Font licensing

In my last post I touched on the subject of fonts licensed to the Microsoft Office package. Unfortunately, the issue is wider than simply font compatibility. The question of font licensing also raises its ugly head.

Many users are unaware that what you get with Microsoft Word is a set of ‘free’ fonts that Microsoft has licensed from a font developer for only limited use. Often this is for individual printing from a PC to a laser printer (i.e. at 300 or 600 dpi). When a typesetter outputs a set of PDFs for high-resolution printing and hence commercial use, the fonts cannot be embedded. Effectively, the PDFs are useless and nothing can be printed from the. In such circumstances, the only solution is that the font owner is located and a new licence purchased. What with needing to buy digital rights on top of those for printed material, plus deciding if the licence is for a limited term or perpetual use, the fees involved can be horrendous.

Nor is this simply a problem with the Office package. I have encountered the same situation elsewhere, for instance where an institute buys a single-user licence for a Sanskrit font from a font supplier like Linguist’s Software and doesn’t realize that the font often cannot be used other than on a specific PC (nor can it be output as a 4800 dpi PDF file).

If a new licence must be paid, the danger is that at best the publisher demands that you pay; at worst (as can be the case with font incompatibilities), the publisher may find this all too much of a hassle and decide to reject your manuscript on offer.

Moral of the story? Assume nothing about the portability of your fonts. Perhaps it is time to do something that I constantly avoid! – read the fine print in different licensing agreements you have entered into.

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