Font, you should have been up front with me about your legal status.
September 19, 2011 10:02 PM   Subscribe

Help me navigate the IP landmine field that is the world of font-embedding.

My question has three related parts.

1) Is there a quick and reliable way to tell if a font is free to distribute by embedding on a web page or in a native app? A site that had a quick query or handy table would be great. I had to do a lot of googling to conclude that most likely, I can't use the font I want.

I'm hoping to use Bell Gothic Std right now (which I got from Photoshop), and I'm guessing Adobe would not be cool with it, but they're not explicit about embedding. So, 2) is that actual redistribution?

The owning foundry of the font doesn't make it clear to me whether embedding is redistribution.

3) When it turns out you can't use a font, is there a good way to find distributable alternative fonts? I found a font lookalike listing on, but to me, the alternatives it listed looked nothing like the font I wanted.
posted by ignignokt to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Font Squirrel - with @fontface generator

Google Web Fonts - does what it says on the tin

League of Moveable Type - open source fonts.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:28 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

The web embeddable (@font-face) status is pretty simple. It must be available as a webfont from the source foundry or a webfont service. Bell Gothic is available from Linotype at Web Fonts.

Software embedding policies are more difficult to find. It's information that most font makers are slow to add to their standard license docs. One reason is that there is usually no set price for this kind of use. It depends on the kind of software and often how many are sold. You need to contact the foundry (in this case Linotype) and ask for a special license.
posted by Typographica at 10:28 PM on September 19, 2011

Best answer:
is there a good way to find distributable alternative fonts
There are a few lists that offer this kind of info, but, as you discovered, they aren't that useful. This is generally because there are very few free fonts of high quality. Font design and production is highly specialized and time intensive process. People who make great fonts are unlikely to give them away. The efforts DarlinBri mentions are trying to change that, and there is a small percentage of professionally usable fonts at those outfits, but the number is too small to really recommend equivalents.

Frankly, this is the way it should be until there is a reasonable way to incentivize professional font makers to donate their time and work.
posted by Typographica at 10:35 PM on September 19, 2011

Best answer: Bell Gothic is available as a web font at MyFonts.

Also of note: Typekit. Hoefler & Frere Jones have been promising web versions of their fonts for some time, but it has been taking them forever. To be fair, making a good web font is a fair amount of work: it's not reasonable to download 1MB+ of font information just to see the text on a page.

An overview to answer the rest of your questions: generally speaking most professional font foundries follow the rules that H & FJ have on their site: if you buy a font you can use it in a presentation, turn it into an image or print it, but embedding it on a web page is considered redistribution, or "making available" (as embedding the font yourself would, without a little trickery, leave the font file in a web folder where anyone could find and download it). In most cases professional fonts require that you to purchase a separate web font license and use a distribution system that prevents the font from being copied.

The acceptance and creation of web fonts is achingly slow, but font designers and founderies are slowly coming on board: many of the fonts of Erik Spiekermann are available at Typekit, for example. Look info the sites DarlingBri suggested if the Bell offered by MyFonts doesn't suit you.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 10:59 PM on September 19, 2011

Best answer: Good advice above.

Here's something approximating what you're asking for: Webfonts Licensing Overview
I can't vouch for it's up-to-dateness, so you'd better recheck a foundry's site if you do decide to use one of their fonts.
posted by Magnakai at 2:14 AM on September 20, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, guys! I'm going to try to use fonts from resources before starting my next web project and hopefully sidestep all this.

According to the licensing overview that Magnakai cited, it looks like Adobe is cool with Bell Gothic Std being embedded as an EOT. So, I'm in the clear on this one - I think!
posted by ignignokt at 11:29 AM on September 20, 2011

Response by poster: Aw, crap, just realized EOTs only work with IE.
posted by ignignokt at 7:40 PM on September 20, 2011

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