Legalities of font use in games.

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by Jamie W, Aug 2, 2006.

  1. Jamie W

    Original Member Indie Author

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    Am I free to use whatever font(s) I like in my game, or do I need to check, if I can use a particular font in my game?

    I'm thinking font's like arial are widely used and are in the public domain / free for all to use? What's the situation with more exotic fonts, like 'Harrington' for example?

    Thanks.
     
  2. MibUK

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    Are you distributing the font or expecting it to be on the clients PC?

    You can make use of anyhting on the customers / players PC without issue. I.e. if your game uses Times New Roman and runs on windows you are fine, providing it actually gets it from the clients PC.

    However, making your own redistributable version of a standard font by writing every letter of the alphabet into an image file and having a lookup table for each letter and distributing that image file for example, is almost certainly not allowed unless explicitely allowed somewhere.
    Doing the above process at load or even install time on the players PC using the lcoal font, fine.

    I believe that the TTF files that come with windows are not freely distributable, but they are free to download, so your installer can download them at install time, or the game can, but you cant redistribute the files themselves.
    If you got fonts from somehwere elses, unless you explicitely got hte font from a public domain or creative commons website that says that they are redistributable, then you cant. This includes things like the Adobe fonts installed by various Adobe produts like PageMaker, Photoshop etc.


    In general, I think the answer is no, fonts are not redistributable unless told otherwise at some point. Check the license / details on each font to find out more.
     
  3. Jamie W

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    Crickey!!

    How about when fonts are used to create the textual compontent of larger images that are used in games, I'm sure this is common practice, is that illegal too?

    I can think of several scenarios where font's may be distributed with games:

    1) As the original font file (.ttf or whatever).

    2) Pre-rendered to a bitmap, which is then effectively used in game as sprites.

    3) Pre-rendered to a bitmap, along with other graphical components, to make up larger images, for example buttons etc.

    I'd imagine situation 1 is very rare, and situation 2 and 3 are common place, everyone does it don't they?
     
  4. DrWilloughby

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    There are a lot of freeware fonts out there. You should always check the license on the font before redistributing it or using it in any significant way. I've never heard of someone being busted on this, but I'm sure it happens. Just check the license. If you can't find one, search for a place that font is distributed on the internet and you'll usually find a license agreement with it. Be careful of fonts that are freeware for non-commercial use.
     
  5. mahlzeit

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    I believe the "rules" are like this:

    1) You can't distribute TTF files unless you have permission to do so.
    2) You *can* make a bitmap of *any* font and distribute that.
    3) If you're crazy, you *can* make your own TTF file, even if it copies the look of an existing font.

    In most countries, the look of the font isn't copyrightable, although in some it is (Germany?). You'll probably be fine with the above three rules.

    I am not a lawyer.
     
  6. Sirrus

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    Can someone recommend a good font to bitmap converter?
     
  7. Jamie W

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  8. jcottier

    jcottier New Member

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    > 2) You *can* make a bitmap of *any* font and distribute that.

    no, no, no. You can't do that either. If the font is not freeware, you have to pay a licence for that too. It is cheaper than the licence that allow you to redistribut the original font but it is still a lot of money. You should just use freeware font if you don't have a big budget.
     
  9. mahlzeit

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    As far as I know, fonts are not subject to protection as artistic works (depending on the jurisdiction).

    For example, see here: http://www.typeright.org/feature4.html
     
  10. Larry Hastings

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    Some fonts have licenses that claim to not allow you to turn them into bitmaps. For instance if you buy a fresh copy of Futura I believe you have to separately license redistribution (even in bitmap form). That's one reason why I like old font distributions, like my SWFTE Typecase.

    As for font -> bitmap converters, I like MudgeFont, enough that I took the original release and cleaned it up and gave it its own web page. It's open source and does everything I need.
     
  11. Drake

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    If you're looking to buy a commercial font, just ask about the details of the license first. In a similar previous thread, I posted this response that I received from fonts.com.
     

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