University Approved Font Usage and Licensing

people sitting at tables with umbrellas

Monotype, one of several companies that license fonts and typefaces, recently contacted the university about renewing our NC State branded font licenses. During the conversation, however, Monotype speculated on whether some NC State units may be using unlicensed fonts or are misusing “free” fonts on official university websites or digital apps.

In higher education, this happens fairly often. It is easy to find and download “free” fonts on the internet. However, most fonts are only strictly free for personal use, such as when a student uses a font to compose a report for class. If you go back and read the fine type of the end-user licensing agreement you had to click on to download the fonts to begin with, you most likely will find a clause that stipulates commercial uses are not covered by the personal use exemption, and thus must be paid for. I say most likely because there are a few exceptions. There are a few true open-source fonts out there, but these are mostly of low quality and it is unlikely any professional communicators on campus are using them. Translation: Unless you know for certain that your font is 100% free for commercial use or that NC State has a valid license for your proposed use, you must pay for it. Another common misnomer is that non-profit organizations like NC State are exempt. This is not true. Non-profits still have to pay, though the fees are generally lower than for the private sector.

In Monotype’s view, misuse and unlicensed use of their fonts is not acceptable and they have indicated they intend to crack down on non-compliant digital users.

If your office or anyone you know is using non-licensed fonts or is using “free” fonts in an unapproved way, such as on official university websites or apps, please contact the owner of the font directly to work out a solution. If the font is one of the many owned by Monotype, please contact Dale Kearney at

Alternatively, UCOMM continues to provide commercial font licenses free of charge for the NC State University brand fonts, which technically, all NC State communications and websites should be using anyway. UCOMM purchases these licensed fonts from Monotype in bulk and provides them free of charge to any NC State entity who needs them. You can review the fonts and the program via the visual identity section of the brand website.