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Digital Design Passive Income

Passive Income Digital Design Bootcamp - Understanding License Types

by Tanya McCarthy 01 Feb 2020

If you’re not ridiculously creative like some people (i.e. can’t draw worth a poop) then you need to understand license types before jumping into your design business. There are very specific terms for using other peoples’ work and integrating it into yours. Today we will cover Personal Use and Commercial Use. 

If you've been following along, this is the 6th Lesson in the Bootcamp Series. So far we have covered:

  1. Choosing Your Market - This will get you honed in on a specific niche to work with
  2. Branding - Generating your brand so you can get recognized
  3. Goal Setting - What you’re working towards.
  4. Time Management - How to manage your time to ensure you stay on track
  5. Trademark and Copyright - Making sure your designs do not violate what someone else has already protected. 

Keep in mind, if you do not comply with someone’s license it can result in penalties and large fines depending on what the license states and how much you have profited from it. It can also harm your brand and reputation online and potentially land you in court. A blemish that lasts a life time. 

Don't forget to Join my Facebook Group for Tips and Tricks and Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for the most up to date posts and videos.

Let’s dive right in. 



Personal Use License

A personal use license means only YOU, the buyer, can use the products purchased. You cannot share the file with anyone else, they will need to purchase it on their own to use it in their final goods. 

For digital designs, you also cannot use these personal use items in a digital design and resell it. This license type generally only allows the file to be used to create physical goods like shirts, cups, totes, signs, etc. 

You cannot use these designs or files to create a profit in any way, shape or form. So for all of you physical product creators, check your license, because personal use will bite you in the booty. 

You also cannot use these files/items in any advertising or other business related activities, so keep that in mind. 

Here’s where it gets a little difficult depending on where you’re buying from

Commercial Use License

A commercial use license means you can use the product to generate some form of profit whether it be physical product creation, promotions, advertising, website design, and many others. 

There are three main places (four if you count Etsy) that contain licensed work that most of us buy to use and they are the following:

  1. Design Bundles
  2. Creative Market
  3. The Hungry JPEG

Each link above will direct you to their licensing for their website. If you go through and read up on each commercial license, the terms and conditions vary depending on how you are purchasing from. 

If you notice, Creative Market’s terms have a cap on how many physical products you can create under their commercial use license, where design bundles does not. The Hungry JPEG license is fairly generous and includes a lot of examples of what is and isn’t allowed. 

Design Bundles also has some specific requirements on Print on Demand use which you can find HERE

On Etsy, each user sets their own terms so make sure you read them before purchasing. Not all sellers have licenses that allow you to use the files commercially.

You cannot take a bunch of clipart from someone and throw it on a digital paper as the design can be extracted. You also cannot take an original vector file and paste a bunch of those in a document and call it your own. You need to modify the original work so it cannot be extracted by someone else. Keep that in mind.  

Licenses for Fonts

The same set of rules apply for font licenses however you cannot use an entire set of someone’s font (the entire alphabet) for your design. 

Here is a great graphical representation of that courtesy of Missy Meyer:

Basically you can use fonts the same as personal and commercial, but cannot create a file where someone has the ability to extract the original. 

Hopefully this all makes sense. Keep these in mind when you are creating the terms of use for your files, as you will have to create them for selling on Etsy and your own website. 

The next lesson will cover how to price your digital work, so stay tuned for that. If you have any questions PLEASE let me know. 

Don't forget to Join my Facebook Group for Tips and Tricks and Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for the most up to date posts and videos.


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