Most of my fonts are available via AdobeFonts through the AdobeCC.
Over that past six months I have discovered that widespread misunderstanding of the AdobeType license is causing me to loose a very large amount of income.
There are two main misunderstandings of the Adobe license:
• Many AdobeType users believe their subscription allows them to host the font files on their websites. It does not. The fonts must be loaded via the Adobe embed code.
• Many designers believe their AdobeCC subscription allows them to use fonts from AdobeType on their client's websites. It does not and this practice is called Reselling
Using FontRadar's excellent service, we contact many hundreds of website owners (many large international businesses, some household names) who are hosting our font files without a license.
More often than not, we receive a reply, often very righteously written, that because they or their designer/design agency has an AdobeCC subscription, their use of the font files is entirely legitimate. It is very difficult to persuade them that this is not so, that they are violating their AdobeCC license, and that they need to buy a font license from us if they wish to self host.
The result of this is a large amount of lost income because:
• Not using the Adobe embed code means that Adobe is not able to account the use and so no royalty is paid.
• Website owners are not buying licenses from us.
• It takes a lot of time to write to and attempt to educate website owners.
• We need to employ lawyers when cases become too difficult.
In some cases we find that not only are the font files hosted on a website, but desktop font files are freely distributed throughout the businesses, on the misunderstanding that because they have an AdobeCC license, it's ok.
I don't know where these font files come from. They are often anonymised with names like font.woff or 7ascn328gfh.woff.
I wonder if Adobe’s narrative makes people think that if the fonts are on AdobeCC, all is allowed, no matter where these fonts originate from. I think the users attitude is influenced by the appearance of all-permissiveness, but I do not put any blame on Adobe. However I do think that the current situation needs improving. Camille Sibucao of Adobe put Adobe's intentions very nicely when she said:
"We do not intend for the Adobe Fonts service to cover every use scenario, and we encourage customers to go directly to the foundry for various licenses that are not possible through our service. We want all of our foundry partners to have multiple sources of income and to be successful with their own retail stores."
We are essentially taking on the the job of compliance for Adobe, and sometimes we are perceived as phishing by the web site owners we contact. Some of them even report us to Adobe, but as far as I'm aware, Adobe does not respond.
The Adobe page we point people to is:https://helpx.adobe.com/fonts/using/font-licensing.html
I don't think there's an easy solution to this problem. Our agreement with Adobe says that if their customers violate their license with Adobe, THEY (Adobe) can terminate the violator's license. Adobe's support here would be extremely useful, but probably unlikely.
An improved licensing page, or better still, a page specifically about the consequences of hosting font files on a website and Reselling would be helpful.
It would also be useful if we had some accreditation from Adobe when we contact website owners, since as I mentioned previously, we're often perceived as phishers.
I'm writing this here to alert other foundries that may not be aware of how much revenue they may be loosing, and to seek the support of those that are encountering this problem in persuading Adobe to take some action, and suggestions as to what that action could be.
I know it's super easy to get hold of font files on the web, I just didn't want to imply that they were coming from Adobe directly.
Subsetting isn’t specific to WOFF, or to webfonts generally. It happens that it was one of the areas in which the desires of foundries, browser makers, and web developers happened to overlap perfectly, at least in the late 2000s, since subsetting benefited everyone. But like limiting webfont delivery to individual domains using CORS, it is something that has to be managed at the license level, i.e. the format enables it but does not require it.
Perhaps in the context of discussion of unwrapping of webfonts and reuse as desktop fonts, it is worth noting that output from WOFF2 format is going to be easier to identify than that from WOFF format. WOFF is a simple wrapper around the original TTF/OTF. WOFF2 involves optimisations that reconfigure the input font data, so an unwrapped WOFF file is indistinguishable from the original input font, but a decompressed WOFF2 file will be different.
I would also like to say that I'm very happy with being a part of Adobe Type, and the revenue we're missing out on would not exist if we were not with Adobe.
John B., I don’t see the point of blaming Adobe for the problem. Web fonts are now a basic part of font use and licensing, and they are all getting copied and misused. Adobe has a big service to deliver them that way, but I’d venture to say they offer above average protection for web fonts. Even the most perfect, thorough communication about the license permissions to end users will only work up to a point. People just don’t read that stuff.
That said, every customer I've ever had who thought their use was covered by Adobe has told me that when they contacted Adobe support they were told it wasn't and that they needed to talk to me. That's some fantastic customer support! How many of us have gotten wrong and contradicting information from our cell phone provider, or even our doctor's office?
Also, Adobe doesn't provide download links for desktop fonts. They must be synced with the CC app. If they are freely distributed throughout the businesses, it means that someone deliberately copied them from the CC folder and distributed them. Or downloaded elsewhere.
Adobe license looks unequivocal to me:
Does my client need their own font license to use the designs?
No, not if you are creating graphics or documents that have rasterized or properly embedded font data, such as a PDF, JPEG, or PNG.
