Which is the best font for ending credits (free for commercial use)?
Which is the best font for ending credits (it needs to be free for commercial use), which one do you usually use?
There are two questions here, commercial use, and aesthetic choice of font, let's discuss the aesthetics first.
Do you mean for an end credits roller (aka vertical crawl), or do you mean for static cards?
For rollers/vertical crawls it is important that the font does NOT have super thin horizontal lines in the glyphs. A font with heavy vertical lines and thin horizontal lines will create problems.
For rollers that are animated digitally (as they all are these days, I haven't heard of a roller being "shot" in over a decade), I suggest using a font with a relatively even weight throughout the glyph.
Also as a generality, sans serif fonts work best when rasterized for digital display (i.e. an LCD screen or DLP projector). Serif fonts, the small serifs don't render well, especially at small font sizes as seen on a roller.
And look out for small negative spaces, such as in the lowercase "e". On some fonts this can end up looking filled in, particularly in small sizes and if motion blur or heavy anti-aliasing is used.
AS SUCH, a "best" font is one that you judge is aesthetically correct for the story you are telling, and that works well in a rasterized output at your given resolution.
FONT USAGE AND COPYRIGHT
First of all, let's mention that FONT and TYPEFACE are different things in terms of copyright law.
In the United States, you can NOT copyright a TYPEFACE - that is the specific shape and style of the letters. (You can get a design patent, but that is very rare in the case of typefaces, and lasts a very limited time).
This means that you can use what every typeface you want in any final RASTERIZED design.
However a FONT is considered a piece of software that digitally defines the typeface. The font file is a copyrightable piece of software, which you use under a license agreement (EULA).
The main limitations herein are instances where you might embed the actual font file (i.e. in an ebook or on a website) as doing so becomes an unauthorized distribution of the font file as a piece of software.
The case law is a little murky though on "commercial use" in this instance. The rare few times I've seen a font company sue (for instance for using a font as part of a logo without specific permission, even though the defendant owned at least a desktop license), the cases have been dismissed or settled out of court with no specified damages. The license cases the plaintiff font company won were related to installing the font on more computers than the license allowed for, not how that font was ultimately used.
And the enforceability of the EULA varies based on if you had to click AGREE before downloading from an authorized vendor and installing the font on your computer. It also varies on a per state basis, as some states specify that software is a "goods" and can only be sold not licensed.
But here's a funny thing: When rasterized as a bit map or printed out of a printer, there is NO enforceable copyright on the typeface design in the USA.
This means that if you created a high-res bitmap-image (or scan of a print) of all the glyphs in the font, and then traced them all such as with Illustrator auto trace to create outlines of those bit-maps, and then brought those new outlines into Fontographer and created a new font, you would not be breaking copyright law.
However the courts have ruled that you can NOT just open a font up in Fontographer and make some changes and then call it a new or different font, because you are using some of the same vertices and bezier curves as the original font. In the eyes of the four, that makes this a derivative work, under control of the original copyright holder.
THE POINT IS
Font files are typeface collections with the intended purpose to provide character shapes to generate text layouts.
The actual design of the characters (glyphs) is not copyrightable, meaning it is public domain.
Unless you click agree to a EULA before installing a font file, the EULA is not enforceable. For instance, every font on your system that is there legally AND that you did not agree to a restrictive EULA (such as non-commercial use only) will not have any such restriction.
Also, the terms "commercial" and "non-commercial" use are pretty fuzzy, and if not more clearly enumerated, the restrictions may not be enforceable. On the other hand a clearly enumerated restriction such as "May not use this font as part of a logo or registered trademark" is much moe likely to be enforceable (provided you clicked agree before installing).
I make the "click to agree" point because a font file is easy to install with a click and drag. If you legally buy a font from an authorized source, and install by dragging from a CD or downloading without clicking agree to an EULA , then there is no enforceable EULA to restrict your use.
ALSO NOTE: Right now the USPTO/USCO are amending rules for copyrighting software that may mean that even the font file is no longer protected. See:
USPTO TO CHANGE FONT RULES
EMBEDDING vs OUTLINING vs RASTERIZING:
Here for example is the font paragraph in the EULA for OS X:
E. Fonts. Subject to the terms and conditions of this License, you may use the fonts included with the Apple Software to display and print content while running the Apple Software; however, you may only embed fonts in content if that is permitted by the embedding restrictions accompanying the font in question. These embedding restrictions can be found in the Font Book/Preview/Show Font Info panel.
Embedding means you are actually attaching a copy of the font file (the scalable vector software of the font) to a document such as a PDF or an eBook or a website. This makes the font file accessible to anyone with access to the document. In the case of a website or eBook the font file is just in a. folder, easy for someone to download and install by dragging it to the fonts folder on their system.
Outlining means you reduce the final layout to bezier curves and points in the PDF, instead of attaching the font file. You might also do this to create a vector .SVG file for our website. Based on the courts ruling in Adobe vs. SSi, I believe there is still a copyright claim in these outlines.
Rasterizing means the text layout was converted to a bitmap image such as JPEG, PNG, TIFF. The typeface in this rasterized file is public domain. If you make outlines FROM THIS rasterized version, then you create "new software" that is legally separate from the original font file.
I see this is turning into on of my long winded responses. The point is you could use any font installed with OS X, or those installed with Adobe products, and anything from Google Fonts.
VFX & Title Supervisor
Wow, thank you, Andrew! I can't thank you enough for these fantastic explanations to my questions, I do really appreciate it.
So, if I understand you correctly I'm allowed to use any font in my films as long as I, for example, use Auto-Trace to apply the shape of the characters to a solid or something, instead of using the font file directly? (I won't do this, but I'm fascinated by this approach if this is true).
To be "technical" about it, you could for instance go to a website that presented an image of the entire typeface set, auto-trace those, and create your own font file. In that case you have not "agreed" to any EULA, and the typeface design itself is not bound by any copyright.
The most a typeface creator can do is attempt to hold a license restriction on use of the font file, and they are only able to do that because the font FILE is considered software. And even this may be going away based on an upcoming ruling by the USPTO.
HOWEVER, and to be completely clear, if a typeface has been issued a DESIGN PATENT, then it can not be used while that design patent is in effect (maximum term is 25 years). But most fonts are not so protected.
Also, this is US law. Some other countries do have copyright protections on font designs, so be aware of the nations where the product may be used/displayed.
VFX & Title Supervisor
It's probably best to not risk anything, I live in Sweden and the laws here might be different than the US. However I once again thank you for sharing your information Andrew, it was interesting and I'm sure a lot of people can benefit and learn something from this thread.
Not sure about Sweden, but most nations are similar to US law in this regard. This Wiki article lists some exceptions:
VFX & Title Supervisor