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Aliii

Are all fonts copyrighted?

20 posts in this topic

I did some research but what Ive found was quite confusing, so I thought I will ask it here. Sorry if not entirely a business q.

I need text to be rendered in my game.(who doesnt?). I dont need fancy-fonts, just basic text ....letters that consist of 20 pixels or so. Are there free fonts for that? ...if I have to create my own thats fine ...but how do I do that if it cant be Arial, Times New Roman, Sans Serif, etc.

Thanks!

 

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As long as you are not providing a font in a usable format, it's okay to use a font to display text.  In other words, if your game displays an image that includes text, the font is not legally actionable.  But if your game includes font files, and those font files could be used by someone else, then that could be a problem.

I am not a lawyer, and this is only my understanding (as given me by lawyers) -- not legal advice from me to you.

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if your game includes font files, and those font files could be used by someone else, then that could be a problem

Thanks! That was my source of confusion (typeface vs fonts, fonts when its an image vs fonts when its a "computer program"). So... lets say I have my letters from A to Z in a texture file, and I use that file to dynamically create the text in the game. ....thats not OK? (Better idea that I can think of is to generate the letters from code and not to have them in a separate resource file)

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A particular TTF file is definitely someone's "intellectual property", and would have to be used within the terms of it's license.

 

There might be special laws regarding fonts (IANAL), but simply converting the TTF into a grid of glyphs in a bitmap sounds like a simple transformation. Like copying a DVD onto VHS, or a CD to MP3... I would still assume the bitmap of glyphs is covered under the same original copyright as the TTF.

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But what about when you use a tool like BMGlyph, Angel Font or Hiero.  Certainly you need to use a TTF but once you have added borders,dropshadows, gradient and even change the mitre limit on the corners then  output it to a bitmap.  Is it still the same as copying a DVD to VHS or is it a new font within its own right.

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What if the bitmap is embedded into the code? Its not in a resource file / usable format.

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All fonts are copyrighted but many are offered as a free license. The typical limitation is that you cannot make a profit by reselling the fonts to other users. Many of the open license fonts allow you to embed fonts in a bitmap or similar format that is not directly usable by the end user in other products than yours.

 

A site like Font Squirrel offers a large selection of royalty free fonts. You have to check the license thoroughly, though, as some are only free to use for printed materials or web-sites and not for games / interactive software.

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The legal department at my company (major publisher/developer) doesn't let us use fonts without purchasing a license. I would be careful with which fonts you use.
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I would be careful with which fonts you use.

Thanks! Thats why I asked the question.... :) If it would be for a game I would maybe create my own, ....but Im doing an editor for which I need some basic easily readable fonts. I guess I`ll choose a popular free one. 

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The legal department at my company (major publisher/developer) doesn't let us use fonts without purchasing a license. I would be careful with which fonts you use.

 

That's been my experience too. Companies with large legal departments seem to tread very carefully as far as font usage is concerned regardless of whether you're slicing it up into a bitmap offline or using the .ttf at runtime.

 

However, not all fonts have restrictions on usage. Just as there's open source software, there's fonts that are free to use. Search for fonts using the 'SIL Open Font License' - this website has quite a few: http://openfontlibrary.org/en . If you want the open equivalent of Arial or Times New Roman, then you can do worse that look at the Vera font family.

 

Finally, if there's a commercial font you really want to use, but you're unsure whether you need their expensive redistribution license or their cheap single-user license, then get in contact with the creator and explain how you plan to use it. If they agree the cheap license covers you then you're golden, or they might negotiate a price in between.

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I would be careful with which fonts you use.

Thanks! Thats why I asked the question.... smile.png If it would be for a game I would maybe create my own, ....but Im doing an editor for which I need some basic easily readable fonts. I guess I`ll choose a popular free one. 

 

Just load one of the fonts that ships with the users OS, with most decent font or Windowing APIs you can just pass the desired font family, writing system, weight, size, style, etc and it will hand you a matching installed font.

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There's different aspects to that, and they're different everywhere on the globe, too.

