I've heard informally that a font license only applies to the file of a font, that if you use a particular font to produce designs, and distribute those designs without the font file included, you don't have to abide to the font license. Is this true?

More formally: Is it true that if you have a license to a font, you can produce and distribute images and logos with that font commercially, regardless of font license, if you don't bundle the font file?


It's not quite right.

You must always abide by the font licence, sometimes called the EULA (End User Licence Agreement). These are the conditions you agree to when you use the font software. Ultimately you should read the font licence to make sure you know what you can and can't do with a font, since font licences aren't all the same.

However, for most commercially available desktop fonts, for use in graphic design applications:

  1. You can use a font you have purchased (including most fonts that came pre-installed on your computer) to make a design, logo, or type text for yourself or your clients. Your client doesn't need to buy a font licence to use a logo or publish work you have created for them, unless they want to edit the artwork, or use the font themselves.

  2. Most licences allow a font to be embedded in an electronic document such as a PDF, but not for the purpose of editing.

  3. You can't redistribute, give, lend, transfer, or sub-lease the font file (the font software) to a client or third party. Some licences allow limited use by a commercial printer to use a font file for the purpose of publishing a document, but some don't.

  4. You can covert the fonts used in logos or text documents to outlines, or rasterize them, avoiding the need to send font files to anyone.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and the above is not legal advice. If you want legal advice, then hire a lawyer.


Not true.

Including the font file to the data that you sell or give to others is one thing. Font license can allow it. Often it's forbidden, because font producers want money from every people who get their font file. Font files contain computer software and giving or selling them to others is a form of software distribution.

Making images and texts which contain letters which are rendered with some font software, for ex. with Adobe Garamond Pro, is another thing. It's running that software. Font license can allow personal usage, but making logos or making something to other people can be forbidden.

There's no automatic connection between "including the font file" and "producing something by running that font software in a graphic program". If producing logos or commercial usage is forbidden, they do not become allowed, if you do not give the font file.

BTW. People are very clever to invent excuses why they need not to pay for something. For example I could easily say "I can use Garamond as I like, because Claude Garamond - the creator of Garamond - has died hundreds of years ago and all his work is in public domain today!"

That's true. I can make my own copies of Claude Garamond's glyphs as long as I draw them by myself after seeing the originals in a museum. But running or distributing software Adobe Garamond Pro is different thing. Copying the glyphs from Adobe Garamond Pro is the same. Copyright laws say that I must obey Adobe's license and pay what Adobe demands.

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