Pirating fonts and software

almost 9 years ago from , Brown University

As a student, I've pirated fonts and software before. While now I try to stick to free fonts or using subscription services such as Typekit and CC, I still occasionally find myself downloading resources without purchasing them first.

I realize this is unethical. I'm sorry for it, and I realize the right alternative is to either stick to free resources or pay for good ones. My assumption, however, is that a number of us at one point or the other also pirated fonts or software.

Here's my question: can pirating fonts or graphic design software actually benefit the foundries and companies behind them? My theory is that while young graphic designers might pirate software in the beginning, once they come to depend on it, they might be far more inclined to license it legally later on in their career.


  • Sunneva JohSunneva Joh, almost 9 years ago (edited almost 9 years ago )

    I'll be nice.

    I pirated Adobe master collections before Adobe created the creative cloud - I don't regret it, here in Iceland (and I'm guessing everywhere else) it cost a ha lot of money and no way in hell was I going to pay for it as a newborn designer.

    I've also pirated fonts and then later paid for my favourite ones. It really doesn't matter if you pirate stuff or not - or I just don't care that I've done it. Nothing is ever black and white in my opinion.

    I'd just advise you to follow your own feeling on this - if you can't pay now then perhaps pay later. I see on most sharing sites that people are encouraged to pay for software/fonts/whatever if they really like it and that's what I did - when I could afford it.

    But hey, what do I know, maybe I'll end up in design hell for this - with a grainy, low rez finger pointed at me till the end of eternity.

    8 points
    • Gareth PriceGareth Price, almost 9 years ago

      So I have you permission to torrent/pirate any of the stuff you create in your career, and pay you back "when I can"?

      1 point
      • Sunneva JohSunneva Joh, almost 9 years ago

        Yes .. oh yes yes and yes And that is the stupidest reply I've ever gotten.

        It's so simple - if you don't like pirating stuff then don't you do it. If I don't give a f**k if I do it then I'm going to do it !

        See, simple.

        1 point
  • Tom GantzerTom Gantzer, almost 9 years ago (edited almost 9 years ago )

    It's an interesting question. Autodesk market all their creative software for students with a university email for free for the duration of their course, in the hopes they are more likely to request the software when they start their careers, and to push educators to teach the tools.

    The problem with graphics, web and UI is that Adobe was, for a long time, the only choice. As a business, there's no need to offer incentives if you're the monopoly.

    I think with the wealth of open-source or cheap software alternatives out there (Affinity, Sketch, Inkscape etc) and large open source font libraries (FontSquirrel comes to mind), it should be easy to not have to resort to pirating.

    Adobe will be thinking hard about it's strategy now that it has to compete with very well-made, and cheap, software. Hopefully they drop the student subscription prices or do away with it completely.

    2 points
  • , almost 9 years ago

    Sorry, I clicked the submit button early. I wanted to add that I think if my theory holds any water at all, companies like Adobe might actually benefit from piracy, but I suppose small foundries might not.

    I just wanted to hear your thoughts on pirating software and fonts while a student, in general. Please, be nice.

    2 points
  • Stefan Rauch, almost 9 years ago

    And clients could get work for free until they felt like paying as well, right?

    1 point
    • Suleiman Leadbitter, almost 9 years ago

      Exactly. I think it's one thing I suppose if someone was learning the software, but once they profit from it, that's a whole different ballpark.

      0 points
  • Russell Heimlich, almost 9 years ago

    I think it is in a software companies interest to not make their anti-piracy measures too good. While logic might tell you those are lost sales, most piracy comes from individuals. It wouldn't be worth Adobe's time to hunt down every individual who is running an illegal copy of software. What a software company wants is to become the de-facto standard software product like Office or Adobe's creative suite. The real money for them is enterprise licenses. And businesses aren't going to waste the time or take on the legal liability of using illegal software. It doesn't really make sense. The software isn't that expensive plus they can write it off as a business expense.

