I'm currently designing a business card for a client and looking for an applicable font. A lot of these fonts are marked with some sort of payment required for commercial use. While I don't plan to use any of these on the business card, can that really be considered commercial use?

My client isn't going to be selling his cards, only using them to further his business via advertising, so wouldn't that technically be considered fair use rather than commercial?

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately the answer is a vague "it depends." Commercial versus non-commercial is not clearly defined in actual law, and is usually up to the specific license to define what it considers to be commercial use.

If you were putting them on your business cards, then it's just being used for advertising and whether it's commercial use is a bit controversial. If the license explicitly prohibits the use of the work in advertising, then the license should explicitly mention that and should not rely on the term "commercial use" to cover or protect it. Creative Commons ran an excellent study on commercial versus noncommercial use back in 2009: Defining “Noncommercial” - A Study of How the Online Population Understands “Noncommercial Use”

In the United States, for example, the Copyright Act does not define a copyright owner’s rights in terms of commercial or noncommercial use. Instead, copyright law sometimes attaches legal significance to whether a use is “commercial” or “noncommercial” or whether a user is deemed to be a commercial or noncommercial entity, However, rarely are the terms defined, and the law offers no specific guidance on how to differentiate between commercial and noncommercial uses or users of copyrighted works.

If you were putting them on a business card you were making for the client, then that would be more clearly identified as commercial use because you're using it in something you are selling for a profit. What your client will be using them for is not relevant, because you're the one selling them to the client and you need to have the right to be able to do that.

  • 2
    Wow, awesome answer, thanks. Technically I'm making it for free as a favor, but I can see that I personally wouldn't have the right to sell the work to the person if it included the font, because that would trip up under commercial use. Thanks again!
    – meed96
    Aug 27, 2015 at 23:58

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