Licensing 101

Parmvir Singh
Parmvir Singh
  • Updated

What is a font license? Do you need one? Do you need a license for a font that you’re not using commercially? This article gives straightforward answers to the most common user questions about font licensing, and the licenses that come with Monotype Fonts subscriptions.

What is a font license, and why do I need it?

A font license (also known as EULA or end-user license agreement) is a legally binding document authorizing you to use font software under pre-defined conditions. 

You need to secure the proper font licenses for the fonts that you are or are planning to use because: 

  • Typeface designs and the font software that generates those designs are entitled to intellectual property protection.
  • Each font is a piece of software that needs to be appropriately licensed. 
  • Fonts are painstakingly hand-drawn by artists for months (even years), and artists deserve to be paid for their hard work. 
  • Paying for fonts ensures that artists can create more.
  • Misusing creative assets such as fonts will (sooner or later) result in legal action. 

What are the most common font licensing use cases? 

The most common font licenses include: 

  • Desktop licenses for prototyping/testing or use in print/static image formats.   
  • Web font licenses for use in websites or emails.   
  • Embedded licenses – for distribution in physical products, e.g., medical devices, cars, software programs.
  • Mobile app licenses for use in phone/tablet apps.  
  • ePub licenses – for use in commercial publications.  
  • Server licenses – for web or cloud-based services and SaaS use cases. 

To illustrate: a desktop license allows you to install the font software on your computer and use the font in your mock-ups and prototypes. However, you’re going to need to secure a web font license before you decide to use your mock-up design for an email campaign. 

What is the difference between desktop and production fonts? 

Desktop fonts are fonts secured by a desktop license. You and your team can use and share these fonts for prototyping and experimentation. Desktop fonts can also be used on packaging, posters, physical books/magazines, and other printed materials. 

On the other hand, production fonts are licensed for commercial use. For example, before using any desktop font on your website or offering an e-version of a book that uses a desktop font, you must secure the appropriate production font licenses first.

Keeping track of which fonts are licensed for commercial use can often be confusing and hard to manage. Monotype Fonts simplifies the process through a cut-and-dried subscription model. 

What are seats, ad impressions, and page views? 

Monotype Fonts plans are designed to ensure that you only need to pay for the fonts you need. These needs are simplified in terms of seats, ad impressions, and page views: 

  • Seats - Also known as “users,” is the number of team members who can access Monotype Fonts’ library of 30,000+ fonts.  
  • Monthly ad impressions - If you’re planning to use the fonts for HTML5 digital ads, this is the maximum number of times the ad (containing the font) can show up on people’s screens. 
  • Monthly page views - If you’re planning to use the fonts for a website, this is the maximum number of times the page (containing the font) can load on people’s devices. 

What are swappable fonts? 

If your Monotype Fonts plan includes swappable fonts, it means you can change (hence, “swap”) your commercial production fonts once per quarter (every three months) without having to file extra paperwork.  

How do I decide which subscription plan to choose? 

Purchasing a subscription plan that suits your current needs is one thing; however, it helps to think ahead: you also need to make room for the licensing changes that might occur as the scope of use and distribution for a given font/typeface expands.

If you’re still unsure, you can reach out to us; we’ll be more than happy to help you identify the right package for your needs.

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