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I'm working on a game I intend to sell, and I want to use this font. The license says:

"You may NOT copy or distribute the font outside of the licensed household, company, school or institution. Please ask external contacts who want to use the font to purchase their own license at www.CheapProFonts.com."

However, my plans are to use a tool to output a texture using this font to use as a bitmap font in my game. Does this mean I can do so, and sell my game with the font in it?

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I'm speaking on behalf of CheapProFonts. ;) Obtaining a license for one of our fonts for inclusion in a software is easy and inexpensive: Just let us know that the font you purchase IS for that purpose, and then purchase two licenses for the font.

So for $20 you will be allowed to include the font in your game and distribute as many copies of that game as you want to. No limit. If you make a demo of the game (=another binary/program so to speak) you should also purchase a $20 license for that. And if you make a sequel, another license @ $20 for that. And so on. One double license per font per software. And a credit would be nice ;)

I hope you find our licensing scheme easy and affordable.

Kind regards

Roger

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is good to hear. However, we're an indie start-up, and our budget is unusually tight, so we may not be able to afford that. You'll hear from us if we do that though! \$\endgroup\$ – RCIX Aug 18 '10 at 7:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ What a rational policy! I can't believe someone thinks $20 is too much. (I just wish you had the font I was looking for…) \$\endgroup\$ – David Dunham Nov 17 '10 at 0:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RCIX seriously, are you cutting on 20 bucks? What is that, like 5 Big Macs? \$\endgroup\$ – kaoD Apr 5 '12 at 21:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're trying to sell them a license they very probably don't need for their use case. I find this borderline reprehensible. \$\endgroup\$ – Kef Schecter Feb 8 '16 at 6:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Conversely to @KefSchecter's comment, it's borderline reprehensible to include an IMAGE of a font, and pretend that you don't need to at least do the right thing by the originator/owner of rights to the font. Doing so is just trying to get around a legality via a loophole. Just pay the incredibly low $20 and be safe. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Holt Dec 18 '19 at 21:10
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(Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer)

In the United States a font face is not copyrightable (Eltra Corp. v. Ringer, 579 F.2d 294 (4th Cir. 1978)). But font software is copyrightable. A TrueType font (such as one you might download from cheapprofonts.com) contains instructions for how to render that font and is therefore a copyright piece of software.

A bitmap font that you create based on such a font is also font software (instructions for how to render that font) - and it is a derivative work of the original font software. To distribute it requires that you have a licence for creating and distributing derivative works of the original font.

(EDIT: This was the prevailing wisdom at the time this answer was written. It may not actually be true. See comments and this link for details.)

A way around this is to pre-render all your text. This way you are not distributing software instructions for rendering that font, you have merely used those software instructions to create an image.

Outside the United States? Ask a real lawyer :)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ By what reasonable logic is a bitmap font "instructions for how to render that font"? A bitmap font is a static image, just like pre-rendered text. All of the logic would lie in your text layout engine, which is most certainly not a derivative work of the font TTF. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan Dec 14 '19 at 7:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ My guess is that it is instructions insofar as it instructs the computer to shade a given list of pixels by certain amounts (at the very least, that is what the opposing lawyer would argue). I suspect that the legal distinctions surrounding this have been built up, not because they are especially logically rigorous, but because they give the desired practical outcome: font foundries can copyright their work, without absurdly claiming every document ever printed is derivative. \$\endgroup\$ – Andrew Russell Dec 21 '19 at 10:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ Andrew that sounds like speculation to me. There are numerous sources stating that bitmap fonts are not copywritable for the obvious reason I stated above: bitmaps are not sets of instructions like a TTF or vector font. They are static data. Rather than "suspecting" things like the author of this answer, you should do your research before taking sides, esp. on legal matters. "Bitmapped fonts are not copyrightable, because in the opinion of the Copyright Office, the bitmap does not add the requisite level of originality to satisfy the requirement for copyright." bit.ly/2ZboV7S \$\endgroup\$ – Dan Dec 21 '19 at 17:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ That said, anyone considering using a copywrited font without purchasing a license or obtaining written permission from the copyright holder should both consult a lawyer and consider the moral efficacy of doing so. A far easier legal approach would be to choose one of the many free and open fonts licensed under the Open Font License (fonts.google.com). \$\endgroup\$ – Dan Dec 21 '19 at 17:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dan "that sounds like speculation to me" -- yes! Hence my "guess" and "suspect". The original answer was the prevailing wisdom at the time, although a look at your link and some more searching indicates this has indeed shifted. I'll slip in an edit. (Of course, the idea that "scalable" is the threshold for "software" is equally absurd, knowing how these things are implemented.) \$\endgroup\$ – Andrew Russell Dec 23 '19 at 1:59
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If the output bitmap matches the look of the font (the typeface) then it essentially IS the font, and yes you would be violating the license.

You may embed the font in electronic documents, but you may NOT include the font in a software product - this requires a special license.

Even though it's just an image it would still be the exact font, which is the point. And this would obviously be a software product.

My best suggestion to you is to examine what you like about the font. What characters cause it to stand out to you or cause it to look good, what features (i.e. the roundedness, the thickness, the "bubble" shape, etc.) and then use a font creator package to create your own font which has these same features, so that it looks similar but is obviously not the same and was created from scratch. In the process you might find one or two characters which don't quite look good to you in the original font, but by creating them yourself you can fix them and make it even better.

Alternatively, you could ask them exactly what that "special license" is that they mentioned in the section I quoted above. Perhaps you can spend a bit more money and buy a special commercial software license for the font. Depending on how much you consider your time worth, this could be the better option over taking the time to create an imitation font.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll do that and get back to you, thanks for the advice! \$\endgroup\$ – RCIX Aug 13 '10 at 2:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ By the way, I found this site (but haven't really used it) some time ago; it's an online font creator and might be useful to you in mimicking the font: fontstruct.fontshop.com \$\endgroup\$ – Ricket Aug 13 '10 at 2:46
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Using it that way would not be allowed. You're not allowed to use or copy fonts in any way, up to and including in printed material, without a license to do so.

Luckily, there are many sources of free and free-to-license fonts out there. Chances are very good you can find an acceptable alternative.

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"may NOT copy or distribute the font outside of the licensed household, company, school or institution. Please ask external contacts who want to use the font to purchase their own license at www.CheapProFonts.com."

If you plan to sell the game with their font in it (whether you transfer it to a bitmap or not doesn't matter), then you are distributing it outside of the scope of the license so you will need to contact CheapProFonts (whom I presume are the owners of the font) for a commercial license.

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Font makers cannot rewrite copyright law. If it is just an image of the font they hav no legal grounds. It it is an outline then they do.

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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 Claims like this need some background. You may ignore the license if you're just rendering an image of the font, unless you're rendering an image which only outlines the font? At least @AndrewRussell, above, provided background for a precedent for being able to use a pre-rendered font (explicitly in the US). \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 6 '12 at 0:55

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