4

I own a one-person business and want to use it's name written in font licensed CC BY-ND as logo on papers send to my clients. Is it possible? Would I need to include a license

7
  • 2
    Rights around typefaces/fonts are complex, and depend massively on jurisdiction. There's a good chance that only the font software is covered by this license, but not the typeface or the text that was typeset with this font.
    – amon
    Jan 27, 2023 at 12:31
  • Amon's right; it'd be a lot easier to answer this if you were to link to the font in question, and perhaps also tell us your jurisdiction.
    – MadHatter
    Jan 27, 2023 at 12:34
  • @amon Could you kindly share a link which supports the claim that the use of fonts under a CC license is dependent on the jurisdiction? I have never come across a case like that. Jan 27, 2023 at 13:17
  • @Martin_in_AUT My argument would be: typically, typefaces are not subject to copyright, and typeset text is not a derivative of the font. The CC license only applies to the font and doesn't restrict using it for typesetting (only sharing and modification). However, if the typeface were highly decorative it might be eligible for copyright, and the typeset text could then be a derivative, which would be disallowed by the ND terms. Wikipedia has an overview of international differences, note in particular USA↔Israel.
    – amon
    Jan 27, 2023 at 14:22
  • @amon Thx for the link, I had not seen the page before. After reading it I am convinced that there is no reason in that page to change my answer below. Jan 27, 2023 at 14:44

2 Answers 2

6

CC BY-ND is not commonly used for fonts, as there are specific open licenses for fonts, such as the SIL Open Font License (OFL).

Nevertheless, you should not be afraid of using this font for creating a logo or typesetting your name, because a document, even if completely written using a specific font, can never be a derivative work of that font. A derivative work would be if you take the font and use it to create another font, or if you take the font and convert it into another graphics format or font format.

There is a similar question in Law SE which you might be interested to read. It supports my rationale.

As you are not distributing the work (the font) itself, nor distributing a derivative work (as explained above), you also do not have to include any attribution language (the name of the person who created the font) nor a link to the license language.

Edit: If you are planning to use the font not just in your logo (i.e. a graphics file type), but also in the text of your documents, then there are cases where this will actually result in distribution of the font itself. In such a case you will have to comply with the requirements as listed in section 4 of the license.
An obvious example for this would be your website, where special fonts need to be provided on the server and will be downloaded by the browser. Less obvious is the document embedding that happens with popular file formats. See: Microsoft Word, Libre Office or Adobe PDF.

0
3

The following is specific to US law. If you are not in the US, you should consult your own country's law to determine the copyright status of typefaces.

Under US law, typefaces are not subject to copyright protection (37 CFR 202.1(e)), but the font files may be subject to copyright (see Eltra Corp. v. Ringer, this document, and this one) to the extent that they are vector font files (OpenType, TrueType, etc.) rather than raster (bitmap) font files.

It is important to emphasize that this protection is extremely narrow. It does not cover the appearance or design of the font at all. It only covers the specific choice of control points or other vector instructions which are used to create the desired shape. If these control points etc. are not copied into your work in some way, then it is very unlikely that you have infringed the copyright of the font. Here are some ways that might happen:

  • You embed an OpenType or TrueType version of the font into a document, using the relevant "embed fonts" option in your word processor's settings.
  • You use Web Fonts to distribute copies of the OpenType etc. version of the font.
  • You create a vector image (e.g. an SVG or EPS file) which contains text in that font, and use "text to path" on that text - which has the effect of directly embedding the font's control points into your image file.
  • You make your own version of the font by directly modifying the existing font. Note that converting it to bitmap and then manually tracing it will (probably!) eliminate the copyright infringement, but (if applicable) you might still violate the typeface's design patent (see below).

If don't do any of the above, then you probably haven't violated the copyright on the font, regardless of its license.

A couple of important caveats: Fonts and typefaces may be subject to design patent, which does protect the general appearance or design of the typeface. However, design patents have various limitations compared to copyright that makes them less appealing to designers (most importantly, they have much shorter terms and you have to explicitly apply for them). As a result, your font may or may not actually be patented, and if it is, that may or may not matter (in practice, I do not think this is likely to matter unless you are creating a similar font, but I'm not an expert). Additionally, if a font is used in a trademarked logo, the trademark on the logo may also restrict the use of that font for other logos - you can't use the Microsoft font to make a lookalike of the Microsoft logo, for example.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.