Question. Is it okay if I send my fonts to our translators in Montréal? Or is there a way for them to access the fonts on my machines remotely?
Answer. A couple of years ago I wrote an article covering the licensing of software. When it comes to licensed software people often are under the misconception that they have bought their software. In fact, what they have done when they purchased a software title is simply licensed the use of that software. Normally the license is intended for one user on one machine. Fonts although they are small are often overlooked yet they are copyrighted software titles.
So the simple answer is, “No” you cannot share your fonts with your coworkers and friends. Fonts are the creative works made by type foundries; in the past these same type foundries would have made wood type and metal type. They once dealt with physical properties and now they deal with software or intellectual properties.
As with any software you should check the end-user license agreement, EULA, as they can often vary dramatically. As a rule of thumb; these are the intellectual properties you should assume that you cannot copy and distribute fonts. Another misconception is that fonts that are bundled with applications are free – they are licensed to be bundled. If you’re the owner of the company you should beware that you are responsible for the actions of your employees.
The business software alliance is a group that oversees infractions in software licensing. According to the BSA, if you’re not sure about font compliance you should contact the font vendor. The BSA doesn’t pursue infractions. They rely on end users reporting unlicensed software use. Surprisingly some fonts are not even allowed to be embedded in a document while others are not even allowed to be used in static images.
I took part in a webcast sponsored by Extensis on font compliance. Here are some recent examples they shared with us. NBC was sued by font Bureau for $2 million for the improper use of their fonts on logos for popular television shows. The Hadopi logo was also found to contain an improperly licensed font. Hadopi is the French government’s anti-piracy organization. Microsoft was sued for bundling Chinese fonts into their operating system.
Adobe’s Fonts are licensed per computer. Their terms state that you can give someone else your version of your font as long as they already own the same title. Adobe does allow fonts to be embedded into documents are going to be edited. Some other font foundries don’t allow this flexibility in fact they don’t allow unlicensed fonts to be hosted on a website.
Mono type, the biggest font vender owners of ITC and Linotype, also allow only allows policy licensed per workstation. They allow you to distribute a version, as above. but they restrict fonts to be in documents to be viewed and printed only. So you can embed the fonts in PDF and allow someone else to edit them. They also have additional licensing for use in a commercial PDF, you can also extend to a multiuse license as well as Web server and embedded applications.
Emigre is even more restrictive. They don’t allow any modification. They require an additional fees for use in PDF, Flash, and embedding in EPS files. They will allow embedding only if all users have an existing license. They do have a lot of extra licenses, site licenses and server bureau licenses etc.
So what can you do: You can own all your font licenses. You can ignore the problem. You can have your partners acknowledge that they have the rights to use the fonts. You can refrain from using fonts that don’t allow embedding. And you probably should read the EULA.
There are several tools to help you manage your fonts. For instance expenses makes a product called Universal Type Server. With the UTS you can limit the user to have access to fonts. You can control who can share the fonts. And you can control who can add the fonts. You can also you can also have the server report on your company’s font compliance. At the end of the day there are no “font police” – all it requires is that someone makes an innocent phone call.