copyright questions

fanatic font addict's picture

A while back I downloaded some freeware from with the following Publisher's description:

"This is a zipped file of over 4700 TrueType fonts ( They're freely available throughout the net. Just unzip them to a folder and install them as necessary."

This was great, I thought, and planned to bundle a couple of hundred of them maybe with a software product I was writing and planning to sell.

But then I started looking at the info on these various fonts using "Font Thing". (Another great product, btw.) Some of them would say "Freeware" but most of them did not, and had varying sorts of information in the Copyright section, e.g.:

"All Rights Reserved."

"All Rights Reserved. Freeware."

"Do not Distribute without Author's permission"

"with the help of Jesus Christ_my Guardian Angels"

"To register and get a sample disk send 15$ to..."

"All Rights Reserved. Distribute Freely."

"You many not sell this font or distribute any modified version without my written consent."

"This font was made by ___________ especially for you and is copyright Fanatico Productions 1997."

"copyright 2002 by charlie. @ caramel syrup."

"Freeware - may not be sold.


Considering that all of these were on a freeware product, why couldn't I redistribute some of them with my own product (regardless of info in copyright section) if they were merely bundled in such a way that I wasn't "selling' them as such (as for example a downloader could keep the fonts if he decided not to keep my product.)

Also to font designers, what would be your reaction to someone who you felt was using your font without permission. Would you just send them a cease and decist letter initially or what.

Si_Daniels's picture

What's the rationale for inflicting these fonts on your customers? Especially if your criteria for picking them is based on freeness rather than quality.

A better solution, especially if you're looking for 200 fonts, would be to engage with established, respected freeware font designers (like Ray Larabie) get their permission and help picking appropriate fonts, and cut them a modest check/royalty payment.

fanatic font addict's picture


My criteria is not exclusively freeness.
Many of the fonts are excellent.


I could consider a royalty arrangement with Ray Larabie (if that's you) or anyone. As far as picking appropriate fonts, I just want a wide array of fonts available for the end user. I'm looking for unusual fonts so the end user won't just be thinking in terms of Times New Roman.

I take it you think I'm free to use the fonts I mentioned in the OP however I want.

Si_Daniels's picture

I think members of this forum would universally agree that with the exception of very clearly delineated open source fonts, you should get permission from any designer whose work you wish to exploit. Hence narrowing your choices to those of respected freeware designers would save time and effort.

James Arboghast's picture

A font can have a "copyright (c) So And So 2001. All rights reserved" and still be distributable without permission. All the so-called "free" fonts I have made under the Sentinel Type brand may be distributed without permission provided all materials are included in the .ZIP package. My EULA texts explicitly state that users may distribute the fonts this way. Even so, the copyright notices in my font headers and accompanying materials reserve the intellectual property rights and commecial rights to the typeface designs and their commercial exploitation for me.

If the information packaged with the font does not define distribution criteria, check with each font maker and ask her or him. It's the only way to be certain. In theory if the EULA and / or copyright notice(s) do not specifically say "Do not distribute without permission", you are within your rights redistributing those fonts provided you don't do so at a profit. That could be problematic for you because you want to distribute the fonts with your software product, and if you are charging money for that product some font makers may try to argue their free fonts are helping you make a profit, and hold out their hand. All rights reserved usually means the maker reserves the rights to the intellectual property and the commercial rights to it for her or him self.

But check first. Play it safe.

j a m e s

Si_Daniels's picture

Luke, editing messages puts them out of sync.

No I'm not Ray, I work for a software company that bundles fonts (coincidentally about 200) with a commercial product.

I would not trust the (c) strings, readme.txt or anything else I downloaded from the Web. I would always try to locate the original designer and talk to them directly.

fanatic font addict's picture

James Arboghast:

That's about as succinct as I could have hoped for.

What about mentioning freeware source of fonts and/or providing links to them on on my product website?

kentlew's picture

Copyright is a bundle of rights. For the U.S., the constituent rights are spelled out in §106 of the Copyright Code, Title 17. One of these is "the exclusive rights to do or authorize the following: . . . (3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;"

The phrase "All rights reserved" is usually redundant, since the U.S. Copyright Code now says that these rights automatically accrue to the owner unless explicitly traded away and authorized in writing.

Unless you have documentation authorizing you to distribute the font(s) in question, I wouldn't do it. Even a copyright string statement might not be sufficient, since there is no guarantee that that statement was placed there by the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this does not constitute legal advice.

-- K.

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