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I found a free TTF font from freakfonts.com. When I look in its properties, it shows a copyright by Southern Software, Inc. from 1995.

screenshot of font's Properties window

  1. Am I allowed to use this font commercially? If not, how do I obtain a license to do so? (Ideally I would like to use this font in my product designs and sell the resulting products)

  2. Am I allowed to use this font personally? (eg for decorative purposes or to make gifts?)


Notes:

I found a Southern Software, Inc. online, but they don't seem to be the kind of company to develop fonts (though looks can be deceiving!).

Since the font had "SSK" in its name, I looked up "SSK" online and found this person who says it's a reference to the company SoftKey, which has gone through multiple acquisitions and ownership transfers based on this Wikipedia article.

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Any font file you find is protected by copyright. It is possible that the font is publically licensed, and equally possible that it isn't and the owner of the copyright actively hunts down offenders and sues them. There is no effective way to know who the copyright owner is. But, copyright law does not include an exception that you can copy a font if you don't know who the copyright owner is. Instead, the burden is on you to find out, and get permission to legally use the font (download, install or otherwise utilize a font). Otherwise, copying protected material without the permission of the owner of the copyright, whether commercially or non-commercially, is copyright infringement.

You could read about the case of Adobe Systems v. Southern Software and decide whether this is the font in question, but it looks like the copyright may be held by Adobe Systems.

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  • Yes, you need a license to copy the font file, which that case deals with. But that doesn't mean you need a license to use the font (i.e. to produce a book that utilizes that font, causing that typeface to appear on a page or on a screen, or as part of a graphic file, etc.). OP wants to know about using this to make his own work (e.g. in order to render some text onto a page, or onto a product), and as far as I know there are no cases about that. I.e. you do not need a license for it. – Brandin Sep 18 '19 at 17:09
  • All software use involves multiple copying (e.g. installation at the system level; running). The automatic permissions to run software are premised on having a legal copy in the first place. You have to first become "the owner of a copy of a computer program", see 17 USC 117. – user6726 Sep 18 '19 at 17:18
  • @user6726 the font in question definitely isn't the Utopia font mentioned in the case you linked. Can you recommend a course of action for me to determine whether I can use the font? (eg should I pop an email to Ubisoft, the current owners of Softkey? Or send a question to the Southern Software Inc company I linked in the Notes?) – takanuva15 Sep 19 '19 at 2:29

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