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FAQ: Licenses on Cut Files, Designs, and Fonts

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Before you start listing items for sale, or even designing them – let’s talk licenses on cut files. Licenses are a big deal when making items for sale, as misuse of a license can potentially mean you will be sued.

Whether you are making paper cards, vinyl designs, apparel, or anything else – there are many designs you can purchase or find free online for use in your crafting business. Before you use the design, you must understand the licenses.

FAQ: Licenses on Cut Files, Designs, and Fonts for crafters - by

Who Owns the Files and Who Decides on the License?

If you are new to crafting, a discussion on licensing might go over your head – so let’s start at the beginning. Every cut file or design you see online is owned by someone – usually the creator. This is called the copyright. Copyright extends to you, too. In the United States, copyright is automatically bestowed on the creator at the time of creation. Put in easier terms: If you create an original design – you own the copyright on it.

Now, if a creator chooses to give away the file or sell it, they decide on a license. Commonly used licenses are described below.

Licenses on Cut Files and Designs

Personal Use Only

Designs with personal use licenses are for your personal use. This means that you can use the design to make something for yourself or your home. You can also use the design to create a gift for someone else. Generally, as long as no money is exchanging hands, you are within the limits of a personal use license.

Commercial Use/Limited Commercial Use

Designs with commercial use licenses allow you to use the design on an item and then sell on Etsy, a craft fair, your online store, Facebook, Instagram , or anywhere else. Some commercial licenses limit the number of projects you can create with a specific design, while others are unlimited.

Donation Items

Deciding on which license you need when creating items for a fundraiser or donation can be a tricky situation. I’ve seen some designers that are okay with items created for donation when using a personal license; while others require that you purchase a commercial license. In these cases, it is always best to read the individual license included with the design, or contact the designer.

Usage Can Change Over Time

The license you’ll need can change. Let’s look at an example: You create a gift for Aunt Sally using a personal use design and she hangs it on her wall. Aunt Sally’s best friend Miss Betty comes over and wants you to make her the same, and she will even pay for you for it! Congratulations on your sale! Since you only have the file with a personal use license, you need to return to the designer and purchase a commercial license for the design before you sell it to Miss Betty.

What About Creative Commons Licenses?

To complicate our discussion on licenses, there is also something known as Creative Commons Licenses. These licenses are generally used when the creator wants to allow others to build upon their work. Read more about Creative Commons Licenses.

Licenses for Fonts

In general, font licenses work the same as cut files and designs. Don’t forget – any font used for a design on an item to sell, as well as, your website, logo, or advertising needs a commercial license. However, in the last few months, some websites have started offering additional license terms. For example, Creative Market now offers Desktop, Webfont, App, and E-Pub. You can read more about each of these licenses.

What About Selling Designs Illegally?

I hate to even bring this up, but you need to be aware. There are many sellers who will sell you designs with commercial use illegally. For example, if you find someone selling a commercial use cut file with a professional sports logo on Etsy – you can be pretty certain that they don’t have a license to sell the file. In turn, the license they sell to you is also invalid. Read more about illegally selling files.

How Can You Organize Your Files with Different Licenses?

In my opinion, the two easiest ways to organize your personal use vs. commercial use items are:

  1. Store the files in separate folders on your computer.
  2. After downloading the file, add either PU or CU to the file name to help you keep up with your licenses. Once you get a system in place that works for you to store your files, it isn’t difficult to maintain.