Converting Fonts to Outlines is STILL EULA Enforceable - PSA

Hey All,

Lately, I've had a rash of font buyers who believe that as long as the font software file isn't embedded in an App (letter sprites), Videos (online or television) or Product Packaging over 1m pieces, they're not in violation of the EULA.

When in reality, our EULA and many other EULAs I've read consider rasterized or vectorized outlines created/generated from the font to be derivative works which have the exact same terms and conditions as the actual font file.

Please help spread the word since there's a lot of wishful thinking these days about what parts of the EULA apply to a users situation when in reality, it's always the USE that gets infringed, not the font file itself.

For whatever reason, buyers recently seem have this idea that as long as they don't embed the font file (because paranoid font designers ONLY care that the font file doesn't distributed all around) that they're free and clear of the EULA terms to use the font outlines as they wish.

Has anybody else seen this behavior?


  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,856
    Yeah, I have heard of this. Just ignorance on the part of the licensor (“buyer”).

    What some people do not get is that if they agree to a EULA, they are bound by its terms. Said terms may have more restrictions than copyright law alone.
  • Although what we all need to get is that breaking laws is part of life. I encourage people to violate the parts of EULAs they find unethical (but not merely inconvenient). It's a matter of principle.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 562
    edited June 2019
    It certainly is true that you can pirate a font, and be subject to legal penalties in most jurisdictions, by automatically tracing the letters it prints. That would violate copyright law if typefaces enjoyed copyright protection - unlike drawing a similar-looking typeface by hand, where only the copyright on the design, and not a copyright on the font file, would be violated.
    Thus, rewriting a computer program in assembly code for a different machine still violates copyright.
    Converting a typeface to "outlines" in making a PDF file is generally believed to have the following results:
    • it makes it impossible to use software to produce a font file from the PDF document,
    • and, therefore, a PDF file with outlines, instead of an embedded font, is essentially equivalent, for all practical purposes, to using the font in a laser printer to produce a document on paper.
    If those general beliefs were actually true, then how font users are behaving as cited in the original post would be quite understandable, and even Hrant's comment, however much I think people should respect the law, when that law is enacted by an authority competent to make laws (i.e. a democratically elected government), has some validity: the EULA terms are clearly unreasonable.
    However, whether this general belief cited above is true is a question of fact, not of law. And my suspicion is, despite not being an expert on the internals of the Adobe Acrobat file format, that this general belief is quite mistaken - and the only thing you get from using outlines is that any characters in the font not actually used in the document won't be recoverable from the document.
    Extracting a font from such a PDF would only be slightly harder - maybe enough so that there aren't any programs on the web written by some hacker to do it yet - and therefore the conditions in the EULAs are indeed reasonable, although they impose hardship by limiting the usefulness of the font in an increasingly paperless world.
  • They know that embedding the font is a violation!  I consider this a win! 

    What's going on, I suspect, is that with the proliferation of cloud based on font services font users are coming to expect a rational distinction between basic levels of use and  advanced levels of use that require additional licensing.  

    Why fight it?  Why not meet them where they are, drop broadcast and logo licensing, and adjust your pricing tables accordingly?  The future is in app and web embedding anyway.
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