The biggest font risk of them all? Not having anyone take the wheel of your font management—including managing licenses. Yes, believe it or not, plenty of creative teams are content to take their End User License Agreements (EULAs) at face value—or simply ignore them because everyone’s too busy—which can lead to a whole host of legal headaches as evidenced in our Font Files blog.
So yeah, if you don’t have a “font overseer” on your team, we highly recommend that you fill this role ASAP, and give them a cool title like Studio Manager, Creative Ops Specialist, or whatnot.
But if you’re already part of the Cool Kids Club and have appointed someone to manage all your fonts and their respective licenses, you and the rest of your team likely hold the assumption that you’re in the clear. That can lead to subtle internal narratives like, “Meh, we have someone managing fonts, so I can just use this random one I found on the Internet and they’ll handle any issues.”
However, catching 100% of the poisoned font fruit that enters your creative ecosystem isn’t possible, so catastrophe will inevitably rear its ugly head in the form of an unlicensed font entering production and coming out the other end pristine and intact. Oops.
We spoke with Joyce Ketterer, CEO and owner of leading independent foundry Darden Studio about problems like this, so you’d have the complete lowdown on licensing—from what exactly a font license does, to licensing permissions, and what creates an environment ripe for licensing problems.
We live in a hybrid world that enables creative teams to find and work with talent—including freelancers—from any location at any time, which presents a humongous challenge when it comes to font licensing.
If you use freelancers, you must review your font EULAs to ensure they permit freelancer (e.g., non-W2 employee) use. The bummer is that at least as often as not, font licenses do not cover freelancers. If that’s your reality and a freelancer will access your fonts, pony up the extra dough to ensure the freelancer has usage rights, then add “freelancer font license access” as an ongoing budget expense, because it will certainly come up again.
Sidebar: explicitly detail who is responsible for absorbing the cost of freelancer access to font licenses in your freelancer contracting agreement in advance. Sure, you can try to make freelancers foot the bill, but the point is to have an internally-agreed-upon plan in place ahead of time, so you don’t rush into an expensive font license mistake.
Freelancer font licensing is but one slice of the creative process pie, and we want you to understand all of it. Check out our guide that breaks down additional hidden costs that can pop up throughout the creative process.
While they may appear benign on the surface, these license types represent usage nuances that transform fonts into digital minefields.
Web site usage is a real wild card, as some font licenses allow web usage, while others do not. What’s worse, many font licenses that do include web usage place strict limits on how frequently you can “use” the font on the web based on views…and then charge extra as the views go up and up and up.
Embedding fonts in Ebooks is another process with umpteen variables depending on your license. Some font licenses include Ebook embedding as part of the base license, but others charge extra for it. Either way, make sure you have Ebook-ability for your fonts!
Licensing fonts for use on product labels is one of the most common use cases for font licensing, yet also poses some of the biggest risks, given that many foundries do not permit fonts to be used as the primary element of a product or logo (without extra payments, that is, sigh).
The solution for navigating these hazards? Yep, put someone specifically in charge of reading and understanding every font license. Preferably someone with a legal-oriented brain, who understands your range of font usage, and can consistently review said range to make sure each font license covers your needs – and then extend coverage if needed.
Life with font risk gets stressful fast, and the font usage risks we just covered are such tricky deals that we devoted a good portion of our professional lives to building a better way forward. Imagine a world where you have a “font overseer,” know the ins-and-outs of freelancer font usage, and rest assured knowing a super smart team member is reading and understanding every font license.
Now imagine there’s a way to double check all that before somebody hits “go” on the production line.
If that sounds like your cup of tea, you can learn more about Connect + Insight below, plus see how Extensis’ creative asset management solutions reduce font risk and increase creative asset compliance—so you can both wrestle risk to the ground and sleep way, way better at night.