Read the Typographic Fine Print
I'm sure you meticulously scroll through the entire End User Licence Agreement (EULA) before installing new software. Ditto when downloading stock images purchased online. No? Frankly, I'm shocked. Well, in that case there's little chance that you're familiar with the license terms of the last font you purchased. You didn't know fonts also had EULAs? Fonts are just software, after all, and commercial software simply grants the purchaser a limited ability to use it. Same with fonts. So for designers, knowing what they legally can and can't do with their fonts is not insignificant.
I was reminded of this recently by a post in The FontFeed, FontShop's regular coverage of type news, which relates both to its own offerings and the greater world beyond. In New End User Licence Agreement For FontFont, Yves Peters reminds readers that FontFont earlier this year amended its standard license to include a number of uses that before required purchasing special licences or licence extensions. It's worth quoting Peter's succinct overview of the new license: "The most relevant change is that FontFont now allows embedding in any non-editable document, application, and even device—be it for "commercial" or "non-commercial" use—, as long as the font is embedded as a subset in a secure format, so that only viewing and printing but not editing is possible." By "device" is meant "PDFs, Flash, sIFR, Microsoft Office 2007 documents (each with their appropriate security settings), computer games, software, hardware, mobile phones, airplane entertainment systems, electronic wayfinding systems, ATMs, game consoles; as long as the text is non-editable and the fonts are embedded as a subset in a secure format."
My suggestion would be to become familar with the licenses for the fonts in your library. If these are older fonts, you should check with the foundry to see if newer licenses, often providing more flexiblity, apply to what you have on hand. A good place to get your head around the legalese of font licenses is Peters' post, since he provides a useful annotation of the FontFont EULA. Don't miss the comments at the end, which express the frustration of designers who are becoming increasingly impatient with the inability of the type industry to provide a way for their products to be legally used on web sites. Let's hope 2010 is the year this longstanding barrier to great design on the web is finally eradicated, and the fiddly workarounds can be relegated to the dark realm of single-pixel gifs.
Founding Editor, Graphics.com