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We have a server that allows for anyone to do processing on different vector files. One feature we are planning is to allow them to convert SVG's with text elements to paths.

In order to do this accurately, we need to have the fonts they use installed on our server. Therefore it would require us to also have some licensed fonts installed on our server.

What I'm wondering is, how does the font's license affect this?

I would think that, since our server is only a pass-through (e.g. the user of it explicitly asks to convert licensed font X), it would be the user's responsibility to make sure that the end use of the converted work is used accurately (and they hold a license).

I would imagine that our server holds the same responsibility as, say, Illustrator or Inkscape. E.g. it can replicate licensed fonts even if the end user does not own a license (even though they should).

Any input would be greatly appreciated!

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This depends purely on the licensing of the fonts. While Open Source font licenses such as the OFL won't impose restrictions, proprietary fonts might only be available under contracts that impose usage limitations. A lot of software – including Inkscape – circumvents these issues by not bundling any fonts and instead using whatever fonts are installed on a local system. But since you provide a service rather than a locally installable software, you cannot take this “shortcut”.

Note that font licensing is pretty complex, and varies dramatically between jurisdiction. The typeface may or may not be subject to copyright or similar rights such as design patents. The name may or may not be trademarked. However, the font itself is a computer program and clearly subject to copyright.

Because the font license is primarily concerned about the font as a computer software which renders the glyphs, your argument that users should be responsible for figuring out licensing is not convincing. It is not the user but you who has installed the font on your server. The resulting appearance of the typeface might not be subject to the font license. Of course, you could asks users to upload any non-free fonts they want to use, but that may not be compatible with the licenses of these fonts – talk with a lawyer first.

Some SaaS products like Google Docs have a similar issue as you. What they do is to license basic fonts such as Times New Roman, to offer a vast library of Open Source fonts, and to commission some custom typefaces.

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  • Thank you Amon for the answer! I hear it's a nuanced issue (as always with legal subjects). Will try to reach out to get some legal councel on this. Jun 7 at 8:48

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