Do you need permission to use that font?

Your choice of font can say a lot about who you are and how you do what you do. But there’s a step some often overlook when it comes to fonts.

Permission to use the font commercially. (By the way, I must add here I’m not any kind of lawyer or legal professional.)

Yup. Just because that font file came with your computer or was found for free on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s okay to use it for your flyers, logo or social media graphics to promote your business.

Why not?

Fonts are copyright protected

Just like many digital resources you find on the internet or your computer. Fonts are protected by copyright. (Specifically, due to how they “live” on your computer, they are protected as a piece of software.)

The person who created the font (or whomever owns the copyright) has a say in how it gets used.

And unfortunately, your computer doesn’t know whether you’re using fonts in a graphic to promote your business, or your child’s birthday invitation.

What are some types of permissions applied to fonts?

Personal use only:

A creator may decide that their font may only be used for personal use (e.g. your child’s birthday invitation) — And they may ask you pay a one-off or ongoing fee to use the font commercially (e.g. for a social media post to promote your business).

Embedding in a PDF or not:

The difference in permission here is because when you use fonts for print, you can predict the number of copies made. When you embed a font in a PDF you are making something that can be copied and downloaded infinitely.

Embedding in websites:

In this situation, it may be okay to use a font to create printed flyers in Microsoft Word, or graphics in Photoshop. But having the font used as the main body text in a website is something different.

One of the main differences is when used in Word or Photoshop, the final “product” containing the font cannot be manipulated by the end user using the same font file. However, most websites are not static and the words contained within can change — Thus the terms of a licence may say something to reflect this.

Why care?

My reason for caring about font permissions is not because I’m afraid of getting caught. I care because I’ve decided to respect the wishes of people who create this type of work. I hope that others feel the same way.

When you have appropriate permission to use a digital resource in your business marketing, it sets a good example for others to do the same.


Further reading


Cover image by Karolina / Kaboompics for rawpixel.com

Published by

Louise Kozlevcar

I'm a digital business consultant and WordPress specialist. I help business owners ensure that their online presence looks great, and that their websites add value to their business.