Emoji belongs to Unicode, which means that each emoji has its own character codepoint. So under the coding of an emoji, different platforms has their own emoji image designs.

You can think of 'emoji' as 'text', and emoji of various vendors are 'fonts'. Some fonts are open source and can be used for commercial use, while others are not.

So the copyright of emoji will also be divided into two, copyright for its code and copyright for graphics.

Emoji's encoding is part of Unicode. As long as you comply with the Terms of Use of Unicode Consortium, anyone can view, copy and use all character codes for free.

For example, if you are currently developing a new platform/software which needs to have emoji built in. Then we recommend you to use Unicode, instead of directly using the emoji graphics that has already been designed by a certain platform.

As for the copyright for the emoji graphics, just get straight to the point: Basically the copyright belongs to the vendor who designed this set of emoji.

We recommend you creating your own unique emojis, this is the best way to use emoji totally legal free. However, make sure that this set of emoji doesn't look like the emoji already exist, otherwise you may get yourself into trouble.

But if you still want to use those familiar emojis, here we summarize some emoji licenses of common vendors.

  • Apple: Apple's emoji set is copyrighted in most of the world. You can not use Apple's emojis as your company logo or in company marketing. If you want to get authorized, please submit your request in writing to their Copyright Team.
  • Google: Emoji fonts are under the SIL Open Font License, version 1.1. Tools and most image resources are under the Apache license, version 2.0.
  • 🔺License information for Google's emoji set

  • Microsoft: Unless you are using an application that is specifically licensed for home, student, or non-commercial use, Microsoft do not restrict you from selling the things you print and make using the Windows-supplied fonts. For details, please refer to Microsoft Font FAQ.
  • Twitter: Twitter's open source emoji--Twemoji has you covered for all your project's emoji needs, and all for free. The graphics are licensed under the CC-BY 4.0, which has simple licensing for commercial & non-commercial use.
  • Mozilla: Mozilla's FxEmojis are licensed under CC BY 4.0, just like Twitter's Twemoji set. For details, please refer to: LICENSE.md.
  • OpenMoji: OpenMoji's emoji graphics are licensed under the Creative Commons Share Alike License 4.0 (CC BY-SA 4.0). And as an open source project, attribution is critical from a legal, practical and motivational perspective. We recommend giving credits to OpenMoji. For example: to mention them in your project README, the 'About' section or the footer on a website/in mobile apps.
  • 🔺License information for OpenMoji's emoji set

  • JoyPixels: The emoji licenses of JoyPixels are purchasable, and the scope of the license depends on the products and licensing classes you purchased. For details, please refer to The License Comparison of its official site.
  • Emojidex: For emoji licenses, please contact emojidex.com.

However⚠️, these licenses may change in the future, and the actual licenses and authorization need to check the content of the terms at that time.

💡Other related questions:

  • Can 'emoji' be trademarked❓: Yes, it is possible to make 'emoji' a trademark. However, the emoji company GmbH has already registered "emoji®, emoji fashion®, emojiplanet®, emojitown® and emoji" as a registered trademark, and protected by law.
  • Here should to be reminded is that since the word "emoji" has been registered as a trademark by emoji company GmbH, Therefore, when you sell emoji-related products on e-commerce platforms, please avoid using the word 'emoji' in the product title and listing; What's more, please be careful about the copyright of emoji graphics.

  • Is smiley face copyrighted❓: Yes, smiley is a protected trademark and own copyrights and trademarks valid throughout the world by The Smiley Company. This company not only protect their original logo, but also their over 3000 icons and various characters.