 

A "font" as such (the typeface) is not copyrighted or patentable in the USA (surprising, because you can patent every crap in the US), but it is very well copyrighted in most EU countries. Thus, making your own Helvetica font will make Linotype unhappy, but there's not much they can do against it if you're in the USA (as long as you don't use the trademarked name Helvetica!). Doing the same in the EU will make you unhappy instead.

 

Further, individual characters or the font as a whole can be subject to a design patent (e.g. the Coca Cola font, the Terminator font, or a Klingon font, or a font containing the Toyota brand sign).

 

The actual "implementation" (the font file on your computer) is copyrighted pretty much everywhere, including the USA. However, whether or not an image representation of the font (bitmap font) is a derived work and/or under the same copyright is, again, something that is debatable and locally different. In the EU, it was ruled some years ago (cannot provide a reference now, sadly) that the bitmap representation of an outline font isn't copyrighted. Which means if I want to use a bitmap font of Calibri, then Microsoft can frown on that, but can't really do anything.

But who can tell what's the most contorted case that could possibly happen in the USA or some other place with dodgy jurisdiction. You might be sued because the Windows EULA, which of course you didn't read, contains a "no bitmap representations of enclosed fonts" clause on page 779.

 

The safest bet is therefore, as suggested before, to simply use a font that is explicitly "free". You won't risk anything that way in any case.

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...Or buy a Photoshop license(the one that comes with like say a bamboo pad) and use the fonts from there. Their are many ways of getting access to free fonts or even cheap fonts now at days. I use Gimp fonts and Photoshop  light(pse) fonts in my production and the result is fine. 

 

Edit: All fronts in default Gimp are the fronts from your operating system and therefore not free as so. Seems like places like Google web fronts is more like it. The PhotoShop(PSE) says in the license that all content is allowed for commercial use unless otherwise stated... One will have to look for something like readme.txt files under the respective fonts there... Murky like ... as someone said on a Gimp forum. 

 

I have now invested in some fonts with license to show for titles and in menus and chosen some from google as they really seems to be free as free. This issue is really something one has to be careful with.

Edited by Dwarf King
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Or buy a Photoshop license(the one that comes with like say a bamboo pad) and use the fonts from there.

Careful! Some of fonts distributed with Photoshop are only licensed for use in Adobe products.

 

There is a distinction between using a font in the creation of an end product (say a book, or a poster), versus redistributing the font as a whole (or a derived work such as a bitmap representation thereof) for use in other software.

Edited by swiftcoder
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Why do people always ask "But what about <some random combination of actions or transformations> on someone else's data." Every font has a license attached to it detailing it's use, just like any other creative work. If you want to use a font for anything at all, regardless of what you do on top of it, you still have to follow the original license.

Find some public domain or permissive license font files and use those. Read the licenses, as written by their actual authors. Lots of websites run by random idiots say all their fonts are free to use, but they are just pirating them and redistributing them without permission.

To get you started, I'll recommend the Bitstream Vera fonts.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitstream_Vera
http://www-old.gnome.org/fonts/ <-- license
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Swiftcoder said:

There is a distinction between using a font in the creation of an end product (say a book, or a poster), versus redistributing the font as a whole (or a derived work such as a bitmap representation thereof) for use in other software.

 

 

Which is pretty much what I said.

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Why not just use the fonts given in like Gimp? Gimp is free and comes with a huge amount of great fonts.

 

Are you sure they have the same license as Gimp? Many fonts there are named MS this, MS that.....

 

Thanks for all the answers!

One more q: many free-font licences say that if I create a derivative from the fonts I cant use the same name and I need to include the original license.

I guess creating a bitmap from the original TTF or whatever file is a derivative work. Is it OK if I place a readme file next to my font files that says "This font is a derivative from this-and-this font, heres the original license: ....." or should I mention it in my games EULA? Thanks!

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Or buy a Photoshop license(the one that comes with like say a bamboo pad) and use the fonts from there.

Careful! Some of fonts distributed with Photoshop are only licensed for use in Adobe products.

 

There is a distinction between using a font in the creation of an end product (say a book, or a poster), versus redistributing the font as a whole (or a derived work such as a bitmap representation thereof) for use in other software.

Indeed there is... Took some time to read about and change the fonts in my work... Thanks smile.png

Edited by Dwarf King
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