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I'm a developer working on a web based SaaS application that my clients use to generate reports to send to their own customers - my clients get paid to produce these reports.

I have a client that requires the use of the Arial font in their reports in accordance with their style guide.

I know that I can display Arial in browser-based text editors without including the font-face by referencing the font already on the user's PC, so I don't think I have any licensing issues there. However, I'm unsure of the licensing requirements around generating a PDF for them that they will then send to their clients.

They pay us per user per month to use our software, not per report, and report generation is only one small part of the value we provide to them. However, the report generation is done on our server (Linux/Ubuntu), so we'd need to install the fonts there for our customers to be able to use them.

We do not redistrubute the font files themselves, only documents made using the font.

I'm having issues deciphering when a license is required for me to use a font and when it isn't, and I can't find any results that relate to my specific circumstance.

Do I need to purchase a server license to use Arial to generate their reports?

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Taking for granted that you are operating a Windows server and making use of the included Arial TrueType font, the relevant license is https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/typography/font-list/arial#licensing-and-redistribution-info , which links to https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/typography/fonts/font-faq. Highly relevant to your question is the document embedding section of https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/typography/fonts/font-faq#document-embedding , which states:

When can I use document embedding?

The brief answer: If an application follows the rules and restrictions defined in the OpenType or TrueType specification, you can use it to embed Windows supplied fonts in any document file it creates. For example, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint follow the rules and restrictions, so you can use these applications to create documents (such as Word documents, PowerPoint decks and PDFs) that include embedded fonts.

On my machine, Arial is marked as "Font embeddability: editable", but you should check your own copy of the font in case your OS has different settings. Compatible PDF creation libraries may respect or ignore this setting; the latter case may result in licensing problems.

In summary: Your existing operating system license may include a license for purposes of document-embedding, on condition that you embed the font in a manner compliant with the license. In this scenario, a separate server license may not be necessary.

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  • I am using a Linux server for PDF generation, and I had to install the font from the ttf-mscorefonts-installer repository. The first 4 bits of the font file are 0001 which corresponds to Editable embedding as per the spec. However, does the document embeddability actually relate to the license for distributing files generated using this font? After looking a a different description of a server license to what I'd seen before, it seems that may be what I need: fonts.com/content/microsoft-typography
    – naffarn
    Apr 6, 2022 at 23:39
  • @naffarn: If you did not receive the fonts from Microsoft, it means you don't have Microsoft's license. askubuntu.com/a/134972 implies that Microsoft does distribute an installer (i.e., that ttf-mscorefonts-installer is a legal distribution, with all rights being inherited). However, I'm not familiar enough with how ttf-mscorefonts-installer was sourced to offer an opinion on that.
    – Brian
    Apr 7, 2022 at 13:56
  • @naffarn: As for your proposal to use a server license, I don't think that fits. From fonts.com/font/monotype/arial/licenses : "the font may not be used outside the server environment" and "The font may not be employed for a software as a service (SaaS) application in which the service is the actual product and not the means of providing the product. "
    – Brian
    Apr 7, 2022 at 13:56
  • The installer came from an official Ubuntu collection of repositories called multiverse which contains repositories of various licenses, and required a single command from the terminal to install. As for that statement from the server license, I did see it and was a bit confused - is the "product" referenced here the font files or documents generated using the font?
    – naffarn
    Apr 8, 2022 at 22:19
  • This is from the EULA: You may reproduce and distribute an unlimited number of copies of the SOFTWARE PRODUCT; provided that each copy shall be a true and complete copy, including all copyright and trademark notices, and shall be accompanied by a copy of this EULA. Copies of the SOFTWARE PRODUCT may not be distributed for profit either on a standalone basis or included as part of your own product. It seems permissive at first, but then states I can't include it as part of a product, but I'm not sure if COPIES OF THE SOFTWARE PRODUCT refers to using the font or distributing the source files
    – naffarn
    Apr 8, 2022 at 22:29

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