Contractors and Font Licensing

krishnabrown's picture

I work for a company who is going to hire out a designer for some marketing materials. Questions is: Do we buy the fonts being used in the design for the designer or does the designer have to provide the fonts for us? (The designer will be working off site)

If we already own this font can we "give" it to the designer for use on the work he/she will be doing for us?

Is there any legal information on the web I can reference about this?

Thanks for your help!


tamye's picture

Most typical font licenses are for use on a limited number of devices at a single site. Offsite freelancers (or company employees working at home) would need to have their own license to use the fonts, unless an extended license is negotiated with the foundry in advance.

It's between you and the freelancer as to who pays for the fonts, of course. If they're specified for a particular project, it's nice if the hiring company pays the freight on typefaces.

An easy way to manage this is to have the freelancer purchase the fonts themselves, so that they will be listed as a legitimate licensee in the foundry's records. This is also really helpful if the freelancer needs tech support on the fonts.

The freelancer can add the cost of the fonts into the job as an expense, and when you pay the final bill, you pay for the license for the fonts required for your project(s). If you negotiate to make the freelancer pay for the fonts, he/she will have to purchase their own license from the foundry anyway.

The terms of the End User License Agreement (EULA) from each foundry vary, so review them carefully, or ask the foundry itself, if you're not sure about the rules.

I am sure you will get some really great answers from more people here on Typophile, and it will happen soon!

Diner's picture

If the freelancer is a part time or full time employee, the fonts should be licensed to the agency and your freelancer may use them for your agency project.

If your freelancer is nothing more than a work for hire person (1099er), they must be the license holder of the font however they legally can't/shouldn't give the fonts to you with their files due to the license they hold as the owner.

If you wish to alter the work after it has been completed, you should purchase the fonts in the name of the agency or have the freelancer (aka license holder) go back and do the work. Most licenses aren't transferrable without some sort of agreement with the foundry.

Beyond that, the only other stipulation MOST EULAs have is for service bureaus. Most licenses contain a passage to the effect of you may give the fonts to a service bureau to output and produce the job, but they must delete the fonts from their CPU once the job is completed and they may not archive a copy of the font.

I hope my explaination doesn't sound dogmatic but in practice, this would be the "proper" way to do this sort of thing since you asked. . .

Stuart :D

kentlew's picture

The AIGA published a paper called Use of Fonts as part of their Business and Ethics series. I don't recall if it covers this specific issue, but you might want to check out the PDF at

-- K.

cph's picture

If I create a logo in Illustrator, convert all text to outlines, and then ship it off to a client to do as they please with it, is that legitimate?

Diner's picture


John Hudson's picture

You're not only protecting yourself: you're also protecting them.

I've generally found that the larger the client is the better they understand the need to ensure that all their software, including fonts, is legitimately licensed.

Joe Pemberton's picture

This goes both ways.

I can't count how many times clients have asked us to send
them the fonts after we've created a piece that they will need
to maintain or update internally. Our standard answer
is simply that we can't legally do that. Sure they may think
we're stiffs, but they also realize that we're just protecting
ourselves, and not trying to be jerks.

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