While this may not come as a shock to many people, not everything on the internet is accurate, and that goes double when talking about things advertised as “free”. Free can mean different things to different people, so while some font foundries release their fonts as “free”, there may be limitations on what can and can’t be done with them. Even worse, some commercial fonts are listed as “free” on some sites when in fact, they are being, either intentionally or unintentionally, pirated.
What are the true costs of “free” fonts?
Font designers may place a number of conditions and licensing restrictions on their fonts. In some instances, the conditions are relatively easy to comply with, such as paying a small fee, or crediting the font when used. Some designers attach moral values to their list of conditions, granting free use for charitable and personal uses, but requesting a fee when used by corporations, or for certain types of industries.
Font “piracy” is another problem. It’s quite easy to download a collection of fonts with a commercial font, one that should not be redistributed without paying an additional license, and it’s even easier to unintentionally forward that font to others. Licensing terms and conditions that may have been originally included in a read-me file, or as part of the original software collection may have been lost along the way, resulting in unintentional piracy.
What’s wrong with using a less-than-free font?
You may unintentionally open yourself up to lawsuits, or worse, bad publicity. Even an unintentional infringement can earn the wrath of a font designer that has discovered someone using their font without permission. These misunderstandings can, at best, result in brief online commotion, however if you have used this font as part of a logo, promotional materials, or an advertising campaign, then the costs of redesigning these materials using a new font can be staggering.
Resources for free fonts.
There are several resources for free fonts available. http://www.dafont.com/ has an archive of free fonts, and explains whether the font is for personal or commercial use. http://www.fontspace.com/popular/fonts boasts over 15,000 free fonts, over 7,000 of which are available for commercial use.