Our Advice For Buying Fonts Online
Finding the right type for your project that you AND your client love is a hard enough task… but one more crucial yet underestimated element to the process is licensing.
Finding the right type for your project that you AND your client love is a hard enough task… but one more crucial yet underestimated element to the process is licensing.The legal side of fonts is a fairly grey area, and lets face it, also very dull. It can be easily cast aside and ignored because of this, but it really is important.
A font license is a legal document, so it does matter. Here is our advice for buying fonts online to make things easier:
1. You need to understand the license… even if it doesn’t make much sense.
A font license is the same as any other contract, it is an agreement between you and the creator which states what you can and cannot do with the font.
Licences come in different forms, from long and complex to short and vague. However, just because a license only states what you cannot do, that doesn’t automatically mean that everything that isn’t stated is allowed.
For example, if you are creating a logo make sure that converting the file type doesn’t mean you need a secondary license. Likewise, often fonts are priced depending on the number of views it will receive, so it is worth considering whether you expect your platform to increase in views, such as if it’s part of a relaunch, in which case you may have to make further payment as views increase.
2. Who owns the license - you or the client?
It is easy for the client to hand over the reigns and ask you to take control of everything, but it comes with its risks. Whilst you can source the fonts, and even purchase them yourself, it may be safer to put the license in the clients name. If it is under your name, that means you are ultimately responsible for any wrong doings whether by yourself or your client, even if you aren’t working on the project anymore.
If you do choose to put the license in your own name and wish to use the font for another project you may still need to buy another license. Unfortunately buying the font once doesn’t necessarily give you free reign to use the font whenever or wherever you want. It varies between fonts and companies, however 9/10 times it is safer to put your client as the licensee. However, remember to inform the client that they own the licence and make sure they understand the restrictions.
3. Just because a font is free, doesn’t mean it is free…
Don’t assume that because a font is free to download that it means you are free to use commercially restriction free. Often, free fonts have tighter restrictions than paid fonts!
Free fonts are available for personal use - but it is always worth tracking down the original artist for permission before you use it commercially.
…Remember, free fonts are easy to copy so whilst the site you downloaded it from says ‘free for commercial use’, that doesn’t mean it was branded that on original upload. Don’t put yourself at risk!
4. Keep your receipt!
With any purchase you make you tend to keep ahold of your receipts or booking confirmation until you no longer need them. For example, if you bought a ticket to a concert online you would save your proof of purchase until after the event in case of any issues. Fonts are not different, for as long as that font is being used, keep your license document saved.
You should always try and file away your proof of purchase and a static version of your license. Often license agreements are provided on a webpage. It is a good idea to save it as a PDF file rather than as a webpage link, as over time it may be edited or even deleted. Likewise, keep a record of any conversation with the font owners in regards to permission for use of in case of any problems.
5. What happens if I want a refund?
The issue that inspired this piece was actually a font refund debate. After buying a font online, we decided to request a refund having changed our mind. The company could see that the font hadn’t been used due to the tracking script within the font code, however the company were not willing to offer a refund despite being within 14 days of purchase. According to UK refund law, all online purchases are obliged to offer a full refund without an explanation providing cancellation is requested within 14 days of purchase. This then provoked a Twitter debate as to whether fonts should be refunded or not:
Despite their reluctance, after our questioning they did eventually offer a refund.
We then asked font company 'Underware' what their refund policy was to see if we could clear up the debate. They said "fonts can be returned within a month, but only if they are defective. Returning software is tricky, as any software can be copied in seconds. We've been selling fonts for 16 years, and it has happened only twice that a customer returned the fonts, and that was because he bought the same font twice - they got their money back. One of the reasons we have little trouble with refunding is that people cantest our fonts before they buy them."
There is still a lot to be discussed regarding rules of buying - or refunding - fonts, but hopefully this is a start.
Let us know at @OrchardTweets what you think - have you had a similar experience?