Licenses explained

Usually, the fonts featured here on FontsArena have licenses like “Free for personal use” or “Free for both personal and commercial use”, which are pretty self-explanatory.

However, some fonts will have licenses like “SIL OpenFont License” or “Apache License, version 2.0” and that may seem confusing. Sometimes even reading the license doesn’t help, as the language and formulation is typical for legal documents rather than clear and understandable.

So what do those licenses mean? Can I use the fonts commercially? Or for web? Or embed in my app or ebook? These are just a few questions that this article attempts to answer.

Skip to SIL OpenFont License ↓
Skip to Apache License ↓
Skip to MIT License ↓
Skip to CC0 License ↓
Skip to CCBY License ↓
Skip to CCBYND License ↓
Skip to CCBYNC License ↓

  1. SIL OpenFont License

    Abbreviated as OFL or SIL OFL, it’s specified on FontsArena as SIL OpenFont License
    See the license’s official webpage

    It’s the most common sight when it comes to “mysterious” licenses for free fonts. For example, it covers almost all the fonts in the Google Fonts Directory (see Google Fonts licenses).

    SIL OpenFont is a free software license, and fonts covered by this license can be freely used, modified, and distributed (as long as the derivatives remain under the same license).

    Please note that the copyright holder has the option of declaring the font’s name as being a “Reserved Font Name“, which means that any modified versions of the font must be renamed so that they don’t contain the original name. Subsetting for web fonts are also considered modified font.

    SIL OpenFont License DOs

    Can I use the font commercially?
    Yes ✓
    Can I use it as webfont?
    Yes ✓
    If webfont formats are not included, you can create them with free tools like FontSquirrel’s webfont generator, without being in violation of the license.
    Can I embed it in an app?
    Yes ✓
    (fonts have to be packaged with the software, if sold).
    Can I use it in an ebook or .pdf?
    Yes ✓
    Can I redistribute?
    Yes ✓
    You can distribute original or modified (derivative) works. *
    Modify
    Yes ✓
    You can use and/or modify software freely.

    * When distributing derivatives you must include a file with the full text of the license.
    Download OFL license file (official source)

    SIL OpenFont License DON’Ts

    Claim credit
    No ×
    You can’t claim credit for anyone else’s work
    Sublicense
    No ×
    You cannot change or extend the original license. All derivative work must be covered by the same license as the original.

    Creative Commons-like terminology

    This is all of the above, put in CC-like terminology, just in case you prefer this way.

    Permits
    Distribution, Reproduction, Embedding, DerivativeWorks
    Requires
    Attribution, Notice, ShareAlike, DerivativeRenaming, BundlingWhenSelling
  2. Apache License

    It’s specified on FontsArena as Apache License, version 2.0
    See the license’s official webpage

    It’s one of the most permissive licenses: software licensed under Apache License can be freely used, modified, distributed, and sold. Apache License 2.0 is compatible with version 3 of the GNU General Public License (GPL). This means that code under GPL version 3 and Apache License 2.0 can be combined, as long as the resulting software is licensed under the GPL version 3.

    Apache License DOs

    Can I use the font commercially?
    Yes ✓
    Can I use it as webfont?
    Yes ✓
    If webfont formats are not included, you can create them with free tools like FontSquirrel’s webfont generator, without being in violation of the license.
    Can I embed it in an app?
    Yes ✓
    Can I use it in an ebook or .pdf?
    Yes ✓
    Can I redistribute?
    Yes ✓
    You can distribute original or modified (derivative) works. *
    Sublicense
    Yes ✓
    You can change or extend the original license for derivative work.
    Private Use
    Yes ✓
    You can use and/or modify software freely without distributing it.
    Use patent claims
    Yes ✓
    You can practice patent claims of contributors to the code.
    Place warranty
    Yes ✓
    You can place warranty on the software licensed.
    Modify
    Yes ✓
    You can use and/or modify software freely.

    * When distributing derivatives you must include a file with the full text of the license.
    Download Apache license file (official source)

    Apache License DON’Ts

    Hold liable
    No ×
    The software is offered as-is and the license owner cannot be charged for damages.
    Use trademark
    No ×
    You cannot use contributors’ names, trademarks or logos.

    Important notes on Apache License

    • The original copyright must be retained.
    • You have to state any significant changes made to the software.
    • If the a Notice file with attribution notes exists, you must include that notice file when you redistribute. You may add things to this notice file.
  3. MIT License

    It’s specified on FontsArena as MIT License
    See the license

    MIT license has the shortest text and it’s the most permissive: software licensed under MIT License can be freely used, modified, distributed, and sold. Basically, you can do whatever you want as long as you include the original copyright and license notice in all copies of the software/source.

