Let's say that while browsing the Internet, I come across a font that I genuinely like and decide to use it in my thesis or my academic research article that will be published. Should I care about if it would be correctly licensed or not?

For instance, it might be a licensed font that I'm unaware of that I discovered while browsing a random website. What if the font's name and all other meta data are altered such that I am unable to determine its true identity, creator, etc.?

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    Well, the research article in a journal will be published using the journal's fonts of choice.
    – Jon Custer
    Oct 27, 2022 at 13:40
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    @JonCuster Similarly, the university's thesis formatting requirements may specify the allowed font(s).
    – Anyon
    Oct 27, 2022 at 13:49
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    @JonCuster, I know a whole country where one of the main tasks of the thesis supervisor and the thesis jury and the secretary and the librarian is to revise fonts, margins, table of contents, bibliography, and formatting in general.
    – user12512
    Oct 27, 2022 at 20:23
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    @user574859 - it was very important to get a copy of the Word/TeX document that was accepted by the powers that be, and keep all the formatting intact...
    – Jon Custer
    Oct 27, 2022 at 20:33
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    "I come across a font that I genuinely like" ... In many cases: if found like that, it turns out to be too fancy, so that it is distracting if used for long passages. Most people (not professional layout editors) have poor judgment on this.
    – GEdgar
    Oct 28, 2022 at 0:34

3 Answers 3


Yes, you should care for other people's rights, including other people's intellectual property. In particular, you should not ignore license agreements when you download and install software, including computer fonts.

There are many ways to go around the copyright / software IP protection, and your question mentions some of them. This is technically possible, and depending on your luck and attitude of people around you, you may or may not get away with it on one or several occasions. However, violating other people's rights is wrong, even if you do not face consequences instantly. Please do not expect us to approve of or support such decisions.

  • "violating other people's rights is wrong" That only applies to moral rights. Some legal rights are not moral rights. Oct 30, 2022 at 1:43
  • Mary created a font, which took her a few weeks/months of work. She protects it with a license with intent to sell it online. She wants to get some £££ for her time and effort. Does she have a legal right for this? Is it moral or not? Now, Soner wants to download this font for free using "I didn't see the license" excuse. Do they have a legal right for this? Is this moral or not? So much to discuss here. Oct 30, 2022 at 8:42

It might not be the same for you, but for me, worrying about fonts for the dissertation was a classic sign of self-distraction!

Your university probably has strict formatting requirements for dissertations, which may rule out choosing your own font. Certainly, any publisher will require your article to use their journal's font.

Ultimately, in most academic settings, you can only control the fonts you use to write privately, or the fonts you use if you put anything up on a personal website. Whether you steal the fonts you use to write privately is, I suppose up to you, but I recommend against it.

Stealing fonts to display your work publically is a really bad idea, for the reasons the other answers go into. Also (as a thought experiment) because you'd be rightly annoyed if a font designer grabbed pages of your dissertation to use as the sample text advertising their typography without crediting you, and so fair is fair.

To answer your question about trying to identify a font found in the wild, this page has some good resources:


Good luck with the diss!

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    "Certainly, any publisher will require your article to use their journal's font" Yes, almost. In figures, you can use a different font most of the time. Even if journals have guidelines about fonts in figures, it is unlikely that they enforce them, at least in my experience and as long the fonts are not overly fancy. Oct 27, 2022 at 14:08
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    "Stealing" is a harsh word. "Copyright violation" is better. Oct 28, 2022 at 7:38
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    "Copyright violation" is a wet euthamism for stealing. Oct 28, 2022 at 7:57

It's a really bad idea to do anything that can be seen as dishonesty or misconduct in your thesis.

If you want to use a commercial font, buy a license. If you like your thesis to look good, it may be worth the money. Otherwise use fonts that can be used free of charge.

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    And, really, between what already comes with Word or TeX/LaTeX, you have ready legal access to more fonts than you could possibly want. Buying fonts was a thing like 20 years ago, not so much now. (I remember having to buy various spin-writer wheels waaaay back in the day to accommodate various format requirements.)
    – Jon Custer
    Oct 27, 2022 at 14:57
  • I think "It's a really bad idea to do anything that can be seen as dishonesty or misconduct in your thesis" is key here. The minutiae are irrelevant: Just don't go there at all. This is true for anything you do in an academic setting; but because the thesis is an important milestone it's all the more important there. Oct 28, 2022 at 7:42

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