What licensing is appropriate for a font to be used as a base for an icon font?

So basically I need to use the UNICODE table of that font to include custom icons and sell that font.

Most of the free fonts out there are SIL, but I definitely don't want to include any license notice for the base font, since this is not the part of the font that gains attention. The icons are created by myself and will be included as a ligatures in the webfont.

For example. When the user hits a on the screen will appear a, which will be taken from the base font. But when the user types mail, the font will take this as ligature and display a mail icon.

The result will be similar to this one : Ligature Symbols

  • Could you please explain what you mean by the 'base font'? As far as I understand your only intent is to use the similar Unicode-to-icon table but not the outlines, am I right?
    – Const
    May 15, 2013 at 8:27
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    Is it more clear now? May 15, 2013 at 8:37
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    Surely the answer is determined by the existing licence of the base font you plan to adapt.
    – e100
    May 16, 2013 at 17:37
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    You could create a program the allows the user to select a font on his system, and it would add ligatures to that font. But otherwise I don't know of any license that allows you to resell the base font unmodified, even though what you really want to do is give the base font away, but sell your modifications. You many want to contact each font's creator for specific permission. May 16, 2013 at 19:03
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    Heres the deal. Doing small modification is trivial, in fact usually very trivial. Doing the whole thing is not. So the guy who did the whole thing can choose to make a license and you must abide by that. So base on somebody else and then you either buy/negotatiate the permission or follow their license no matter how inconvenient it is for you. Consider using search and replace.
    – joojaa
    Nov 2, 2014 at 7:39

2 Answers 2


The SIL /OFL licence would work, and I know there are a few fonts licenced under GPL that might work. But the only way to get around including the licence (not sure why that is a problem) would be to find a public domain licenced font.

You can find more info and a few links in the Open Font Directory

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    Neither sil or gpl would work out well if intention is to sell it.
    – joojaa
    Nov 2, 2014 at 7:47
  • GPL + font exception would work. Unless the goal is to prevent anyone else from selling the font, too. Mar 2, 2015 at 15:08

If it is important that users can choose a different license should I suggest that you look at OpenSuSES copyright field for their templates. They don't include any license but state that any copy left licenses and the MIT license can be used. You might want to write something similar:

Copyright (c) 2013 SUSE LINUX Products GmbH, Nuernberg, Germany.
All modifications and additions to the file contributed by third parties remain the property of their copyright owners, unless otherwise agreed upon. The license for this file, and modifications and additions to the file, is the same license as for the pristine package itself (unless the license for the pristine package is not an Open Source License, in which case the license is the MIT License). An "Open Source License" is a license that conforms to the Open Source Definition (Version 1.9) published by the Open Source Initiative.

Please submit bugfixes or comments via http://bugs.opensuse.org/

Creator: Your Name

If you just want a very permissive license is the MIT license well known, very short and probably good for your purposes.

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