We know a thing or two about getting a font license. Guys, we got a lotta fonts. If our font library magically turned into a real-life library, you would think it looked like Belle’s in Beauty and the Beast. Here’s the kicker, though: we collected them all the right way. Just like all creative work, fonts are under copyright protections. Someone had to make that font, you know! And that takes a whole lot of work.

Since we use fonts for commercial projects for our awesome clients, we have to make sure we have correct access to them and that we are using them properly.

Since we have a lot of practice, we thought we would create a little guide on what font licensing is and what font licenses include. Since font licenses are, you know, laws.

As with most legal parameters for creative work, there is a lot of legal jargon in licenses. But we got you.

Intellectual Property

Okay, so like we said, all of this is important because fonts are intellectual property: they are someone’s creative work.

When you license a font, you aren’t purchasing that font. You don’t own the whole thing. You’re paying for access to use it. So when you buy it, you’re agreeing to the terms of use specified by the owner. Note: every font has its own terms of use that you agree to, so it’s your responsibility to check them over.

Keep in mind, if you use a font in a way that is out of line with your license, you are subject to legal action. The legal action depends on the font and what you did, so we can’t really give you any more details than that, but keep that warning in mind as you use your fonts.

Categories of Font Use in a Font License

Your font license will use a lot of different terminology for the uses of your fonts. Here’s a quick breakdown of what some of those are:

  • Desktop License – Allows you to download and install the font onto your computer.
  • Webfont License – Allows you to embed the font into a website or an email.
  • Embedded License – Allows you to distribute the font through a physical product like in a software program.
  • Mobile App License – Allows you to embed a font into a mobile device.
  • ePub Licenses – Allow you to use fonts in commercial publications.
  • Server Licenses – Allows you to use the font in cloud-based services.

Desktop and Web Fonts

Okay, if you made it through that whole list, what you mainly need to know is that desktop and web font licenses are mostly what we need to have as a branding agency.

We need desktop licenses to download fonts to our computers so we can use them in design programs. If we want to use the fonts on websites, though, we also need to have a webfont license, too. We can’t put what we have designed online unless we have a webfont license in addition to our desktop license. (Most fonts we use came with both).

Who Can Use This Font License?

Agency peeps, listen up. This part is important.

Now you know where you can use your fonts based on the licenses that you have. However, most licenses restrict the number of people who can use your font, usually described as “workstations” or “seats.” SO, that means that if you have two designers in your office, you’re going to need licenses for each designer.

The Most Important Bit

Okay, so this is a question agencies get from clients all the time. Can you share fonts with me so I can make my own marketing materials?

The answer: NOPE.

Fonts almost always can’t be shared under the terms of the license. Sharing the font means adding an additional workstation and buying another license. You want the font, you gotta buy rights to the font. That’s the only way to get it.

We always appreciate when clients want to keep their fonts consistent (as they should) but we can’t send you font files. You have to get them yourself. And then we can talk about why it might not be a good idea for you to be designing your own marketing materials. But that’s a different conversation for a different day.

Seek legal advice or ask your branding agency if you ever have a question about your font licenses or how to get them. We would love to help you out with appropriate uses for your brand fonts. Hit us up!

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