However, if your client needs to have the font installed to edit your design, they will need their own license, either through a Creative Cloud subscription or as a desktop license purchase.
Can I use web fonts for my client websites?
Words matter. For the sake of not hating all our end users, I think it's better to not think of these people are pirates. Also, if we approach them as pirates they will get defensive and make our lives harder. If we instead approach them as busy professionals who are confused, they are much more likely to buy a license for their use.
I've spoken with 100+ people in this situation over the years. Almost always, they think the use is covered by Adobe, that there is a way to get the file from Adobe but that something is broken, so they just go get it elsewhere to avoid having to contact customer support. This is self serving thinking, but I can totally imagine myself doing that if I was really busy.
The other thing that sometimes happens is that things get garbled within a large company. The primary user tells IT "we have a license for this via Adobe", assuming they will use Typekit. But there's some instruction within IT that all fonts need to be self hosted, that the primary user isn't aware of. The person who does implementation is low in the pecking order, they think the reason they weren't sent the fonts with the work order is that no one ever considers their job, and they just go grab the fonts so they wont be yelled at.
None of this is piracy. It's just the messiness of life.
Maybe an agency can pass the code to embed to a client, and this *could* be a violation in good faith, but since Miles found unlicensed woff *files*, this is not the case.
I totally agree on the second part, maybe the business owners don't even know what the agencies did and they are totally in good faith.
I think this situation is like that. If I am certain I have a license for a font and I use a pirate copy just because it's easier, having no idea that I am not licensed for it, I don't think that's piracy. I don't know if that argument would win in court (again, not a lawyer) but from a purely moral perspective I find it persuasive.
I’m going to disagree with that and suggest, contra, that even if you were clearly licensed to use a given font, obtaining a pirated copy of it (i.e. a copy of the file being distributed from an unlicensed source) is engaging in piracy.
Piracy is a term that I avoid using in reference to the various situations of unlicensed use that users get themselves into, for the reasons you cite. It is more legally precise and less combatitive to call it, simply, unlicensed use.
But when it comes to unlicensed distribution, I am perfectly happy to call that piracy, because people other than the makers and licensed distributors of the fonts are profiting from that activity, these days most often through web advertising. If a user opts to download a copy of a font from an unlicensed distribution site, even for a font for which they have obtained a valid license, they are supporting that activity, contributing to illicit profit, and hence engaging in piracy.
To use a metaphor similar to your bank example: let’s say I order something from an Amazon seller, but it never arrives. The next week, I find the same product being sold by a guy in the toilet of my local pool hall* and get it from him super cheap. The fact that I have legitimately purchased that product elsewhere doesn’t change the fact that I am in receipt of stolen goods.
* This is a 1990s Vancouver reference. RIP Seymour Billiards.
There are some people who misunderstand the Adobe license, and there are a lot of people flagrantly lying and attempting to obscure their actions or imply their ownership.
- A reporting tool that foundries can use that alerts Adobe to license violations
- A follow up email from Adobe that is sent to the user, with a link to the foundry website where they can get licenses. The email will be taken more seriously as it comes from Adobe itself, and is not phishing and carries the risk of losing one's subscription.
This should resolve accidental piracy. Adobe might be reluctant to do this as it'll be a big annoyance to its users, in which case you guys need to team up and apply pressure.
If we wanted to frame this in terms of licensing—to give it a clear legal basis rather than a matter of ethical debate—, I would say that licenses should specify the chain of delivery between licensor and licensee. Many licenses—ours included—do this implicitly, by linking the use license to a purchase order associated with delivery of font files. Should we be doing it explicitly, i.e. making clear that obtaining font files from any source other than the licensing foundry or its licensed distributors is a contravention of the license?
How do foundries lose revenue that instance?
(Note that I'm not talking about self-hosted fonts, licensed or otherwise.)
1) I generate a kit (<link rel="stylesheet" href="https://use.typekit.net/xxxxxxx.css">) and use it on a client's website? Ok, maybe I'm in good faith and didn't read the license agreement. Happens.
2) I download a woff file from whatever and place it on a client's website? Call it as you prefer, but this is technically an act of piracy. Maybe "Mr. Adidas" doesn't even even know or care about the fonts used on adidad.com, but someone at a certain point committed an act of piracy.
3) I copy the files from my PC and distribute them? Well, this is an act of piracy.
Except no. 1, it's impossible to violate Adobe license without knowing what you are doing.
I can’t remember the details now, but I think there was a desire to simplify the later Adobe license. And there was a “reseller” angle in that early model that wasn’t so compatible with the Creative Cloud subscription model. Generally, Adobe doesn’t want CC subscribers reselling or sharing their subscription entitlements.
Many of the things my team (the licensing/sales/business team) had to do relied on other Adobe teams — particularly Adobe’s legal team. Then it becomes a matter of convincing a totally different org to allocate resources to assist Type efforts (for license compliance or whatever). It was always extremely frustrating, and probably still is.
So yes, I assure you that a large part of the people working at Adobe very often tell their managers “It should be easy to hire more people to help with this.”