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Fonts like Helvetica and Arial are commercial, meaning that one needs to purchase (rent actually) a WebFont license when providing that font.

However, both fonts are available on the very most systems and browsers. Instead of embedding the font into the website, one can simply say font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; in the CSS which makes sure the browser retrieves the font locally, on the user's hard drive. This is different from the first case, where the website provides the font.

In the latter case, is there still need for a license?

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You only require a license if you are providing (or using) the actual font. As long as you are not serving the font to the user, you do not require a license any more than saying "You should use this font to see the text" requires a license.

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