Typeface trolls shaking down users of Adobe's font platform

Do you use a font through Adobe's font platform? Is it Proxima Nova? Users of the typeface report being threatened by a foundry that claims to represent its creator, and Adobe isn't taking calls. The copyright troll business model, where lawyers demand money from people who know that proving their innocence would cost even more, has come to the land of fancy fonts.

We have used the font Proxima Nova on a website for our client using the Adobe Web Project method. Our client is now being harassed and threatened by a company called The Type Founders who claim to work on behalf of the owner of the font (who we believe are legitimate). They are claiming that we have illegally downloaded the font Proxima Nova, and are incorrectly using it by 'self hosting'. We have access to this font through Adobe Fonts, and are using it on this website through Adobe Web Project (as mentioned). This company are claiming that we need to purchase the font in order to continue using it. Just to note, since this issue arose we have removed the font temporarily until the matter is resolved.

There is some previous discussion online about the threats being sent out by this foundry. "But I licensed the font" is the targets' refrain, but here's the thing: it doesn't matter that you're paying for and using a font platform if the legal demand for big money is your inbox and the font platform is ignoring you.

More alarmingly, one person who says they coughed up $400 to avoid legal action–"it wasn't worth literally crying for an hour over their scary harassing emails every week"–claims that they were threatened after ending a trial through the foundry's own website.

I When I first got their emails it was just like "You have unlicensed fonts give us money or we'll pursue legal action immediately" giving NO proof nor more info. … I had an official trial so I cheerfully corrected them ("Sorry about that, but it must be a mistake! I got the font from your website"), and then they insisted that this trial font was not from their website without showing proof still ("Our program has still detected these are not trial fonts, so unfortunately you still need to purchase the fonts for your past misuse of them [link to the website to purchase the font]"). Few things: I have a confirmation email showing I downloaded their trial fonts, when I was a student, no less I only used it in drafts of my About Me page and never published it. I didn't like how it looked so I deleted it & went with another font Absolutely never did any single person other than myself even lay eyes on this font. Didn't use it for any commercial designs obviously This was like 10 months ago & I had deleted the fonts after seeing how they looked on my website Their tactic (starting off with threats and no information) makes it pretty clear they must specifically target small creatives who cannot afford lawyers, as this is what they said when I told them everything above

The top comment on a Hacker News thread about it: "We switched away from this font because even though we had a lifetime multi-site commercial license from the previous owner of the font, we were constantly getting legal threats from the current owners The Type Founders."

Whether a shameless scam as described here, or Adobe (or Google, or whoever else) not really having the rights to the fonts it makes available to customers, or absurd fine print to the effect of "your clients must also have the same zillion-dollar subscription to this platform that you do," the shakedown troll is in play in font-land. If a font platform does not indemnify you outright, you are vulnerable to the "$400 to us now or $4000 to your lawyer when we sue you" trick.

An important piece of context: while typefaces cannot be copyrighted, their implementation as font files pass muster as computer programs and the whole point of the troll business model is that it's so expensive to prove you're legal that you'd be smarter to pay them to fuck off.