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Five basic rules for buying fonts

Although most people speak of "buying fonts," you are actually purchasing a license to use them. The instantiation of the design in a digital font remains the property of the foundry or designer. Usually, the permissions and restrictions described in the End User License Agreement (EULA) must be accepted before purchasing and downloading the font file(s). It is safe to say that most font EULAs are similar to each other, but often differ in specific points, so it's always wise to familiarize yourself with the licenses for your fonts. Here are five basic rules to be aware of when using fonts.

1. Have a proper license. When you use a font, make sure you have a proper license for it. A basic license allows use on a limited number of workstations or devices, a multi-user license allows use on a defined number of workstations or devices and users. Depending on the EULA, use may be restricted to a single organization or workstations at a single geographical location.

2. Get special licenses when necessary. There are numerous uses that are often subject to special regulations. These might include:

• embedding fonts in documents, devices or websites,

• using fonts for broadcast purposes or film,

• flash animation, and

• e-books.

Also, licensing a desktop/printing font does not necessarily mean that you can use it as a web font. If a desired use is not covered by the standard license, a special license will have to be procured.

3. Don't loan fonts to third parties unless the license gives you permission to do so. Most retail font EULAs state that fonts may not be given to third parties, not even on loan. Your friends, colleagues, clients or printing vendors need their own licenses. Some foundries/designers will allow loaning a font to a printing business for the purpose of producing a job, but many EULAs only allow the embedding of fonts in a PDF – which many printers prefer to receive anyway.

4. Keep fonts in their original form. Most foundries don't allow modifications of their fonts. If you want to alter a font, you will need the written permission of the foundry. This usually applies only if the modifications are to be used as a font. Again, check the specifics of each EULA.

5. Ask questions to be sure! If you have any questions regarding your font license, please check the EULA or contact your foundry or distributor.

Respect your colleagues. Stay legal.

Thank you.