top of page
  • Writer's pictureShawndra Holmberg

Do more than click "I Agree" — download & read your terms of service

Let’s see… what could be more fun than reading the Terms of Service for your app, tool, or service? I’m thinking visiting the dentist would be more fun, though I don’t really have a problem with going to the dentist, so that may not be quite fair. I would rather do the annual mammogram. I’d prefer to clean the whole house for an in-law visit (my in-laws are great, so it’s only the whole house cleaning that’s a thing). But it’s a toss up between an IRS tax audit and reading the terms of service agreements.

But we do need to read them, download them, and save them! We should also audit them every year. I know, I know, with everything else you have going on, that’s probably not doable. So, figure out what is a must for you and what is a someday nice to have. At the end of this, I’ve broken down my list of actions into minimal effort needed, average effort, and maximum effort.


Fonts are copyrighted. Not all the fonts available to you in your writing tool of choice can be used in your book without purchasing a commercial license. Sure, some have an open license, but you don’t know until you check.

In general (and I’m not a lawyer nor do I play one on tv) if your writing tool is licensed for home or personal use, you may not have the right to put it in your book and sell the book. If your app or software is licensed for business and the Terms of Service allow commercial use, then it’s probably allowed. Check out your Terms of Service.

Images and graphics in your book or on your cover also likely require a commercial license if you want to sell your book (which I’m pretty sure you do). That wonderful tool you use to create amazing social media posts may allow it for business use but does it allow commercial use?


Business use:  Most commonly used with software licensing, business use is intended  for use by a commercial entity to install and use for corporate,  commercial or business purposes as opposed to personal use by an  individual in a non-business environment. Unless specifically allowed,  using it for financial gain is not permitted. (my own cobbled together  definition)

Commercial use: Commercial use is a legal term that defines the use of certain merchandise, tools or intellectual property for financial gain. (What Is Commercial Use? A Definitive Guide from Indeed) 

Non-commercial use:  Non-commercial use is an explicit agreement between a provider and a  user that a product, intellectual property, software or other item is  only for individual use. This means the person using the product doesn't generate income from the product's use. (What Is Commercial Use? A Definitive Guide from Indeed)

Sometimes a license allows for publishing an ebook, but it sets different requirements for a print book. You need to know before you publish. Check out your Terms of Service! (I know, I’m repeating myself, but… you need to know.)

If someone else is doing your cover or your formatting, do they have the commercial license to use the components AND can they assign that right to you? Any time you hire services for your book, read the contract or terms. Confirm rights, licensing, and copyrights.

You want to protect your rights and ensure you’re not infringing on someone else's rights.


Create a folder and label it so you know what’s there and can find it easily.

I’ve seen Terms of Service also called:

  • Terms of Use

  • Terms and Conditions

  • Usage Agreement

  • License Agreement

I’ve labeled my own folder “Legal - terms of service TOS TOA conditions usage license agreement privacy policy” so that when I’m searching for a file, I can search for any key word in the folder name. Sometimes I remember “terms of service,” other times “TOS” comes to mind. I have no idea why I started using the term “TOA” but it’s in there and I can search by it. To simplify things here, I’ll just refer to all of them as Terms.

I’ve added “privacy policy” because my habit is to download EVERY item they make me agree to before purchase or use.

I recommend setting a naming guideline to make the files more orderly and easier to find. I include the Company Name YEAR MONTH and then whatever they call it.

  • Microsoft 2023 07 JUL Microsoft License Terms for Microsoft 365 Family

Sometimes, instead of the company, you might want to use the category, i.e. font, photo, or image.

  • Font 2023 06 JUN Poppins - Google Fonts Terms of Use

This allows you to quickly scan or search for a file or see how long it has been since you’ve downloaded and read the Terms. Sometimes the renaming is an extra step but if you get the chance and have the time, do it. Otherwise, save your time for reading and downloading.

I’m struggling with this as well because when I get a new tool, I want to start playing right then, not read some legalese. However, the more you read, the easier the terminology becomes. When it comes to your book, you want to know what you can and can’t do.


Whether you read the full agreement or not, please be sure to scan for some important terms

  • Commercial

  • Noncommercial (yes, commercial should catch these, but READ them)

  • Non-commercial (same thing, read them)

  • Personal

  • Print

  • Ebook

  • digital

Here’s the fun in reading AND understanding the legalese.

According to my Microsoft 365 subscription Services Agreement… [Office Services] are for your personal, noncommercial use, unless you have commercial use rights under a separate agreement…

However, in the Microsoft License Terms referenced in the Services Agreement… Noncommercial Use. The noncommercial use restriction in the Microsoft Services Agreement does not apply to Microsoft 365 subscription Services.

My takeaway? Ensure I have the commercial license for whatever fonts I use in my published books regardless.


My advice is start where you can, do your best to understand, and ALWAYS keep a copy on file. Which is why I’ve broken down the actions to take based on the effort you can put into it.

Minimum Effort:

Download, save and READ the Terms for

  1. writing apps, services, tools, and individual items such as graphics or fonts

Download and save the Terms for

2. new apps & services

Average Effort:

Download, save and READ the Terms for

  1. writing apps, services, etc.

  2. new apps & services

  3. when you receive notice to updated Terms

Maximum Effort:

Download, save and READ the Terms for

  1. writing apps, services, etc.

  2. new apps & services

  3. when you receive notice to updated Terms

  4. ALL current apps, services, software, tools, etc. (spread this out over time)

Additional Resources:



Photos & Images

So… will you do more than just check the “I Agree” box?

Happy Writing!



You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm. ~ Colette ~

TL;DR      Read the terms of use for your writing tools.     Learn if you have the right to use that font or photo you want to include in your book.     Make it a habit to download, save, and READ the terms you have to agree to before you can use that app or service.
TL;DR (To Long; Didn't Read) | Recap


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page