Google Web Fonts: Current ruling from Munich


Web fonts are fonts that are downloaded from the internet. Providers do this so that the page looks as good as possible from anywhere (even if the selected fonts are not installed on the page visitor’s device itself). 

If you know for sure that external web fonts from Google or other providers will not be used on your websites, you can simply delete this email and move on to other things. 

What is the issue at hand?

  • In Germany, a recent judgement ruled the use of Google web fonts as illegal.
  • This may give rise to a claim for damages (Munich District Court, judgment dated January 20, 2022, Case No. 3 O 17493/20, in German language only).

Although the damages were “only” assessed at €100, each website user may be able to claim these separately. 

If you want to avoid risks, we recommend:

  • To not have external web fonts loaded from third-party servers (especially not from Google, other service providers, and preferably not from the USA).
  • Instead, store the web fonts on your own web space. This should be technically possible with Google Fonts without too much effort.

Why is this important?

The reason is that by loading the web font files, the foreign server learns the IP address of the page user (which is considered personal data).

Since the Google servers are located in the USA, personal data is transferred to a third country. And according to the Munich district court there is no suitable legal basis for this data transfer.  

It would be permissible to create a legal basis by means of consent. However, site visitors must also be able to reject this consent, otherwise it would be ineffective. And catching this exception would probably be more technically complex than only making the web fonts locally available from the outset.

According to a recent ruling in Germany, the use of Google Web Fonts is illegal. A remedy can be found by not loading the web fonts from external servers but instead storing them on your own web space (as fox-on has already recommended before).

We do not know how great the risk is and whether the ruling could possibly be revised in higher courts. Regardless of this, you can make your own decision based on the current facts.

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