Typeface trolls shaking down users of Adobe's font platform

Originally published at: Typeface trolls shaking down users of Adobe's font platform | Boing Boing


Hmm. We have a plethora of Proxima Nova fonts. We have this program called UTC (Universal Type Client) where people company wide can find and turn fonts on and off. I can save any font to my desk top and then look at the details. It looks to me that the foundry is Mark Simonson Studios.

So I guess we won’t have to deal with this harassment. Though we are multi-million dollar company. Good luck with the bullying, but also if it is a $400 license we would probably just pay it.

Adobe really needs to get on it if they are providing fonts that end users can’t actually use.


Hello from The Type Founders!

We posted this message on Adobe’s forum but wanted to post here to ensure our message was seen as we were not contacted to comment on this story.

We wanted to take this opportunity to offer our thoughts here. The Type Founders (or TTF) launched in 2021 and our mission is to develop an extensive library of high-quality, distinctive, and usable typefaces. We are a small team of individuals who love all things typographic and have dedicated our careers to advancing the interests of type designers and all users of type. Underneath the TTF umbrella are 27 type foundry brands and a library of 7,000+ fonts, many of which are available on Adobe Fonts. The vast majority of type designers behind these foundries remain actively involved, drawing and publishing new fonts. As custodians of these legacies and the craft, it is our business to work with those designers to help their typefaces flourish. One aspect of that is ensuring that their work is properly licensed.

The discipline of type design is uniquely positioned at the intersection of art, history, culture, and engineering. As new technologies and content platforms take hold — such as dynamic websites, mobile apps, and streaming platforms — font software and licensing have evolved from the days of buying a case of wood type to receiving a CD with a couple hundred fonts to downloading files onto your computer or accessing them directly from the cloud. This inevitably leads to some confusion about what is and is not covered by certain licenses, especially as no common license exists in our industry — a topic we spend a great deal talking about at font conferences (yes, those are actually a thing!). With Adobe Fonts, Adobe has built an amazing service for Creative Cloud subscribers, and we are lucky to be one of their partners. The Adobe Fonts library has thousands of great typefaces for any project and the service is easy to use and seamlessly integrates into Adobe apps. The font license included is straightforward, but there are a few nuances, which likely explains the confusion and frustration on this thread and why our representatives may have reached out to you to verify licensing for one of our fonts. After this letter, we will address those points specifically.

Developing well-crafted typefaces requires years of training — including specialized design and technical skills — and often involves collaboration with other designers and engineers. We understand that receiving an email telling you that you are in the wrong or asking you to purchase a license for something you thought you already owned may be frustrating but unfortunately type designers are not fairly compensated for their work if their fonts are not properly licensed, including how fonts on Adobe Fonts are used.

As mentioned above, the TTF team cares deeply about type design and typography and are here to answer any questions you might have about Adobe Fonts, font licensing in general, or anything at all related to type. Don’t hesitate to reach out at any time: info@thetypefounders.com.

Thank you from the TTF team!

— Aaron, Bram, Dan, Ivan, Jill, Marina, Paley, Richard, Sam, and Tiffany

So what you’re saying is that, between you and Adobe, you are providing a service where people and companies can pay money for the use of a font, with the benefit that it’s next to (or actually) impossible to figure out how you’re allowed to use it, or even if you’re allowed to use it, and (according to the reports), it doesn’t matter if you do because you’ll be told that you can’t prove you’re allowed to and told to pony up anyway.

Or not. Who knows?

Also, there are folk around here who design fonts and are deeply involved in practical and artistic typography. I do it as a hobby, but I’m sure there are others who do it professionally. We tend to be practical and active mutants in these parts, and Marketing-speak is typically derided. We are also deeply invested in all things typographic, and many have been doing it for decades.

(Unsolicited followups: Calling your project “TTF” is cute. Your website does not have any details on it, besides a list who you are, the foundries you work with, and some fonts. There is nowhere to look up what any of these licensing conditions are. I don’t have thousands of dollars to spare on checking: are these licensing details available through the Adobe site? If people are buying them through Adobe, then how are you involved? Are you sub-licensing them? How are people who license them through Adobe supposed to know who you are when you start sending the letters? When I click on the foundries, I go straight to their respective pages, where it looks like I would license the font from that foundry directly. With, say, Mark Simonson’s Foundry page, there is an extended set of FAQs on how the licensing works and how it can be negotiated with him. There is no mention of you guys. What is it exactly that you add to the process, beyond threatening letters?)


This is the scenario one of those in the post dealing with this harassment: they write that they licensed the font from Simonson, but now this foundry is going after them repeatedly with “prove it or get sued” letters

Which is why they do it.


Are you threatening us? Which font?


Darn those pesky nuances.


Bookmarking these weasel words for later.

(Welcome to BoingBoing)


Yes, your self aggrandizing wall of text makes you seem like utter paragons of the virtues of late stage capitalism.


I expect you’ll receive a response in the spirit of this famous letter.


This seems like the sort of thing that Adobe would have a strong incentive to put a stop to. If Adobe’s customers can’t actually be reasonably sure that going through Adobe will keep them from getting harassed about rights clearance that makes Adobe’s service the more expensive/worse UX alternative to that folder full of fonts of mysterious provenance that seems to samizdat its way around whenever graphic, web, or other designers are present.


I don’t have to deal with it directly, but we do have a person(s) who manage our font licenses. They have been busy as Adobe nuked their support of Type 1 fonts, so we have to go through and redo thousands of online POD templates and replace them with OTF and TTF fonts.

“Ay, yo. Nice place you got here. It would be a shame if one of these here fonts were… unlicensed. But hey, you pay me $400 and me and the boys will get outta your hair.”

Totally. They will want to drop support for various foundries shaking down users further. If Adobe KNOWS that use of the font would require an additional license, it should be super clear when using their cloud font support. Like make the fonts red with a pop up warning when one activates the fonts.


If the terms of use for these fonts aren’t clear to people who use them through their Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions then maybe you should end your partnership with Adobe instead of going after individual users.


But where’s the ‘hand over fist’ profits in that, though?


im thinking that’s got to be ai generated. the repetition and structure seem too unreal. or… maybe we’ve found the source of all the chatgpt training data?


I read it as something that had to get approval from legal.


Then you should be able to cite the license itself in the threatening emails. If someone is hosting it on Adobe’s platform that doesn’t necessarily constitute self hosting as it’s linking to the instances of the font file on Adobe’s platform. If you have issues with these kinds of situations then you need to talk to Adobe rather than attacking Adobe’s users. Stop being dishonest and approach the issue clearly without turning everything into rent-seeking/theft on your part. IP is a legal privilege, not a right, if you abuse it then you should lose it.


i suspect they don’t do or have legal.

( eta, i know that reads as a joke, but they don’t give full names or contact information. they don’t seem to cite any actual license or provide any documentation. and they’re asking for people for money before heading into court. those are all red flags. )


You know what, @TheTypeFounders ? I did see your post on Adobe’s forums yesterday, then a few minutes later, the post vanished, like now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t. What happened to it?