How do type designers feel about customers renaming font files in order to hide the fonts used?

Say someone purchases one of your fonts with the file name “font-name.woff”. The customer renames the font to “company-name.woff” when they upload it to their website with the purpose of either obfuscating the fonts they are using or else making the font look like a custom corporate face. Does this violate the license in any way?

I’ve noticed a trend lately of companies doing this and wondered how type designers felt about the practice...


  • They can name the file whatever they want as long as I got paid.
  • Depends on if the license says anything about it or not. Certainly not desired, but as James alluded to, as long as they give credit where credit is due and don't violate the license, I suppose it's ok. Even so, I always encourage my customers to be respectful of my time/effort in creating them in hopes they might understand. License violations are of course a no-go.

    Did this happen to you?
  • I’m not a type designer, so I haven’t experienced this personally. But I do see websites doing this quite often. I might see a font I like on a website and then peek at the CSS or web inspector to see the font used only to find it obfuscated.

    I thought maybe type designers would be against this, but I haven’t seen this explicitly mentioned in any license.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 904
    It’s also possible that the font(s) in question were customized for the client even if they are based on commercial fonts, and renamed with the client name by the designer for versioning purposes.

  • Michael JarboeMichael Jarboe Posts: 258
    edited January 2019
    The foundry could have renamed the font(s) for the client depending on the licensing scope. This is done at times if there's any level of customization or as part of tracking if they happen to have a distribution license for internal (subsidiaries etc.) or external partners (suppliers etc.). It's much clearer on their side if the font(s) are renamed as they are more easily identified as part of their brand assets.
  • @Jeremiah Shoaf . Thanks for the question!  I subscribe to your newsletter and appreciate your hard work. 

    Most font licenses forbid making any changes to the font files, which I think most people would interpret as being inclusive of changing the name.  

    In an effort to accommodate a reasonable need, the Darden Studio web embedding licensing permits the licensee to subset the fonts.  In order to do so they will need to save their changes, and we expressly require that they retain our names for the font files.  To be clear, we expressly do not permit this for licensees who don't have a web addendum.

    I hope I've been a fraction as helpful to you as your work has been to me.  Please let me know if you have follow-up questions.
  • Yeah this definitely happens with bespoke corporate fonts. For example, Chobani Sans/GT America and Walfork/GT Walsheim. But I’m more talking about smaller companies or personal sites where the font is almost certainly not a custom design.

    I imagine this is often done as a sneaky way to use unlicensed fonts. Like if I see a designer’s portfolio site using a font that looks exactly like Circular, but it’s named something else, that just seems sketchy to me. And even with a file rename, the font’s metadata will usually still show the original type designer’s name/copyright.

    And thank you, Joyce—that is super helpful. I feel like more foundries should probably include retaining file names as part of the license. And that’s interesting about file renaming being considered file modification. Not sure how that would be legally interpreted.

    Anyway, I want to be able to tell other designers “hey, you probably shouldn’t be doing that”, but without an explicit license violation it sounds like it is a gray area.
  • Just to be clear, one doesn't have to change the name of the font file in order to change how the name appears in a font-inspector like FontNinja or when inspecting the CSS. (Although that isn't to say people aren't also changing font file names.)

    In that case, the person developing the site simply needs to change what the font-family is being declared as in the @font-face. Like so:

    @font-face {
      font-family: "Business Name Sans";
      src: url("./font-name.woff2") format("woff2")

    With that being said, I do not condone the practice—I just don't know if that in particular is a violation of many people's EULA. I do wonder if you could legally write that into the license though? 
  • @Thierry Blancpain Of course I agree with you about keeping EULAs as general as possible.  I don't think saying you can't rename the files is overly picky.  We need to be able to police our license and we can't do so if the names are charged - well, we can but it is unduly burdensome.  It's not an imposition on the user to say they have to retain the names and if it is they can ask permission - if they have a compelling reason we'll probably allow it.
  • Cory MaylettCory Maylett Posts: 155
    edited January 2019
    Matthew Smith : Just to be clear, one doesn't have to change the name of the font file in order to change how the name appears in a font-inspector like FontNinja or when inspecting the CSS.
    I too wonder if that's what people are mostly noticing. I've never really checked, so I guess it's possible that companies are renaming fonts. However, as you mentioned, just seeing another font name used in the web page's source code doesn't mean the font's been renamed.

    The font-family descriptor value following an @font-face at-rule is really just the developer's way of establishing a common CSS value that can be subsequently used as needed within the HTML document. In other words, it's a basically a nickname that can be used throughout the document to reference the actual font; it's not an attempt to change the name of the font itself.
  • I am indeed talking about people renaming the actual font files, not just the name referenced in the CSS. Like changing it to "company-name.woff".
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 383
    edited January 2019
    @Jeremiah Shoaf -  As @Michael Jarboe pointed out sometimes that kind of renaming is done by the foundry for a customization.  We always do "font name_client name" (where the client name might be an abbreviation).  Very small customizations you might not notice can trigger renaming (for instance swapping one alternate would do it). The idea is that any deviation from the standard retail build should be distinguished so we don't cause confusion about what's in the retail build. 

    But yeah, I think that any reasonable person would consider what you describe not permitted under our license:
    1. f.  You may open the Font Software in a font or text editor solely in order to look at it. You are prohibited from decompiling or disassembling the Font Software for the purpose of converting, porting, adapting or modifying it in any manner. If you want to modify a glyph, “swap” alternates or move characters to different Unicode positions, it is subject to Darden Studio’s permission, and design work must be done either by Darden Studio or by someone approved by it. Any violation of this provision will render you liable for damages calculated on the basis of Darden Studio’s highest charges for font software development and the license for the use.
    However, next EULA edit I'm adding "for the avoidance of doubt, under no circumstances may you change the name of the fonts or font files".  
  • I am indeed talking about people renaming the actual font files, not just the name referenced in the CSS. Like changing it to "company-name.woff".
    If someone opens the file and changes the name of the font itself to something else before re-saving it, I can see people having problems with that. Just changing the name of the file in which the font resides doesn't raise any red flags for me, though.
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 383
    edited January 2019
    Additional note, I've never seen a thoughtfully renamed font of ours where there wasn't some change.  Maybe it's a new thing, or just a fluke we've never seen it.  By "thoughtfully" I mean something other than "font" which I have seen in css where no change was made.  If they bother to put their company/brand name in the font file in my experience they have deviated in some way from the retail build.  
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,851
    Changing the name of the file seems a non-issue to me, and in some web scenarios it may be something that isn't within control of the licensee of the font. I asked our web developer about this yesterday, and he pointed out that dev tools are going to reveal the actual font identity, based on the font name table, regardless of what the file name is.
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