonts is a ticking time bomb.

Fonts Vendors Take Finances Seriously

In 2009 NBC was sued by Font Bureau alleging that the broadcaster did not secure sufficient rights for fonts used in several ad campaigns for their shows. Font Bureau claims that in some instances NBC paid for one copy of the fonts then copied them to many computers, and in another case, the fonts were not licensed at all. Font Bureau asked for $2 million for the infraction.

This is only one example of what can happen when font license agreements are not closely monitored.

Understand Font License Terms Before You Purchase

Fonts are software and their use is subject to restrictions just like other software. When you purchase a font, you do not own it. As with other software licenses, you are allowed to use a font as long as your comply with the font vendors’ licensing terms.

First, you need to be aware of the terms of your licenses. Font vendors have different terms in their license agreement. For example, Adobe Systems allows for the subset embedding of fonts in pdf documents, but Emigre only permits this only if you purchase an extension to the original font license.

For this reason, before purchasing a font, you should always examine the terms its license and make sure you can comply with its restrictions in your workflow.

Many Free Fonts Have License Restrictions

Many sites on the Web offer so-called “free” fonts. If you examine their license terms closely, you’ll often find that many of these fonts are free for personal use, but require you to purchase a license if you use the fonts for commercial purposes.

For example, one small foundry requires commercial-use customers to send the foundry copies of documents in which the font is used, and then pay the foundry a fair-charge amount for the use. Very few commercial organizations could use such a font under such license terms; the legal fees required to review each use would dwarf the font license fees.

Make Sure Your Current Fonts Are in Compliance

Unless you have been carefully monitoring and enforcing font license compliance in your organization, chances are your font collection isn’t “yours.” It is likely a mix of:

  • Legally licensed fonts that could easily be installed on more devices than you have licensed
  • Fonts introduced to your workflow by users who found and selected them for a design project
  • Fonts legally purchased by single users, but that have spread across the organization
  • Free fonts that people have downloaded off the Internet
  • Fonts introduced and copied among machines because users thought they had the right to do so
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    This last case commonly occurs when freelance designers use their own font collections—which may or may not be properly licensed—on your design projects.

Control Your Legal and Financial Exposure

The bottom line is that you need to identify and evaluate your entire current font collection across all users and projects for license compliance. Without knowing the license terms of all your fonts, you could easily have significant financial and legal exposure.

To tackle your compliance issues and other font management challenges,
 contact Insider today. We’ll help you develop a font license compliance process for your organization.

Make sure your organization is in compliance with its font licenses