    So if the software is impossible to pirate then individuals won't be playing with it when they're off the clock which means they won't be demanding it at work. This was probably more true in the 90's and early 2000's when there was more competition among software companies.

    The point being a short term loss in a "sale" can be a long term gain in mind share and ultimately market share. Here's another perspective on the subject http://www.devlounge.net/column/piracy-adobe%E2%80%99s-best-friend

    0 points
  • jj moijj moi, almost 9 years ago (edited almost 9 years ago )

    To answer your question:

    Pirating fonts or software can benefit the foundries and companies - only if they're not doing for money. Small companies might want their products to be viral. Many type designers gives away free weights nowadays to get recognition in return.

    One way big companies can be beneficial is to letting you pirate their stuff, then sue you or company for more $.

    Piracy is unethical and illegal. Living in a developing country is not an excuse to steal. The same way an artist in poverty use charcoal to paint on newspaper. You wouldn't wonder if stealing brush and paint from a small shop or big department store is acceptable.

    As a design educator, here's my advice to my students: Do not pirate.


    • Contact the foundry and ask for a student trial use or discount

    • Trace the commercial one either with your hand or mouse

    • Not all free fonts are bad - you can find okay quality ones if you put in effort to seek one

    • Use your handwriting

    • Shoot photos, cut out letters from magazines, make collage

    • Draw or design it yourself

    • Buy a few weights and styles from a decent type family


    • Gimp, Inkscape, Pixelmator, other freewares

    • Get secondhand softwares - Adobe CS1 for under $100 or CS3 ~$200 - Adobe allows transferring the license

    • Sketch is $99, Affinity Designer is $50

    0 points
  • Chase GiuntaChase Giunta, almost 9 years ago

    I can't speak for fonts, but for software, our application being pirated has actually helped with it going "viral" (in our market) to some degree. We're selling software geared to consumers, not businesses or professionals. So, where it might be easier for guys like Adobe to make $$$ because businesses will expense the purchase of their professional software, we REALLY rely on word of mouth to help sell our stuff.

    People who have pirated iExplorer and placed codes or whatever on YouTube, have actually helped us out. We figured out which codes are illegitimate pretty quick, and can block them for future updates, but almost always the video stays up, getting views, and giving us free advertising. People pirating our software will still recommend to friends, still tweet about it, still post videos on YouTube and leave reviews.

    It's bittersweet. But I think for us, we'd rather take the potential word-of-mouth approach that will lead to more sales than no sales at all.

    0 points
  • Julie RobertsJulie Roberts, almost 9 years ago

    I don't think companies can benefit from pirated things. They could learn from other industries and provide free access to students in the hopes that they will sway them to purchase when they have purchasing power.

    Example: There are two big legal research companies: Lexis Nexis and Westlaw. Law students are provided with free access to both databases and expected to be able to navigate both (because they don't know what system future employers will use) and also to form a preference (because they may have purchasing power someday). The two companies fight for the students favor. Then the free access is cut off, creating the need to decide and purchase.

    When things are pirated, what decides when you are "dependent" on it if you always have access to it?

    0 points
  • Khaled Islam BouyaKhaled Islam Bouya, almost 9 years ago

    This is very appealing to me, here is my experience/my thoughts on it :

    You're not alone in this, I guess most of the designers would use a pirated software, font and other paid ressources at their beginnings.

    But there is other factors too, the word isn't resumed to USA, or Europe where you can get a nice pay, and can afford to buy or subscribe to these solutions/softwares.

