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Fonts need a licence – industry campaign begins

An industry group was launched yesterday to raise awareness that text fonts need to be licensed in just the same way as other software. The Font Software Group will support those trying to achieve font software compliance – and act against infringers.25 Sep 2003

Font designer Agfa Monotype has joined forces with the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) to tackle the growing issue of unlicensed fonts – which costs the UK font industry 40% of its revenues, according to Agfa. This new initiative expands FAST's remit as specialists in the prevention of software piracy, and was launched at the FAST conference yesterday.

The vast majority of computer users acquire fonts in operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and software applications like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop. What they can forget is that these fonts are often supplied under the terms of the software application licence with very limited usage terms. For instance, the right to use a particular font is curtailed to any one specific workstation or desktop.

Font-licensing terms can be more complex still. They are often non-standard, governed by usage and vary according to the foundry (font publisher). This, coupled with users having no clear information source on the subject, is a major headache for UK corporates.

According to Julie Strawson, marketing director for Agfa:

"A survey conducted by us last year showed that 47% of the corporate users surveyed found it difficult to keep track of fonts. Users need clear information and guidance to help them understand their liabilities."

The group's activities will therefore centre on education for end users, including Font Licensing seminars at various locations in the UK – free to corporate users – and continued press and enforcement activity in the US and the UK.

Paul Brennan, FAST general counsel, confirmed

"The FSG has a dual role. We must support and encourage users who are trying to address font software compliance and where necessary, we must enforce against font software infringements."