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Publisher purges thousands of unlicensed fonts

A London publishing house finds, and wipes out, hundreds of thousands of rogue fonts that could have cost it dearly in fines.

Publishing giant Faber & Faber is wiping away the chance of costly lawsuits by using software to purge unlicensed fonts.

The London publishing house, which has printed classic authors from T.S. Eliot to W.H. Auden, found hundreds of thousands of unlicensed fonts on their machines using software from Monotype Imaging.

The haul could have cost hundreds of thousands if left unaddressed--a recent Business Software Alliance enquiry valued 11,000 unlicensed typefaces at another London publishing house as being worth 80,000 pounds ($156,000).

Faber said it was shocked at the number of unlicensed fonts it uncovered on 21 Apple Macs by Montotype's Fontwise software, nearly three times the initial estimate.

The company has now cleansed nearly all unlicensed fonts from 19 of the computers and has purchased the remaining licenses.

Work is continuing to flush unauthorized fonts off the remaining two computers.

Roy Smith, information systems manager at Faber, said rogue fonts had built up over time as demand grew for a wide range of fonts within the design department.

He said: "Alarm bells started ringing when we saw other publishers punished for breaching copyright. We were totally shocked to see a six-figure number of fonts across the 21 machines. But we now have the tools and the knowledge required to maintain legality indefinitely.

"We know how important our own intellectual property is for our business, so ethically there really isn't any other option. It wasn't the case that staff didn't care about font licensing. The problem was a general lack of awareness of the copyright laws surrounding fonts and the concept of fonts as intellectual property."

Fontwise gives a snapshot of which font is in which directory or drive across the company.

It also allows Faber to stop unlicensed fonts from creeping back onto systems by tracking any new additions and giving designers the option of buying the license if necessary.

Faber has also introduced policies restricting designers from freely downloading new fonts.

Technical problems in Faber's systems have dropped following the purge of rogue fonts.

Nick Heath of reported from London.