The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has issued a best practice guide to educate businesses on the intellectual property laws regarding fonts.
The BSA claims that many businesses are not aware that font designs and font software are intellectual property and wants to bring companies up to speed on the hazards of using unlicensed fonts. Such usage is classified as breach of copyright and penalties could include the withdrawal of product lines as well as hefty monetary settlements and damage to brand image.
The case of Dutch publishing company Aristo Uitgeverij was highlighted as a cautionary tale. The BSA searched the firm's offices for unlicensed software and 5,000 fonts, with a value of £35,000, were found installed on computers. Only one font library was licensed and the company now faces legal costs and damages and has begun the process of legalising its font library.
Obtaining a license for use of a font entails coming to an agreement with the relevant software publisher in regards to the number of devices the font can be installed on. The best practice guide is available in nine languages and the BSA hopes it will increase worldwide awareness of both the morals and legalities of font use.
Julie Strawson, chair of the BSA UK member committee, said: “Failing to pay for fonts, like any other kind of software, deprives those that own the intellectual property rights of valuable revenue streams. It also undermines the new media industry, in which the development of typefaces plays a crucial role.”
Bill Hill, Microsoft's chief typographic officer, added: “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."
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