Much like any other software, fonts have licenses that legally protect them and allow their owner to charge a usage fee.
Each font comes with a licence of some sort. As such, each time you download free fonts or buy custom ones, you’re subject to specific terms of service that come with the license. You should always check what type of licence a font has, as you need to ensure the font is suitable for your project and you don’t violate the fair use clause. There are several types of font licensing — ranging from open source licenses to exclusive ones — and we’ll review the most common ones below:
Desktop and Print Font Licenses
These are the standard font licenses that allow you to use fonts offline. You can prepare and print documents and/or static images (e.g. posters) with them.
Web Font Licenses
Web font licenses are for the fonts we use on websites. These types of fonts are embedded in design projects so that browsers can read and display them correctly.
App Font Licenses
If you are developing an app, you need fonts with this licence to make sure they’ll render correctly on phones and tablets as web font licenses can’t be used in apps.
Open Source Licenses
Open source licenses offer free fonts. As an example, you can find more than 1000 free fonts on Google Fonts.
Commercial Font Licenses
Companies usually have their own commercial font licenses and designers work with the licenced typefaces used in the company’s logo and the style guide. These groups of fonts are exclusive to each company and they can’t be used by others.
Unlimited Font Licenses
When you buy a font with an unlimited license, you get the full ownership of it. In other words, with an unlimited font license, if you want to use the font for a website, app, or even commercials, you don’t have to get another license. It’ll be all covered.
Exclusive Font Licenses
Similar to unlimited font licenses, exclusive licenses give all the rights to the owner and guarantee that no one else can use that font. However, they’re usually also very expensive; that’s why they’re called exclusive.
How to know what type of license a font has:
- Look for the licensing details on the website you downloaded the font from.
- Check the folder that you downloaded, there might be a .txt document for copyright information.
- If you still can’t find it, try looking it up on Google or another search engine.