If I use Helvetica Neue on my site, but I only use it if it is installed locally on a device. Do I at this point still need a licence to use it on my site?

I know that if you load a font into your site, you need a licence, but do the same rules apply for fonts that are installed on the device? Fonts that I am only referencing and not distributing?

  • What is "on my site"? Is your site online? What do you mean by referencing?
    – Rafael
    Commented May 2 at 23:54

2 Answers 2


If I understand correctly, you are specifying Helvetica as a font on your CSS, but not actually linking to it as a webfont, so if a user has Helvetica installed they will see it, if not they will see a fallback font.

If that is the case, no YOU don't need a license. Each person that has Helvetica on their system will have their own license, and you are only specifying/referencing the font for which they already have a license.


Neue Helvetica is a commercial font. You must purchase a Desktop License if you are going to use it legally for example in your home to print or show on the screen something. It's meanigless are you printing or showing something only to yourself or to others. Running Neue Helvetica font software in your own computer is not free.

Running it legally as a part of a website implemention costs even more, but seemingly you already know something of it. If you have purchased the desktop license and run inside your computer a program - maybe a development version of a website - which uses the font to show texts, you do not need the web font license as long as the font file stays inside your computer. In the same minute when something out of your computer can access the font file inside your computer through a network or you send a copy of the font file to somewhere you have started distributing the font and need a license for such activity.

Get and read the details of the licensing. Being too lazy to do it or being too dumb to find the copyright owner or the licensing file is not an excuse for using a commercial font without paying.

In the past (if I remember it right) Neue Helvetica was included to the operating system when a person purchased an Apple computer. If it happens to be originally included in the operating system of your computer and your operating system is properly licensed, not a pirate copy, you can use the font in just that computer and operating system like you had purchased a font desktop license.

  • 6
    The OP says "If I use Helvetica Neue on my site, but I only use if it is installed locally on a device." So they are just adding the name of the font to their CSS without distributing the file. I can't see why that should be a legal problem. Times New Roman is referenced all the time and will only work if the user has it installed. Likewise I could make a desktop app with a button that says "Run Photoshop if available". I'm not distributing Photoshop. The button only works if the user has Photoshop installed. Whether they have a legal copy or not is their problem.
    – Wolff
    Commented May 4 at 12:57

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