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Font Redistribution FAQ

Updated: June 26, 2009

If you have any questions about font redistribution and license issues, contact us. Where possible, we will post questions and answers here.

Licensing Microsoft Fonts

Q.What can I do with the fonts supplied with Microsoft products?

The fonts are governed by the same restrictions as the products they are supplied with. You are not allowed to copy, redistribute or reverse engineer the font files. For full details see the license agreement supplied with the product.

Q.Can I embed Microsoft fonts in my documents?

Embedding allows fonts to travel with documents. Most fonts distributed with Microsoft products allow embedding. To check a font's embedding permissions, right-click on the font file and choose 'Properties'.

There are 4 levels of embedding permissions:

'Print and preview' fonts can be embedded in a document, provided the user reading the document cannot edit the content of the document.

'Editable' fonts can be embedded within content that can be edited by the user.

'Installable' fonts within a document may be permanently installed by the user reading the document or a client application. In practice, installable fonts are treated like editable fonts by most client applications.

'No embedding permissions' prevent fonts from being embedded in a document.

Q.I'd like to license a particular font supplied with a Microsoft product.

or I'd like to license additional copies, or buy a site-license for a particular font supplied with a Microsoft product.


Microsoft licenses existing fonts from various font vendors and also commissions original fonts. If you are looking to license a particular font, you should contact the vendor directly. The vendor will be listed in the font's copyright or trademark entry. To find out this information, right-click on the font file and choose 'Properties'.

Until recently, most fonts that include a Microsoft copyright or trademark notice have only been available as part of Microsoft products. Although some fonts remain Microsoft-exclusive, a number of Microsoft fonts are now available to end users, ISVs and OEMs under license from Ascender Corporation. These include 'Verdana', 'Georgia', 'Comic Sans MS', 'Microsoft Sans Serif', 'Nina', 'Tahoma', 'Wingdings', 'Webdings' and 'Trebuchet MS'.


Public Domain Fonts

Q.What are 'public domain' fonts?

A friend gave me a disc of what they called 'public domain' fonts. I'd like to install them, but I want to be sure they are legal. If my boss catches me with pirated software on my office computer, I'll be in big trouble. What should I do?


To find out copyright and trademark information, right-click on the font file and choose 'Properties'. To learn addition information about the font, download Microsoft's free Font properties extension.

Q.If a font has no copyright information, can I assume it is public domain or should I be suspicious?

Be wary if you can't find any copyright or trademark information. Even public domain, freeware, or custom fonts should contain at least the designer's name.

If you think a font may be public domain, freeware or shareware, look for an accompanying 'Readme' file that will explain how to register the font, and any restrictions in using it. For example, many freeware fonts are only for non-commercial use.

Q.Where do such 'blank' fonts come from?

Some originate in another font format and have been converted by a utility that strips out the copyright information. In most cases, although these converted fonts can be legally used by the original font buyer, their redistribution is usually forbidden.

The copyright information can also be deliberately removed by a malicious person trying to avoid the authorities.

Q.What should I do with a 'blank' font?

Contact the font supplier and ask for an explanation. If you've lost track of where the font came from, it's probably best to remove the font from your system. You can also replace it with a legitimate version from a different supplier, if available.

Q.Some of my system fonts are attributed to Altsys or Macromedia. Are these companies type foundries?

No. Macromedia and Altsys were companies that previously supplied a type design application called Fontographer. If a designer created a font with Fontographer and didn't change the default settings, the font was attributed to Macromedia or Altsys.

Usually, when a designer creates a font from scratch, they encode their name or foundry name in the font. If you acquire a font attributed to Altsys or Macromedia, you should be suspicious of its origins.


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