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.

Best,

Jasper

Comments

  • 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: 2,441
    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: 1,867
    You could try asking Apple’s legal people: https://www.apple.com/legal/contact/

    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: 1,220
    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: 1,867

    @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: 996
    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.
  • RichardWRichardW Posts: 100
    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.

    That's not what Peter Constable said.  His words suggested that if one booted to Linux on a computer with Windows installed, one would not be licensed to use the Windows fonts while running under Linux.  I've no idea where one would stand if running Linux under Windows.

    I think there may be legal issues with making and using stencils in any case.

  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,320
    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....

    I am pretty sure that is nonsense. Both Microsoft and Apple allow embedding their bundled system fonts in PDF, last time I checked. Ditto the fonts bundled with Microsoft Office apps.
  • I suspect it's fairly unlikely that either Apple or Microsoft would impose any serious restrictions on font licenses for a very simply reason: While both Apple and MS do produce fonts, most of the fonts bundled with their systems are from third parties; and I can't see any third party being willing to license a font for inclusion with an OS if they had a particularly restrictive license in mind since 99% of users aren't likely to read that license or even be aware that fonts have licenses.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 996
    I am pretty sure that is nonsense.

    You may well be right. I was taking a cautious and pessimistic view, noting what could reasonably be expected to be permitted even before one checks properly by reading the license.
  • I see various speculations here. Ray Larabie provided a relevant section from the MacOS EULA pertaining to fonts. For Windows, there's a fairly detailed FAQ addressing some questions here.
  • Miles NewlynMiles Newlyn Posts: 180
    @André G. Isaak

    I think Monotype has restrictive licenses for their fonts (no use on websites or apps), and this works like a Trojan horse for their enterprise licensing offers.
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 685
    @Miles Newlyn The last thing I want to do is defend Monotype but what else are they supposed to do?  The vilian here is the operating system.
  • Miles NewlynMiles Newlyn Posts: 180
    @JoyceKetterer I'm only saying that it's a successful business model for Monotype, no judgement. If there is a culprit it's not the OS but the persons using fonts outside of license.
  • Apple’s License for its system fonts (San Francisco) are formulated straight forward:

    Subject to the terms of this License, you may use the Apple Font solely for creating mock-ups of user interfaces to be used in software products running on Apple’s iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS or watchOS operating systems, as applicable. The foregoing right includes the right to show the Apple Font in screen shots, images, mock-ups or other depictions, digital and/or print, of such software products running solely on iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS or watchOS. Your use of the Apple Font shall also be subject to any specific use restrictions with respect thereto as set forth in the Apple Font or Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines.

    It contains a clearly limited license to use the fonts if it is for the purpose of creating mock-ups for macOS or iOS (watchOS, etc.) app concepts. It doesn’t allow use for educational or other purposes.

    The license is included with the font when you download it. That’s not the same as “preinstalled on the system”, but my interpretation is that the license concerns the font itself, not the delivery format.


  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,441
    The San Francisco fonts are user interface fonts, and Apple’s intent is that they will only be used in that context or in mock ups of apps running on Apple operating systems. That is a special category of system font, distinct from other fonts provided with the system (whether preinstalled or as optional downloads).
  • You are right, the license depends on the font manufacturer. Apple plays a role as distributor through its operating system, but it is not the creator of all fonts that it distributes.

    Apple doesn’t put all fonts that “come with the OS” into the same category. I’m sure their differentiation between “preinstalled fonts”, “document fonts” and “downloadable fonts” plays a role in different types of licenses. Apple doesn’t clarify this on their listing page, but since “document fonts” come with apps like Pages and Keynote, I would assume they may also be used to print out your documents.

  • The license is included with the font when you download it. That’s not the same as “preinstalled on the system”, but my interpretation is that the license concerns the font itself, not the delivery format.

    I suspect the license of the preinstalled SF fonts is different. For example, SF is often used for the header and footer in printed documents by Mac apps (Apple’s apps and third-party).
  • I ended up calling Apple and Adobe. The Indian guy at Adobe said I had the right to use the font for any purpose but he refused to send me a link to any kind of license. So, I replaced the font with an open source equivalent. I did not enjoy the process. But, the Indian guy was very nice.
  • Note that Adobe has nothing to do with OS fonts (specifically, the fonts that are installed along with your OS). Adobe often does install fonts along with its own apps, and those are covered by Adobe’s license, but even if certain OS fonts are owned by someone else (e.g. Arial, Times New Roman), it will be the OS’s license agreement that dictates your rights and restrictions.
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