Licensing and stealing

the question is probably very basic and stupid, but I couldn’t find the answer.

How the font licensing works in the real life? When someone buys a font for 5 users, what stops him to use it for 5000 users? Or when someone just downloads a font for free, how can he get caught? As a beginner type designer, I don’t have a big experience with commercial fonts, and as I understand the license file included with the fonts is supposed to protect the foundrie, but it seems to be easily fakeable, shareable and just weak as an evidence for the law, or isn’t it? To my naive brain individual code / number for every sale is the only way to prove anything, but it seems to be imposible to do.

I probably misunderstand the system, could you please clarify how it all works?


  • There are some experts on font licensing here on the forum, but I don't think you're that far off. Essentially, it comes down to trust. You simply have to assume that customers don't abuse the system, or accept that some illegal use is inevitable, and focus on the trustworthy clients.
  • AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 262
    In addition to what was said above, trust is huge. As a type designer, do all you can to create a positive relationship with customers and clients. The more you show trust and respect for them, they will reciprocate that back. There will always be folks who just don’t care and will steal or otherwise violate the license agreement. Be kind as much as possible to earn their trust back. You just do what you can. Most people are honorable and it’s not fair to treat everyone like they are out to take advantage of you.

    Thats my perspective.
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 786
    edited June 2018
    I think that what @Alex Visi is asking is if fonts have Digital Rights Management.  The answer to that is "not really".  Technically, there are some limited things you can do when you master a font but we've found they cause more problems than they solve. 

    The way fonts function inside system software results in us having essentially no control.  We can't even monitor (much less limit) the most basic kind of use of software - namely the creation of copies.

    That said, the framing of this conversation feels missleading to me. 

    In practical terms, law suits are rare and license maintenance is fairly common.  While we can't monitor every little use we can see the uses by big companies (because they are public) and it isn't espcially hard to work with them to correct any errors.  This process is made easier if you write your license with an eye to it.  That's where most of the money would be lost if we couldn't do anything about it.  I don't sit up at night worrying about minor piracy.  It's just the cost of doing business if you're going to license software.

    That's direct sales.  It is starting to be the case that you could plausibly make a living as an indie designer by just making your fonts available through various cloud distribution channels.  We're not there yet but I can see it on the horizon.  People who use desktop fonts through the Adobe sync system can't make unauthorized copies or embed the fonts.  And it definitely provides us with sales leads for web and app embedding.  You still have to rely on self reporting of traffic numbers for the web and app pricing but most violations don't come from people lying to your face so that doesn't worry me.  
  • Joyce, that is not technically true.

    There is no good solution to piracy. It's just a fact. Licensing through a sync service is the most secure, but not a panacea. Sync'd fonts can be gotten to using all of the current schemes in use by vendors. While it takes a bit of work, they too are not actually secure. Which is why some have been pirated already.

    The issue is akin to image piracy where if it can be displayed in a browser, it can be gotten to on the computer (no matter how the name(s) are obscured). The same applies to fonts. Once they are on the computer, they can be stolen.

    It can be depressing/debilitating if one allows it to be. I'm currently in debilitating mode.
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 185
    Thanks for your answers everybody! Now it makes sense to me.
    It’s sad in a way that we have to work like that, but I’m glad to hear that customers respect the license agreements!

  • I would worry and think more about making your typefaces easy (and worthwhile) to purchase, rather than worry about any piracy-related issues.

    If you ever run into the case of a huge corporation using your fonts without license, you’ll face that situation, but it’s not an everyday occurrence and not worth thinking about before you reach that point.
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 786
    edited June 2018
    @Mike Wenzloff you're right.  I should have couched my language more carefully.  Instead of saying "can't" I should have said "can't without cracking the software" or "can't easily".    What I worry about is accidental violations much more than real piracy.  You can't stop a really determined pirate any more than you can stop a really determined murderer. 

    @Thierry Blancpain  using without a license is very rare but using with not enough licensing is almost an every day occurrence.  That said, I agree with your sentiment.
  • I wrote about how Github is (mostly unintentionally) one of the largest download sites for pirated fonts. What would your course of action would be if you spotted a few (tens, hundreds) of repositories with your fonts? 
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 751
    edited June 2018
    Release a buggy version parallel to the good one so the bad one gets all the hits and downloads when pirates search for your product. Intentionally messed up stuff, like a negative word space, absurd ker    ni  ng, letters flying up and down, glyphs with 2000 points, an /a in the /e slot. Name it something like "FontX PRO", "Fontex CLEAN!!!!!" (note the different spelling of the name) etc. to baffle the enemy.
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 751
    edited June 2018
    + living in country that is a heaven for pirates, I can state with a 1000% assurance that I have never heard of almost ANYONE that got in trouble here because of stolen content of any kind - software, licenses, movies, e-books, music, articles someone else wrote, and so on. Some individuals got busted, and companies use copyright infringement as a way of sabotaging their competitors. (Anonymous signals to the authorities that so-and-so uses illegal software.) My point is I see no use at all developing fonts for countries that have no rule of law, so basically everyone besides the Commonwealth and Western Europe. I release my fonts with Latin only, if someone needs a Cyrillic, that would be a tailor job. Bad Vasil. Very bad. ;)

    I got ONE sale in my home country and the buyer added a shitty cyrillic to it. Not to mention the agro I got from fellow designers for being mad e a fool. Fool me once...
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,966
    I wrote about how Github is (mostly unintentionally) one of the largest download sites for pirated fonts. What would your course of action would be if you spotted a few (tens, hundreds) of repositories with your fonts? 
    If someone made me aware of it I’d probably just shoot off a polite takedown notice to the person who owns the repo. If that didn’t work I’d just send a DMCA notice to Github and have the entire repo taken down. That said, I have better shit to do then look for people posting my fonts to Github, so the likelihood of this happening is pretty low.
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 751
    edited June 2018
    That will only convince people that your fonts are trash and won't increase the likelihood of someone paying money for them, in my opinion.

    Pirated fonts and especially fonts that you release for free must be of excellent quality. I like it better that some people are trading my original files, however they got their hands on them, instead of bad PDF extracts.
    Maybe so, but I have my online portfolio and font presentations all over the web to dismantle such doubts. Not to mention that the font can always be renamed by the pirate.

    And I see no reason to release excellent quality, i.e. Pro fonts for free. Not only does a lot of time go into a pro font (obviously) , but, at the end of the day, that eats up from the profits of other professional font designers. The fields is so full that designs invariably start to look very similar, so a free font will be chosen over a similar-looking paid one.

    Sometimes 1-2 weights could be released for free in the hope that the client will want to buy the whole family. But I don't see this happening in actuality. Maybe someone will correct me.
Sign In or Register to comment.