Are SIL Fonts Really Free?

Hi~! I’m new to the SIL community and really glad to find such a wonderful community!!

I found some fonts under SIL and since it is my first time actually using them, I wanted to make sure that what I am doing is okay.

I am working for a POD (Print On Demand) company and we are providing pre-built/made templates with some graphical design including texts.

Would it be okay if we

  • sell products with SIL fonts on them

  • allow customers for using SIL fonts to design their products for personal use

  • allow customers for using SIL fonts to design their products for sale

Thank you so much for reading. It is a little late, but hope you all enjoyed Christmas.

Happy New Year~!!

Yes, they are really free. The only thing you cannot do with them is sell them by themselves, but selling documents or software that uses them is OK.

The license details:

If you are making a profit on works that use these fonts, we would appreciate a donation, but this is not obligatory.

The donation page link:

There are other things one cannot do with SIL’s fonts, for example distributing modified versions of the fonts without changing the font name.

In addition to the license text that Steve mentioned, the FAQ is very useful and answers your specific questions. See:

Note that home page for OFL can be reached using SIL Open Font License (OFL)

Thanks, Bob for reminding us about the FAQ.

Just to be clear, when you said “selling documents or software that uses them,” it is okay for them to be used on physical products for sale. Is that correct?

Thank you all for your kind answers :slight_smile:

Happy new year~!

I think FAQ 1.1 addresses this.

Greetings, I have some related questions on what the OFL allows/prohibits that the FAQ comes close to answering, but leaves me uncertain. Perhaps these can lead to new FAQ questions:

(1) On selling an enhancement to an OFL font, the FAQ Question 3.3 answer is “No”. But does this apply to the original creator of the font?

The scenario that I’m considering is a company that provides a basic font available under the OFL, but then wants to sell a commercial version of the font with enhancements (which would not be under the OFL) -is this permitted?

(2) Can the original creator of an OFL font also sell the font? FAQ Question 1.6 indicates “No” but does this also apply to the creator?

Assuming the answer is still a “No” can the creator charge a fee that would cover associated costs of a download like web hosting, data bandwidth of the download transmission, preparation time, and technical support? The font binary file has “no cost”, but delivery and support of the font has a fee that the company can set as they determine?


Hi -

Keep in mind that the OFL is used by an original creator to give other people certain freedoms. It never restricts what the original author/creator does with it. So it is perfectly fine for the original author to release a basic font under the OFL, and separately release an enhanced version under a paid-for, exclusive, commercial license (as that font contains added value). The original author can also release the font under some other license (free/libre or restricted).

However it would be misleading for an original author to release a font under the OFL, then try to charge people for the downloading or use of that same, unenhanced font. This has been discussed in the font and computing community in past years and everyone seems to agree that it’s shady and dishonest. One acceptable way to cover development costs is to have a subtle donation link on the download page, as long as there is never any hint that a donation is required to download or use the fonts. This is especially important when distributing fonts for communities whose first language is not English. For an example see the download page for Abyssinica SIL

If you choose to license a font under the OFL then you are stating that you want people to use the fonts without payment. If you are not willing to make it available without payment then do not use the OFL.

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To complement what Victor has said, there is nothing in the OFL preventing your from charging for your time and expertise as you produce the font, through something like a commission from a for-profit or non-profit organization that sees the value of your work for their users (in a particular market or wants to bundle it with their product or service) as long as it remains accessible and available for everyone when published under the OFL. So you are not selling the font by itself. This approach is used by various designers and foundries. That could be small extensions to an existing OFL font or making a more complete derivative for a different purpose.

The general idea is that someone else will fund it, but the end-users are not limited by price and the resource remains unencumbered and can be redistributed.

Charging for support and providing dedicated help around special projects that certain professional customers may need is also something that can be done. The OFL does not restrict your ability to provide consulting services. But charging for access to the font itself is not allowed. Can you see the distinction? The goal is to maximize access for end-users.

If anything remains unclear please let us know. Best regards.

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