Thursday, April 17, 2008

Free fonts

If you’re not a professional designer, you may be under the impression that all fonts are free. In fact, fonts are licensed intellectual property. Some individual or team of individuals put a significant amount of time into designing and implementing every glyph of every font, and those people generally want to be paid for their work. The reason you have many fonts on your computer that you don’t recall purchasing is that they were licensed in bulk by the company that published software you did buy—your operating system, your office suite, your graphic arts applications—and those licenses are included in what you purchased. Nonetheless, despite the widespread availability of pirated fonts, giving copies of your fonts to friends is a violation of the license terms; and professional designers don’t do that—nor do they accept gifts of fonts from friends—lest they find themselves on the wrong end of an enforcement action by a font company.

Jessica Hupp has assembled a collection of 101 fonts that she says are legally available at no cost or, in some cases, with a small charge for commercial use. These are display fonts, not text fonts. They might be useful in web design, advertising design, or for book covers, however. While her links all look the same on her page, you should know that some lead to pages on other sites; some download zip archives directly; and some need to be right-clicked so that you can download a naked font file. I didn’t check all the links, but some may turn out to be Mac-only fonts.

I am not vouching for the accuracy of the claim that all of these fonts are legitimately free. You should verify that yourself for any font you intend to use.

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