My company makes software. I hired a graphic design freelancer (and payed a fixed xxx €) to do my company's

  • website design,
  • software GUI design,
  • logo

He used Helvetica. The parts using Helvetica will always be used rendered as bitmap (as .png or .jpg, etc.). They will be used on my website, in my software GUI, in my emails, etc.

I'll never use vector graphics (svd) nor text + embedded font on my website. I also will never need to have Helvetica installed on my local machine: everything that the freelancer gives me will be bitmap.

Do I have to pay a license for Helvetica, or don't I because that was the freelancer's work (and he already payed a license for it)?

Note: linked to this question but slightly different because of the third pary: graphic design freelancer , and because use as bitmap only.

3 Answers 3


If you use the design exactly as supplied from the designer in the formats you've described then you don't have to purchase the font licence, but...

The design implementation method with everything flatten out as images (jpgs, pngs etc.) is unorthodox. Website size, SEO, rendering times on devices and so many other aspects of design, functionality and technology are thrown out of the window.

Plus If you consider that in the future you will probably need some changes even a small change such as changing a single dot you will be obligated to ask the designer (...or a designer) to supply a new image with the changes which you will pay for. Long term (maybe not even short term) this is nowhere near the cost of just purchasing font's licence and do everything properly.

  • Thanks. How to be sure I don't need to purchase the font license, do you have a source?
    – Basj
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 10:05
  • 1
    The license you are bounded with is for using the font as software installed on your computer and it's terms and conditions are detailed in the licence of each font. You can access this End-User Licence Agreement (EULA) from where you are buying the font. However, in the case you are describing above though the question is not for using the font itself as software but the artwork created containing letters using the font. Therefore the font licensing is designer's concern. Since you've bought the artwork you have the licence to use it as described from the designer you bought it from.
    – y1ann15
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 9:53

Well, the license of the font applies only to the font program in the US, ie the font you install on your computer. However, you do not specify your location and as such the question is unanswerable in terms of all locales. In my own locale the situation is a bit different as even the font program itself may not get protection unless it packs enough characters.

The same applies to the outlined strokes atleast in the US, Many other locales do not agree, more so than bitmapped font. (It is possible that you use too much of the collection and that a very special font could get protection by artistic merit). But again varies by location.

For example: Typefaces do not fall under copyright in united states, except in exceptional cases. The font name and the font program falls under protection.

Also you should consult the eula of the variant of helvetica your designer used. Many font EULAS explicitly grant you this right.

  • I'm in France. I don't know the variant of EULA of Helvetica he used (ok I should ask him). Isn't there a general answer for this?
    – Basj
    Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 20:07
  • @Basj No, unfortunately cooyright laws are different in every country. It also happens that Germany and France have the most strict law regarding fonts on the planet. The general answer is that it is OK in most locales, for bitmatps almost certainly OK except in France and Germanmy where i would check the laws and registrations of protections.
    – joojaa
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 3:45

No, in these circumstances, as the end client with flat artwork you don't need a licence although I agree that this isn't a normal (or optimal) approach for print, web or internal office use. For example, if you try to scale up one of the files it will deteriorate, and as said, you are incumbent on the freelance for future changes you may be capable of making yourself.

On a wider point re licencing, if your freelance is working on a Mac, this will have shipped with a version of Helvetica alongside the OS/software. Adobe and Microsoft also bundle additional fonts with CS Suite and Office. So it's possible that your freelance did not purchase the font in the first place (beyond the Mac purchase). If the intention all along was to flatten artwork and convert fonts to paths before delivering to you then a system based font would not present a problem in the original artwork. In my student days I was encouraged to explore shipped fonts by David Carson (Raygun) converting to paths in pre-flight to streamline workflow and avoid print and licence transfer issues. I'm pretty sure Brody began this way as well with limited budgets for font libraries during his early commercial work.

  • Thank you. What is the license of Helvetica shipped with Mac? Does this authorize public usage rendered as bitmap? Can you use it because when buying a Mac, you automatically buy a Helvetica license?
    – Basj
    Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 7:45
  • Apologies for delay - clients yesterday. The fonts shipped with the Mac by Apple include copyright use as do the ones shipped by Microsoft and Adobe with their products (unless there is a specific notice included to deny this). It is my understanding (from print professionals) that once the font is no longer editable * then it can be transferred within a design without any further copyright, otherwise how would any client use the design. For example, if I create a wrap for a pack of biscuits, I don't expect the manufacturer (of the biscuits) to buy the font. Continued. Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 8:26
  • However, I think what you are asking is can you bitmap the font, give it to a client, and let them use it ongoing in several applications without a license. If it is fixed / adapted into an icon or logo then I would say yes, you are fine. If you are giving them the font bit-mapped to circumvent licensing then no. In practice, I never create a logo directly from a font. I may start with Helvetica under license, then I convert to outlines in Illustrator and change the points / shape subtly to make it unique for each client. This also prevents their staff from using a font substitute (badly). Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 8:34
  • Finally, a reality check. We are not trying to work around the rules or avoid licensing. Rather provide artwork which is usable in the public domain with minimum issue. If I were specifying a brand font to a client I would instruct them to purchase the license so that they can use the font in a wide variety of internal communications and external marketing efforts legally whilst remaining brand consistent. My artwork delivered to them, would be un-editable (print / screen / web ready + the logo in EPS, TIF, PNG SVG formats). End of my responsibility. This is how I have operated since college. Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 8:57
  • Further point of help - if you are leading the design in future, you can 'choose' an open source, free to use font at the beginning of the job such as Google's Open Sans (Link: goo.gl/bXxS8w). However, even with these fonts you must take care to abide by the relevant release notice, Apache in this case (Link: goo.gl/hLGdfh), which includes an acknowledgement of the source on release of the work. I generally put this in the website code or footer / small print. Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 9:05

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