Ask DN: Font usage without a license?

7 years ago from , ⚡️ Creator of things ⚡️

Hey DN,

I've been using TypeKit for my websites when a custom font is needed, mostly because it's integrated in Adobe CC so I'm already paying for it, might as well use it.

Let's be honest, fonts are pretty expensive. Especially if you want to buy a license for every platform. I never actually paid more than a few dozen bucks for one. So before TypeKit existed I mostly just downloaded them from torrent and implemented it in the client's website if they wanted something special.

Have you guys and gals ever heard of anyone actually getting (threatened to be) sued over using a font they didn't own? I'm mostly looking for anecdotal evidence, not hard facts. Always wanted to ask fellow designers about this :)


  • Cory GibbonsCory Gibbons, 7 years ago

    Fonts are expensive because a lot of work is put into them.

    I've never heard of anybody getting in trouble for stealing them but why bother? There are a lot of great free fonts these days to use. If a project's budget has room for a specific typeface great, if not, use one that's free.

    10 points
  • Kemie GuaidaKemie Guaida, 7 years ago

    There's many cases of companies being sued for illegal font usage. Usually big, high-profile companies. If you use a font illegally, realistically, your chances of being caught are minimal, especially offline.


    Like Cory said, fonts are pretty expensive because they're a LOT of work. So if you can't afford them, stick to Typekit, fonts that came with your OS or software, or Open source fonts (a lot of good quality fonts there too).

    Don't use the price as an excuse to steal. Please.

    8 points
  • Jeremiah ShoafJeremiah Shoaf, 7 years ago

    Yes, people get in trouble for this all the time. I run Typewolf and have seen many, many designers publicly being called out on Twitter for illegally using fonts. Usually they just end up taking the fonts down. I’m not sure if any legal action is pursued but it pretty much makes them look like scumbags for stealing fonts. And that’s probably not the type of reputation you want as a designer.

    So yeah, you will get caught. Foundries can easily tell if you properly licensed their fonts on the web, especially smaller indie foundries who know who their customers are.

    5 points
  • John FlynnJohn Flynn, 7 years ago

    Fonts can be expensive. Design costs money because designers (and font designers) deserve to be compensated for their work.

    You're part of a system now. Be a good actor in the system because someday it might be you getting your work ripped off.

    2 points
  • Henrique NogueiraHenrique Nogueira, 7 years ago

    Let's be honest, most of us have done it at some point. Not something to be proud of, though.

    With time i came to understand the amount of effort that it's put in this type of work (just as most design related work), so i don't use paid fonts illegally anymore, but i think it's worth the discussion.

    We talk a lot about speculative work but almost never about illegal use of fonts. As i said, i only realized what i was doing was wrong after some time, so it's important to discuss this subject more openly.

    1 point