    I can take myself as an example, in my country Algeria, the salaries aren't that high, and above this, our currency worth shit (1DZD = 0.0095€ / 0.011$ / 0.0074£ - Judge by yourself) and this doesn't allow me to afford anything, and even though I could afford them, it would be difficult to buy them, cause I'm not free to exchange what ever amount of money in the banks (It's limited to 130€ a year, and they ask to provide proof of need, such as trip abroad, medical care and studies I think — There is black market for exchange, but the rates are way, way too fucking high) Companies like Adobe should think about investing in countries such as mine, provide an adequate solution and a realistic price to the local customers... There is alternatives too, and that's what I found myself doing, I rather pay 70$ for copy of Sketch, than paying a monthly subscription to other software, and when I can, situation allows me, I'll use free softwares, but since not everyone think the way I do, I find myself sometimes obliged to deal with PSDs, Ais and other files, which oblige me to use pirated software.

    Voilà, I hope I could provide a glance of what others experiencing.

    Excuse my english, as it's not my native language.


    0 points
  • Suleiman Leadbitter, almost 9 years ago

    I think almost everyone has used an Adobe 'extended' licence but now with apps well within budget like Sketch 3, Pixelmator, Affinity Designer and the wealth of code editors there really is no excuse. Building your career on those kinds of foundations is just not ethical. I do also think that Adobe's foothold is because of the bootlegs of their apps. Agencies and other companies know that most people serious about design have experience in these apps even if they have no chance of affording them.

    Sadly the apps mentioned above are Mac only, I'm not sure about Windows alternatives.

    0 points
  • Dino PaskvanDino Paskvan, almost 9 years ago

    I find myself unsure how to comment on this. On one hand, I was a student myself and I remember how hard it was for me to get my hands on pricier pieces of software/resources legally.

    On the other, as someone who now earns his living by developing software, I'm less inclined to give the benefit of doubt to those who pirate my software.

    The thing is, the term pirating is what I'd like to concentrate on. When you say pirate or pirated your mind immediately brings up romantic images that were seeded and nourished by popular culture, literature and film. It makes the term less of what it really is.

    Piracy (the sea kind) is a criminal activity. While films tend to romanticise the concept, pirates were vicious, violent individuals that preyed upon the poor and wealthy alike.

    It's easy to stroke the Robin Hood parts of our brains in movies when pirates deal with ruthless rich buggers, but that was only a part of the whole story.

    Countless families were destroyed or lost throughout the course of history and the modern version of sea piracy is even more violent.

    I'm writing all of this because there's a great analogy here. It's easy to defend (and possibly delude) yourself by thinking you'll only be pirating software from the big companies, but where do you draw the line? Are you going to check companies' financial reports before hitting up a torrent site? Do you make up charts to figure out when a company is "big enough" to get hit?

    The main aim of sea piracy was was to increase the riches of pirates themselves, everything else was "fun" or collateral damage.

    Pirating Adobe's software is not nearly as dramatic, but it is stealing and it is criminal activity in most of the world.

    We live in an age where you can get decent software for the price of a couple of cups of coffee (or maybe even one). Font families can still be expensive but there are so many wonderful free alternatives that even that can be worked around of without stealing.

    Because, no matter what term you use, that's what it is. It's stealing. And there will always be collateral damage that you don't think about. Maybe your actions won't cause it directly, but there are plenty of people who think the same way. Your contribution to a criminal activity is still significant.

    I hope this doesn't come out as aggressive. I'm not judging you for dealing with things the way you can, but I'd like to offer an alternative point of view to this situation.

    Give it a go. Every time you think about pirating something, replace that word with what it really is — stealing.

    0 points
  • Thibault MaekelberghThibault Maekelbergh, almost 9 years ago

    As a student I can completely understand you. When it comes to fonts or software I also often resort to pirated software.

    Most of the time it's because of the high cost. But I have noticed that I often use piracy as an excuse to an extended trial period. Meaning that I'll try the software or font first, and when I really like it I'll give my money to it.

    Apart from that, the time I've been in university college has convinced me to use more open-source or free, legal software and fonts. Sometimes it's just way more convenient than searching for a pirate download and having trouble installing it.

    Bottom line: I understand you completely (as a student) and would suggest 'trying' the fonts & software first and later on buy those you really like.

    0 points