I have a question about copyright infringement on fonts. I downloaded a free font in 2011 and there was not a EULA included. Now,8 years later I have been contacted by this individual who says he the athor and is demanding I pay him for the license or he will sue me. I asked him if he could provide the EULA and he will not. I did pay him but he continues to demand more payment for other free fonts I downloaded years ago. I haven't used them in years and I am not sure how to protect myself and I would like to know how I can obtain the licensing and copyright info. He is located in Sweden and I am in the US. I have messaged other sellers who state he contacted them and demanded payment within 24 hours or threatened to sue. On his site he has updated the policies just recently. I'm at a lost of what to do and really dont' want to hire an attorney. There must be a way to find out this information
This is a scam. It is specifically called a "phishing scam".
This is a rather long, possibly verbose, answer primarily to help explain as much as possible to hopefully alleviate some of the unsettled feelings you may have over the entire manner. In reality, the only thing you've done wrong is to respond and send money.
Phishing: the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers or payment.
It is absolutely a scam if you paid something, then further payment is continually demanded.
No reputable font foundry would operate in that manner. And all, I mean every single font creator, would absolutely provide an EULA when asked.
There's no way, which I am aware of, for anyone without direct access to your systems to know which fonts you may or may not posses. Further, there's no way for them to know where you got said font(s). In the event a font has been distributed against licenses, in my experience, the IP owner attempts to claim/collect damages against the offending distributor. Because it is the distribution of the software which is of paramount importance and the crux of the infringement.
In addition, if there were a legitimate legal demand for money.... it does not happen via email. You would receive old-school, snail mail, paper with letterheads and possibly, certified receipts, etc. At most you may receive a phone call notifying you a postal letter is on the way.
Email is NOT used for legal demands. Because...
- There is never any proof you receive any email
- There is never any proof the sender of the email is who they claim to be.
For these reasons email is not a means of legal demands for financial compensation.
Anecdotal: Years ago I purchased a font from a mid-sized foundry... used the font often. Still use the font at times today. My purchase was legitimate and made directly from the foundry. So, there was little in question about the legality of my use.
When I happened to log into the foundry's web site years later (to purchase more fonts), my account was locked and I was asked to contact them. I did so. Turns out one of the fonts I had purchased previously was distributed without authorization (they found it on some "free font site"). The foundry merely wanted to have a conversation with me since they knew I had purchased that particular font. Now, of course, I hadn't distributed anything. Had the conversation, my account was unlocked, and nothing more came of it.
The point is, that foundry had no way to limit or remove my ability to use the font. And, in fact, they only knew I had the font because I had purchased it from them directly. If I had purchase from something like myfonts.com, they wouldn't know about my purchase unless myfonts shared my purchase history with them. I have no idea how long my account was locked. And if I had never returned to the foundry's web site.... I would never have known there was an unauthorized distribution issue.
Anyone claiming to know what fonts you have on any system, without direct access to the system.... is lying or completely guessing.
So.... if the font was gained from a "free font" web site..... the "scammers" took a shot in the dark and picked a font name at random to see if you by chance happened to have that font. Probably one of the more downloaded fonts on the "free font" site. They may have "hacked" the site or otherwise got a list of relevant email addresses from the site and used that to target their scam.... or they could simply be picking email addresses at random based upon context related to some "design" oriented site such as behance, or dribble, or etsy, or this one (although StackEchange doesn't share email addresses) etc.
This is a rework of the "we've hacked your password and we have adult videos of you from your web cam.... send us bitcoins now or we'll post it..." scam. Or the "This is the sheriff's office. You have a warrant.. send us $xxxx immediately or we will come to your home and arrest you." scam.
They send out hundreds or thousands of these fake emails hoping someone bites.... this is evidence by the sheer fact you know others from the same venue who received the same email...... never bite. Unfortunately, it seems if you sent even 1¢ to them you have made yourself a very desirable target now.
You may want to contact the venue (Etsy) to inform them their site is being used for a phishing scam directed at their user base.
Cease all contact with them. Do not respond further.
If they are actually serious (which I very, VERY, strongly doubt), you will receive postal mail before anything else occurs. If you are honestly concerned about legal issues surrounding this, seek legal assistance at that time.
I, personally, would feel safe just ignoring them. However, you may not feel the same especially after you've already confirmed you will send them money, and depending upon the method used... you may want to go change all your passwords immediately. They are probably already working on trying to use your email address to gain access at other web sites. Hopefully you know enough to not use the same password for everything.