License for fonts that come with the operating system

Hello experts,

I got a question from some people that are using a typeface that comes pre-installed on MacOS, so they never directly acquired a license for it. Now they want to use that typeface to make physical letters for educational purposes. Do they need to acquire a license for this? Or is the license already covered by Apple? Any help/pointers would be greatly appreciated.




  • The only way to know is to refer to the agreement you have with the maker of the operating system.  There's not a universal answer.  
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,239
    Typically, the license for bundled fonts in operating systems is pretty liberal, so long as the fonts are not decompiled or redistributed: users with legit licenses to the operating system are allowed to use the fonts to make things, and I don’ think making physical letters would be excluded. That said, Joyce is right that one should not assume a universal answer, and instead should check the OS license (which may or may not include font-specific terms).
  • To clarify, I said to check your agreement with the manufacturer rather than the OS terms of service because they might not agree.  If they don't, I'm pretty sure your agreement would be the one that would govern but that would be a question for a lawyer.  
  • Clarifying an aspect of what John said: OS licenses are generally liberal regarding use of the fonts bundled with the OS... but only in the context of that OS.

    It's not clear what is meant by "use that typeface to make physical letters for educational purposes". Do they want to print letters at large sizes to put up on a classroom wall?
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,802
    You could try asking Apple’s legal people:

    But Apple’s license terms change as updates are released, so whoever you talk to there might not give you the correct answer. I would contact whoever designed/publishes the typeface so that they can tell you exactly what their terms with Apple are.
  • @James Puckett Did I get the wrong end of the stick?  I thought that @Jasper de Waard is the designer of the font and received the request from an end user who's done exactly as you suggest.  
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,140
    edited January 15
    I get this question now and then. I have no idea which Mac OS is the current one but I searched for Mac OSX EULA, found the Catalina agreement and this is the font section.
    E. Fonts. Subject to the terms and conditions of this License, you may use the fonts included with the Apple Software to display and print content while running the Apple Software; however, you may only embed fonts in content if that is permitted by the embedding restrictions accompanying the font in question. These embedding restrictions can be found in the Font Book/Preview/Show Font Info panel.
    I'm not a lawyer but it seems like making physical letters doesn't violate anything this section.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,802

    @James Puckett Did I get the wrong end of the stick?  I thought that @Jasper de Waard is the designer of the font and received the request from an end user who's done exactly as you suggest.  
    I was wrong. I get confused easily.
  • Thanks for the help everybody, and apologies for the vagueness!

    The typeface isn't mine, and the people aren't my clients. I was just trying to help them answer this question, and realized that I didn't have the answer, so came to ask for help here. I'd say you've given them all they need :)
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 883
    On general principles, I would consider that it's very likely that if you have either a Macintosh or a Windows machine, fonts that came with the operating system, or with your word processing software, are licensed to use with the printers on your computer. But they probably would not be licensed for embedding in PDF files or use on web sites.
    Usually, that's not much of an issue in the case of web sites, since people viewing your web site would have the same or similar fonts on their systems; so you would just need to specify the name of the typeface without any need to put up a copy of the font as a webfont. You would want to learn the names of similar typefaces used by Windows and MacOS, so you could name both of them as alternates. And, for that matter, also those used by Linux.
    And since Linux also tries to have similar typefaces available, that means you have free font alternatives you can use in PDF documents, solving the remaining case.
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