copyright when using typeface samples?

ghurman's picture

how is the copyright and licensing regulated when using a typeface just as a sample in a catalogue, a magazine, a book, and other printed materials? in other words: do you have to purchase a typeface in order to show a sample of it in a printed publication?

Renko's picture

I don’t understand the question. How do you show the sample of a typeface when you haven’t purchased it? If you mean a photography of the sample (from a book or else) by your own, then you are the creator of the photo so it should be fine, in my opinion.

Goran Soderstrom's picture

I would contact the company or person that owns the copyright of the perticular typeface.

EK's picture

Does the printed publication fall under the fair use exception?

paragraph's picture

Not if it's for sale.

speter's picture

Not if it’s for sale.

Being commercial doesn't necessarily kill fair use, at least not in the US. There are other factors at work. (Otherwise, you'd never read book reviews that actually cite the book under review in a for-profit newspaper.)

However, my advise is this: get copyright clearance on everything and/or consult a good IP attorney.

blank's picture

Are you actually using the typeface to typeset this sample? If so, you should have bought it already. If you’re displaying an image of a printed source, you should be fine as long as you attribute the image and your entire work does not consist of nothing but images of type samples.

ghurman's picture

some web sites like are able to generate typeface samples. that's what i thought about. i also thought about pdf docs that are available as font preview for some typefaces.

and i'd say photos and scans should fall under photo usage not typeface usage.

how does FontShop sell the Font Book with thousands of typeface samples?

Florian Hardwig's picture

Ghurman said: some web sites like are able to generate typeface samples.

“MyFonts grants you a […] right to access, use and display the Site and the materials thereon for your personal use only […] You may not modify, create derivative works from, […] post on the World Wide Web, […] the Site or any portion thereof for any public or commercial use, other than as expressly provided by these terms and conditions of use, without the express written permission of MyFonts.”

“Except as specifically permitted herein, no portion of the information or documents on this Site may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of FontShop International. […] The documents and information may be used solely for personal, informational, internal, non-commercial purposes. […] The documents and information on the Site may not be distributed or published.”

ghurman's picture

well, that's ok, but we could regard publishing of a typeface sample as typeface promotion. after all, that's what FontBook is about.

EK's picture


Copyright law > FontShop/MyFonts notice.

How about a book sold under a condition that the buyer can't quote from it on the web without express permission?

If the law gives the public certain user rights such as fair use (e.g., for private study or critique), then the notice is ineffective, and just wrong. Copyright holders are only protected to the extent the law permits. They cannot run to the law for protection when it suits them, but try and circumvent it when it doesn't.

Quincunx's picture

> how does FontShop sell the Font Book with thousands of typeface samples?

Because they are the distributor of most -- if not all -- of the typefaces in the book, obviously. Or even have exclusive rights, in the case of FontFonts (FF). :)

I think it will most definitely also depend on what kind of printed matter. If it is an article in a magazine about a typeface, I can't see why anyone would protest if you print a PDF specimen with the article. But if you print it on a poster and sell the poster, I could see a problem. So the question is; what kind of printed matter / publication is it?

In all other cases you should contact the designer / distributor. If you're meaning to make money off it, I think it's probably safe to say it's not allowed in most cases.

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