Licencing fonts

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by InfiniteLoopy, Mar 9, 2012.

  1. InfiniteLoopy macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2010
    #1
    I have a few questions about using fonts in web design:

    Helvetica, for example, is included in Mac OS X and I can display a web page using it in Safari. However, some companies sell licences for fonts (including Helvetica) and I was wondering in what situations you would buy licences for the fonts already present in the OS?

    From what I understand, I can indicate in my CSS stylesheet whatever fonts I want and if the browser of a visitor to a web page supports the font, it will be displayed. Therefore, it's not for the web designer to buy a licence for the font, it's essentially up to the OS/browser maker to ensure it works.
    Is this correct?


    Thanks,
     
  2. NutsNGum macrumors 68030

    NutsNGum

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2010
    Location:
    Glasgow, Scotland
    #2
    If the client system doesn't support it, and you still want it to display properly, you'd need to use the @font-face rule to embed it in your site. Unless the font is royalty-free, you'd need to purchase it to be able to (legally) host it.

    There are plenty of great royalty free sites that offer excellent free fonts, and downloadable @font-face kits.

    Font Squirrel is a particular favourite. The Google fonts API is also very helpful.
     
  3. InfiniteLoopy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2010
    #3
    Thanks,

    I'm mainly interested in common fonts such as Helvetica. So if I understand correctly, it is the user's browser and OS that determine which fonts a system can display. Therefore, it's Apple, Microsoft, Google who pay font licence fees for users of their products?

    Why are some common fonts sold online then?
     
  4. NutsNGum macrumors 68030

    NutsNGum

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2010
    Location:
    Glasgow, Scotland
    #4
    I believe so yes, Linotype owns Helvetica, therefore the vendors (i.e. Apple, MS) would licence it for use on their OS. This licence does not extend to users utilising the font on their personal website. You would still need to purchase a licence for personal use, to my knowledge.

    Can they really stop you? Probably not.
     
  5. bpaluzzi macrumors 6502a

    bpaluzzi

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2010
    Location:
    London
    #5
    That's correct -- the OS vendors are the ones paying the font foundry's license fees.

    If you're using it on your website via a standard CSS font-family declaration, you are under no legal (or moral) obligation to pay anything. It is simply a directive telling the browser to display it in that font, if that font is present on the system. This is why you ALWAYS need to do a list of fonts, not just a single font, e.g.
    Code:
    font-family: helvetica, arial, sans-serif
    For digital, you'd need to purchase a license of your own if you're sending the font via the font-face directive. It gets a bit hazy when dealing with embedding fonts in Flash, or including them in published PDFs, Graphic (gif / png / etc.) wordmarks, etc. It's up to the individual license -- there are clauses such as "print and preview" (only usable in read-only formats, so PDF / PNG / GIF, but not a distributed SWF), "embeddable" (read and write within the document), "installable" (any user can install the font onto their system as a whole), and so on. It's a very murky bit of water, unfortunately.

    Again though, the one clear thing is that if you're just using "font-family" CSS directives, there is absolutely, 100% no requirement for you to pay anything (legally or morally).

    Hope that helps!

    One other thing -- while a very commonly known font, Helvetica is NOT included on Windows by default. It is included on Macs, but Windows only have the cheap copy font "Arial".

    b
     
  6. InfiniteLoopy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2010
    #6
    Thanks.

    That's what I thought: that it was up to the system to display whatever fonts it could.
     

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