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The GPL+FE and OFL licenses permit digital fonts to be embedded in a digital document file without requiring the document itself to also be shared with an open-source license.

How to find the license for a font

The exact font name, version, designer, license, and much other information is embedded in each font file. Here is how to see it:

gui - FontForge: In the font source editor FontForge, open up the font file and click on Element in the top menu, then →Font Info, then for license info, in left sidebar menu →TTF Names , and look for the columns License and/or Copyright/License.

cli - otfinfo: At command line type otfinfo --info <fontname> to see the embedded Copyright and License, and more.

Free/Open-source licenses for fonts

GPL+FE - GNU Public License with Font Exception

The GPL font exception clause (or GPL+FE, for short) is an optional clause that can be added to the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) permitting digital fonts shared with that license to be embedded within a digital document file without requiring the document itself to also be shared with GPL.[1]

To indicate a font exception to the GPL, a digital font creator adds the following language to the end of the GPL text distributed with their font:

 "As a special exception, if you create a document which uses this font, and embed this font or unaltered portions of this font into the document, this font does not by itself cause the resulting document to be covered by the GNU General Public License. This exception does not however invalidate any other reasons why the document might be covered by the GNU General Public License. If you modify this font, you may extend this exception to your version of the font, but you are not obligated to do so. If you do not wish to do so, delete this exception statement from your version."[2]

OFL - Open Font License

The SIL Open Font License (or OFL in short) is a free and open source license for fonts. It permits the fonts to be used, modified, and distributed freely (so long as the resulting fonts remain under the Open Font License). However, the copyright holder may declare the font's name as being a "Reserved Font Name", which modified versions then cannot bear. The License permits covered fonts to be freely embedded in documents under any terms, but it requires that fonts be packaged with software if they are sold.[3]

Other Free/Open-source licenses


The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or GPL) is a widely-used free software license, which guarantees end users (individuals, organizations, companies) the freedoms to run, study, share (copy), and modify the software. Software that allows these rights is called free software and, if the software is copylefted, requires those rights to be retained. The GPL demands both. The license was originally written by Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for the GNU Project.[4]

Creative Commons

A Creative Commons (CC) license is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created. ... There are several types of CC licenses. ... Creative Commons does not recommend the use of Creative Commons licenses for software [5] [such as, fonts].


Copyleft (a play on the word copyright) is the practice of offering people the right to freely distribute copies and modified versions of a work with the stipulation that the same rights be preserved in derivative works down the line. Copyleft software licenses are considered protective, as contrasted with permissive free software licences.[6]

The copyleft symbol is a backwards C in a circle (copyright symbol © mirrored). It has no legal significance.[7]
How to make in web pages:

FOSS, such as BSD license

BSD licenses are a family of permissive free software licenses, imposing minimal restrictions on the redistribution of covered software. This is in contrast to copyleft licenses, which have reciprocity share-alike requirements.[8]

Public-domain software

Public-domain software is software that has been placed in the public domain: in other words, there is absolutely no ownership such as copyright, trademark, or patent.[9]

About licenses in general

Free Software License

"A free software license is a notice that grants the recipient of a piece of software extensive rights to modify and redistribute that software." Wikipedia - Free Software License

Software license

"A typical software license grants the licensee, typically an end-user, permission to use one or more copies of software in ways where such a use would otherwise potentially constitute copyright infringement of the software owner's exclusive rights under copyright law." Wikipedia - Software License

A nice summary comparison table is on same page in section Software_license#Software_licenses_and_copyright_law


This page is only intended as a summary of the purposes of these licenses. For full information and legalese please refer to the links and the sources at those pages.