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I'm creating a logo design for a franchise I'm developing. To start it'll probably just be a webcomic, but eventually I'd like to take it commercially. I'd only use it in the logo, but I believe it still counts as commercial usage.

Originally I went with a different font, but it was too hard to read. After looking around a while, I found a font called Kaneiwa:

http://www.fontspace.com/family-font-mart/kaneiwa

It looked impressive, and the site says its free to use commercially, so I figured it'd be fine. That's when I found this:

http://www.dafont.com/kaneiwa-alp.font

Unlike on font space, this one says free for PERSONAL use. I didn't think it was too big of a deal, though, I'd just contact the author and have him sort it out. Except that his email address is invalid, his website is gone, and I can't find any other method of communication.

I've found this font listed all across the internet. Some sites say its free for personal use, others say its flat-out freeware. Does anyone know what it ACTUALLY is? I'd really like to use it, but I don't want to get into legal trouble by doing so. I haven't found another font that would make a good replacement yet.

If anyone can help clarify this to me that would be great.

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His website doesn’t appear to be gone for me. It has a Gmail address—was that the one you tried? –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 4 at 11:49
    
@JanusBahsJacquet First of all, I asked this question a year ago. Second of all, that website is not inside the license file for the Kaneiwa font itself. Are you sure that's the same person? If so that is very helpful although I don't know where you found the link. –  JaidynReiman Jun 5 at 15:49
    
Oops, so you did! John's edit yesterday bumped it to the top, and I didn't notice the date. I'm fairly sure that's the same person—the name is the exact same (including being written with the same kanji), and the website says this guy does graphic design, too. The odds of it being someone else are very slim, I'd say. (I can't remember where I found it, actually—I think I just googled his name, in kanji, and that was the first hit.) –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 5 at 19:19
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This is a legal question rather than a design question, which unfortunately this community is not very well positioned to help you with, since we are not all lawyers (although some of us may be!) and the jurisdiction really varies between states and/or countries.

That said, "personal use" is too vague, and dafont/fontspace have countless fonts of dubious licensing - you really need to read the text of the actual license from the font's author to find out what the license is.

If you cannot find any license attached to the font specifically allowing you to use it, then you can only assume that (because of the way Copyright works) you don't have any license to use the font.

The only information I can find inside that font is:

2000 Copyright(C) AKIHIRO OYA

User Support on the WEB "WINNIE*ME"

Attention 使用FREE+DON'T営利目的WITHOUT連絡+連絡先大矢旭宏

I have no idea what that means, and following the website linked under "WINNIE*ME" results in a dead link on a site that looks like it's been taken down.

After Google translate that last line becomes:

Attention Use FREE+DON'T commercial WITHOUT Contact+Oya Hiroshi Asahi Contact

Which is still a little unclear (even if you can sort of get the gist, the word "FREE" isn't necessarily a license).

To conclude, it's unclear from the information given what the specifics of the license are. This is unfortunately the case for a vast number of fonts on dafont/fontspace. At best they are small-time fonts made by designers who didn't include a proper license or don't understand copyright licensing or who have disappeared. At worst they may infringe commercial fonts.

If you want a real legal opinion, then consult a lawyer. If you don't think it's risky enough to justify spending real money talking to a lawyer, that's your decision. For example, if the author intended it to be free but just didn't know how to create a proper license for it, you might conclude that they are unlikely to sue you. This is what people in the copyright professional euphemistically call a "risk-management approach" - basing your actions on how likely you are to actually get sued. From reading the translated notice I've reproduced above, you may well conclude that the author intended for people to use it for free.

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I had seen similar questions so I thought it'd be appropriate to ask here. I did translate that as well, and the only thing it comes up with appears to say something like "Don't use commercially without contacting me first." So I guess I'll just try and look around for another similar font, but I really wanted to use this one. -_- –  JaidynReiman Feb 19 '13 at 17:58
    
"Personal Use" on dafont.com typically means that it can be used for anything as long as you don't use it commercially. In my case, I plan to make a webcomic, and it would be the part of the webcomic's logo. I may do things other than a webcomic with this series, though, and the same thing would be used in other media I create for it. The webcomic at first would only be for personal use, but later I may add things like advertising and potentially try and make some money off of the webcomic. I'm thinking 1-2 years down the road for all this commercial stuff. I'm just trying to plan in advance. –  JaidynReiman Feb 19 '13 at 18:05
    
I was hoping someone may have had information on the specific font. Its gotten a lot of downloads across the web, but I can't find anything on it. I'm going to try and look up a similar font to use and be more careful to check the licenses before I even consider using it in a logo, let alone creating one with it. -_- Granted, the only reason I did is because the original site I found it on made it look like a legit free font, but other sites said something different. Since its unclear, I'd rather not take the risk. –  JaidynReiman Feb 19 '13 at 22:24
    
The last bit of that Japanese phrase (大矢旭宏) is not, as Google Translate thinks, Ōya Hiroshi Asahi, but Ōya Akihiro, the creator’s name. What comes before it seems ungrammatical to me (but I’m not fluent enough to know for sure whether it’s some kind of business lingo or something). –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 4 at 11:52
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