4 Ways to Tell if a Font is Copyrighted

Building a website or creating a design that involves text is all about branding—creating a look that speaks to your signature style as an artist or speaks to your business and ideal consumer. Effective branding requires considering every element of your design, from color scheme to graphics and fonts. Selecting the right font will distinguish your brand and set you apart from other competitors.

When going on the hunt for a perfect font, you want to ensure that you are curating a list of possibilities from public domain options. In other words, fonts that are not under copyright would mean that someone already owns the use rights. The last thing you want to do is fall in love with a font and then find out that it can’t be used. Luckily, there are ways that you can tell if a font is copyrighted.

1. Do a Search by Image Scan

If you don’t have any identifying information about the font, like the license or the name of the website it came from, you can do an image scan. Look for a font site that acts as an image search engine and upload your font to the site. The site will then take your image and analyze it against all the fonts in their database, letter by letter. Depending on your site, it could be a database as extensive as 600,000 fonts.

To ensure the best results for this method, make sure that your image is black lettering on a plain white background with no other details added to the image. Following these rules will allow for the most accurate search results. Sites like this are not only helpful in getting copyright information but also for finding out the name of a font you may have seen but could not identify.

2. Check the Website

One of the simplest methods to finding copyright information is to check the website that the font came from. Most trusted font websites will tell you how you can or cannot use a font you would like to download, and those details will be somewhere on the page where the font is visible.

3. Check the Download Folder

Perhaps you have already downloaded a font, and you would like to double-check how you are able to use it, but you can’t remember what website it came from. Go to your download folder on your computer. Most fonts will download as a .zip folder that will likely contain a text document that lays out the rights of usage.

Once you open the folder, you will find this information under one of two document titles, license.txt or readme.txt. If you don’t see either one of these titles, check all text documents in the .zip folder before moving on to another method.

4. Do a Google Search

Again, if you don’t have any identifying information about the font, you can search the name of the font on Google, see if any websites host the font, and check the usage rights. Treat this as a last resort to other methods. Googling a font isn’t the most reliable way of ensuring that the font is not under copyright; this is due to bogus websites illegally uploading copyrighted fonts, disregarding copyright laws.

One way of combating this issue is by only referring to trusted, reliable font sites like Adobe fonts, Google fonts, Dafont, and so on.

An alternative to relying on font websites is using a website that allows you to create your design directly on the site using all copyright-free fonts and graphics, like Placeit.net.

In regards to saving time and having a reliable way to find and use copyright-free fonts in your designs, Placeit is probably your best bet.

Font License Types

There are multiple types of licenses for a font. It’s vital to distinguish each one when downloading or using a font to ensure that you are not violating copyright law.

Free For Commercial and Personal Use

If you see this license type, the font you want is free to use both personally and for commercial use. Free for commercial use tends to be the most desired type of license for fonts because it presents the lowest risk to copyright infringement (For example, this is what Placeit includes, see their license here).

So, whether you are using the font for your website, marketing your business, selling a design, or for a personal design, this license type will give you peace of mind. It is best practice to look for fonts with a license that states that it is free for commercial use.

Free for Personal Use

If you see this license type, the font you want is free for personal use but cannot be used commercially-that means it cannot appear on a website, product, or in marketing or a brand. If you want to create a goofy design to share with your friends, that is acceptable, so long as the design doesn’t get printed on any promotional material or is used for monetary gain.

This license type can be risky when considering the gray area between personal and commercial use. Therefore, the best practice is to look for fonts with a license that states that it is free for commercial use.

Requires Purchase

There are instances where a copyrighted font can still be used so long as you purchase a license from the copyright holder. The stipulations of license you purchase will determine if the font is single-use or can be used multiple times for different purposes.

Some of these fonts could be free to download for personal use but will require you to purchase the license in order to use it commercially. It is essential to understand the distinction. The consequences of copyright infringement can be as mild as a cease and desist or as severe as a lawsuit for copyright infringement.


All in all, fonts can be used in a number of ways, and it is critical to know exactly what those rights of usage are before attempting to use the font in any way. If you aren’t able to find that information, then it’s better to find something else than violate copyright law and risk any kind of legal threats or otherwise..