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Business Software Alliance launches a Font Guide to help businesses understand and comply with copyright laws
08-07-2008 IT/BSA source: PeppeR

Company education needed to support a cultural shift in the ways that we manage fonts as software

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) today launches an international best practice guide for managing font assets, aimed at educating businesses on the licensing implications of using different typefaces. Many companies are unaware that font designs and font software are classed as Intellectual Property (IP); the guide intends to change the mindset around how fonts are perceived and managed.


The BSA's Font Guide, which can be found at, provides a detailed view of typography, from its history (from cave paintings to the printed press), to its impact on company brand identity and top tips for font management. The guide explains that many fonts require users to possess appropriate licenses, as with most software. Whether intended or not, unlicensed fonts put businesses in breach of copyright. Piracy carries serious penalties, including the possibility of: withdrawal of a company's illegitimate product line, damage to the company brand and a costly settlement in court.

The BSA also announces today that Dutch publishing company, Aristo Uitgeverij, had its premises searched by the BSA for unlicensed software and is now in the process of legalising its font library. The search revealed that over 5,000 fonts, to the value of over £35,000, were found on their computers, but the company produced only one license for one font library. The BSA has taken into consideration both the current owners' willingness to address and comply with the situation as well as evidence to suggest that they inherited some illegal fonts unwittingly, but Aristo Uitgeverij still faces damages plus legal costs.

To help companies protect themselves from such situations and maintain an ethical code of conduct, the BSA, in close collaboration with its members who specialise in fonts, such as Monotype Imaging and Adobe, has developed guidelines for best practice. The guide will be available in nine languages to ensure its content is accessible to businesses across the globe. Given the importance of the typeface to a business brand and identity, every business should consider how it acquires and manages its fonts.

Julian Swan, Compliance Marketing Director EMEA, BSA: "In our experience, companies generally are not being underhand when they fail to license their fonts. Ignorance or poor font management are often the reasons why many businesses fall foul of the law. However, there are consequences. Failing to pay for fonts, like any other kind of software, deprives those that own the Intellectual Property (IP) rights of valuable revenue streams. It also undermines the new media industry, in which the development of typefaces plays a crucial role."

Given the nature of their business, publishing firms need to be particularly vigilant in their font licensing. In 2006, Campden Publishing claimed to be using just one font, yet a thorough audit revealed 11,000 different fonts, worth almost £80,000. While Campden ensured all software was fully licensed following the investigation, the overhaul demanded that licenses be purchased at once, which meant that the company was unable to spread the financial outlay.

Use of fonts is authorised by licenses that determine the number of desktops and devices that the font can be installed on. This model ensures that designers are fairly rewarded for their skill and time, supporting investment in typeface design. Ultimately, if companies fail to invest financially in typefaces, development of the creative sector as a whole will suffer.

There are also strong business-critical incentives for managing font libraries. Contamination from unknown or unauthorised fonts can seriously impact upon the quality of work produced by preventing documents from opening and texts from displaying reliably. Unlicensed typefaces can also lead to crippling file corruption.

The Font Guide launch follows a recent Microsoft Corp-hosted typography event, organised by the Font Designer's Rights Coalition and focused on the protection of fonts. The event discussed among other things: font IP protection, the state of font embedding, font end-user license agreement (EULA) and new font related technologies. The Font Designer's Rights Coalition is a collective of type designers, type foundries and other individuals, set-up to protect a livelihood that depends upon the proper licensing of their work.

Bill Hill, Chief Typographic Officer, Microsoft Corp, said: "The Font Guide is a hugely useful resource for businesses unclear about their legal obligation to license the fonts they use. Education is central to stamping out what remains a persistent form of software piracy. It might be an innocent oversight, but steps need to be taken to protect the font industry's Intellectual Property if it is to continue to thrive and contribute to the economy at large - and to ensure that the people who invest huge amounts of time and effort in creating fonts are fairly rewarded for their work. These lapses may start small, but their consequences soon snowball."

For further information on typefaces, how to manage your font libraries and select which font to use, please visit:

About BSA

The Business Software Alliance ( is the foremost organization dedicated to promoting a safe and legal digital world. BSA is the voice of the world's commercial software industry and its hardware partners before governments and in the international marketplace. Its members represent one of the fastest growing industries in the world. BSA programs foster technology innovation through education and policy initiatives that promote copyright protection, cyber security, trade and e-commerce. BSA members are: Adobe, Altium, Apple, Autodesk, Avid, Bentley Systems, Corel, CNC, Microsoft, Mindjet, Monotype Imaging, Quark, Quest Software, Siemens PLM, SolidWorks, Symantec, Tekla, The Mathworks.


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