The letters on this page, each one, was the work of an artist, defining the serif or lack thereof, and the length and breadth of each stroke. In many cases, that workmanship is copyright protected and may not be used on a website without specific permission.
The “perfect” font face can drive a logo or website design, transforming it from good to great. Unfortunately, it may be fairly common for businesses — especially small businesses — to unintentionally violate the font designer’s copyright.
Many of the fonts installed on computers are licensed for viewing and printing on or from a single computer, and may not be used in logos, banner advertising, or on a website.
The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) has four guidelines for using fonts. Although these AIGA guidelines are aimed at graphic designers, they may serve to help marketers at small companies.
“If you are using a font, whether it’s on your computer or that of someone else, make sure you have a license to use the font.”
“If you want to use a font that is not installed on your computer, you must ensure that you or your employer has a license to install the font on your computer, or else acquire a license to use it.”
“If you have any questions about your font license, contact the foundry or supplier of the font.”
“Don’t lend or give a font to others to use. Your friends, clients and colleagues need to acquire the rights to use them. When it comes to licensing fonts, ethical practice makes sense legally and financially. Violating the terms of a license agreement puts the designer, the client and future business relationships at risk. An ethical approach to font use and font licenses is therefore both good business practice and good business.”
Fonts, even paid ones, are not terribly expensive. Often a few hundred dollars — at most — can secure a premium font for use on a website. There are even subscription services for web fonts. Fortunately, there are also many free, commercial use fonts. What follows are 20 examples of free fonts for commercial projects, including for websites.
It is worth noting that at least of few of the font foundries that publish these fonts accept donations.
“Fonts are creative, intellectual property, similar to designers’ creative work or a proprietary business product,” AIGA said in its paper, Use of Fonts. “Since type seems so ubiquitous and fonts are so easy to share among computer users, the legal and moral issues of the simple process of using a font are often overlooked.”