I've run into an issue with my printer denying printing, one of my designs is a parody of Hotline Bling and contains the familiar text in Helvetica Neue in the background.

The reasoning is because of copyright issues but from my research about copyright rules, you cannot copyright the use of a typeface.

  • when you consider that many logos use the same typeface, it should not be an issue. still would love to hear from someone with legal experience – Aziz Feb 4 '16 at 15:31
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    one should probably make this question to law.stackexchange.com – joojaa Feb 4 '16 at 15:51
  • How long have printers been doing this?! What a time to be alive – MonkeyZeus Feb 4 '16 at 18:10
  • @MonkeyZeus new policy...there is no public facing store front to order the product on their site so it kind of caught me off guard – David Nguyen Feb 4 '16 at 18:20
  • @DavidNguyen wow! I definitely thought you meant that your printer is preventing you from printing but you meant printer as in a third-party vendor. Whoops – MonkeyZeus Feb 4 '16 at 18:23

You can trademark a logo. And a logo can be made from a typeface. It's less protectable than something custom, but protectable none-the-less.

But parody is a perfectly acceptable.

I'd find a new printer.

  • Thanks, since parody is subjective - what arguments can I provide? The text is shown in the background while a car sits in front of it...pretty obvious the car is the main focus of the design. – David Nguyen Feb 4 '16 at 17:45
  • @DavidNguyen arguments would only be useful in court. So, I'd ask why argue? Just find a new printer. – DA01 Feb 4 '16 at 18:04
  • printer handles all of my on demand products so I'd rather one company handle these types of products – David Nguyen Feb 4 '16 at 18:09
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    Well, this is really about business negotiation at this point and is going to depend entirely on the specifics of your relation with your printer. One argument would be "print this, or I'll take all of my business elsewhere". Another option is to have your lawyer 'sign off' on this as being OK. Or, perhaps you can sign an agreement with your printer that you take all liability for any copyright infringement this piece may cause. – DA01 Feb 4 '16 at 18:13

I know this doesn't fully answer it, but I found an interesting article that may help with your project:

The Law on Fonts and Typefaces

It seems like you should be able to incorporate it into your design though. I will update this if I can find specific references from my law buddies.


There are many areas to look at to reason the printer's decision.

The font in question is a commercial font, produced by Linotype. In order to use the font, you would have needed to purchase it (they have different licenses available, depending on usage). This means that it is protected by copyright law.

Now to the tricky part, and this is what your printer is being cautious about. If you provided your artwork, with the fonts, it means that they would not be able to use it to process the job as they need to install the fonts on their system (which costs them money).

You cannot provide them with the fonts, as this would be illegal under the licensing agreement (given that you purchased the license).

A workaround is to always convert your text to outlines before submitting to the printer. It is perfectly legal to produce and provide a work using a commercial font, as long as you do not provide it with embedded commercial fonts that would require the printer to purchase them.

To think about it from the perspective of the printer; if they had to purchase the fonts for every job that they are receiving, they'll be spending countless time and money doing that – unfeasible.

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    Thanks for the point of view, I think the concern is purely about the text design. The file provided to them is a PNG file. – David Nguyen Feb 4 '16 at 17:46
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    Once Helvetica Neue is rendered as pixels or outlines, it stops being a typeface and starts being part of an artwork. Also, Helvetica Neue is licensed by Apple for the use of every Apple user. Which is almost certainly why this typeface was even used in this artwork. So there are not font licensing issues. – Simon White Feb 4 '16 at 17:51
  • David - That was only a hypothesis, as you did not mention it in your question that it was already rendered, of which the printer has no legal grounds in refusing your job. With this matter clarified, I would agree with DA01, "find a new printer". – elrayyes Feb 4 '16 at 18:16

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