    MIT License DOs

    Can I use the font commercially?
    Yes ✓
    Can I use it as webfont?
    Yes ✓
    If webfont formats are not included, you can create them with free tools like FontSquirrel’s webfont generator, without being in violation of the license.
    Can I embed it in an app?
    Yes ✓
    Can I use it in an ebook or .pdf?
    Yes ✓
    Can I redistribute?
    Yes ✓
    You can distribute original or modified (derivative) works. *
    Sublicense
    Yes ✓
    You can change or extend the original license for derivative work.
    Private Use
    Yes ✓
    You can use and/or modify software freely without distributing it.
    Modify
    Yes ✓
    You can use and/or modify software freely.

    MIT License DON’Ts

    Hold liable
    No ×
    The software is offered as-is and the license owner cannot be charged for damages.

    Important notes on MIT License

    • The original copyright must be retained/included.
    • The original license must be retained/included.
  4. Creative Commons Zero 1.0

    It’s specified on FontsArena as CC0 (100% FREE)
    See the license’s official webpage

    This license means that the author has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of his/her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.

    Software licensed under CC0 can be freely copied, modified, and distributed, even for commercial purposes and without asking permission, and it’s offered with no warranty from the author.

    CC0 License DOs

    Can I use the font commercially?
    Yes ✓
    Can I use it as webfont?
    Yes ✓
    If webfont formats are not included, you can create them with free tools like FontSquirrel’s webfont generator, without being in violation of the license.
    Can I embed it in an app?
    Yes ✓
    Can I use it in an ebook or .pdf?
    Yes ✓
    Can I redistribute?
    Yes ✓
    You can distribute original or modified (derivative) works. *
    Sublicense
    Yes ✓
    You can change or extend the original license for derivative work.
    Private Use
    Yes ✓
    You can use and/or modify software freely without distributing it.
    Modify
    Yes ✓
    You can use and/or modify software freely.

    CC0 DON’Ts

    Hold liable
    No ×
    The software is offered as-is and the license owner cannot be charged for damages.
    Use patent claims
    No ×
    You cannot practice patent claims.
    Use trademark
    No ×
    Under CC0, no license is granted for trademark use.
  5. CCBY License

    It’s specified on FontsArena as CCBY
    See the license

    Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (usually abbreviated CC BY 3.0)

    CCBY License DOs

    Can I use it as webfont?
    Yes ✓
    If webfont formats are not included, you can create them with free tools like FontSquirrel’s webfont generator, without being in violation of the license.
    Can I embed it in an app?
    Yes ✓
    Can I use it in an ebook or .pdf?
    Yes ✓
    Can I redistribute?
    Yes ✓
    You can distribute original.
    Private Use
    Yes ✓
    You can use and/or modify software freely without distributing it.
    Modify
    Yes ✓
    You can use and/or modify software freely.
    Can I use the font commercially?
    Yes ✓

    CCBY License DON’Ts

    Sublicense
    No ×
    You cannot change or extend the original license.

    Important notes on CCBY License

    • Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.
  6. CCBYND License

    It’s specified on FontsArena as CCBYND
    See the license

    Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (usually abbreviated CC BY-ND 4.0)

    CCBYND License DOs

    Can I use the font commercially?
    Yes ✓
    Can I use it as webfont?
    Yes ✓
    If webfont formats are not included, you can create them with free tools like FontSquirrel’s webfont generator, without being in violation of the license.
    Can I embed it in an app?
    Yes ✓
    Can I use it in an ebook or .pdf?
    Yes ✓
    Can I redistribute?
    Yes ✓
    You can distribute original. *
    Private Use
    Yes ✓
    You can use and/or modify software freely without distributing it.

    CCBYND License DON’Ts

    Modify
    No ×
    You cannot distribute any modified derivatives. If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.
    Sublicense
    No ×
    You cannot change or extend the original license.

    Important notes on CCBYND License

    • Attribution — You must give appropriate credit.
  7. CCBYNC License

    It’s specified on FontsArena as CCBYNC
    See the license

    Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (usually abbreviated CC BY-NC 4.0)

    CCBYNC License DOs

    Can I use it as webfont?
    Yes ✓
    If webfont formats are not included, you can create them with free tools like FontSquirrel’s webfont generator, without being in violation of the license.
    Can I embed it in an app?
    Yes ✓
    Can I use it in an ebook or .pdf?
    Yes ✓
    Can I redistribute?
    Yes ✓
    You can distribute original. *
    Private Use
    Yes ✓
    You can use and/or modify software freely without distributing it.
    Modify
    Yes ✓
    You can use and/or modify software freely.

    CCBYNC License DON’Ts

    Can I use the font commercially?
    No ×
    You may not use the material for commercial purposes.
    Sublicense
    No ×
    You cannot change or extend the original license.

    Important notes on CCBYNC License

    • Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that this page is a simpler explanation of different open source licenses, it is not legal advice. You can read the original license texts following the links provided above.