Re: Help with licensing questions

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> Now, I do agree one of the OFL's main weakness is its refusal to admit
> fonts may have sources (the other being the way it considers you want
> your font renamed instead of making it an option), but the GPL has
> other problems (embedding).

Hi Stephen and Nicolas,

Very interesting thread indeed, some crucial points have been explained
very clearly but I have to disagree with the little analysis snippet
above... (BTW, Nicolas, IIRC we already had conversations about this
wrt. the buildpath of Old Standard).

The OFL doesn't refuse to admit that font sources exist - rather the
contrary - it acknowledges the fact that beyond the binary font files
themselves, which you can already do something with, there are a lot of
different elements which can be used as extended font sources. It avoids
 the problematic question of defining precise source requirements for
the "preferred form of modification" when there are various ways of
modifying and building a font: "preferred" for who exactly? A very
strict source requirement would alienate the vast majority of designers
we want to see joining our community!

Font Software is broadly defined in the license:
"Font Software" refers to the set of files released by the Copyright
Holder(s) under this license and clearly marked as such. This may
include source files, build scripts and documentation.

So the OFL model intentionally doesn't place strict requirements on
releasing these extended sources needed for a full build but at the same
time it *makes it possible and strongly encourages* (via the FAQ) the
author choosing this model to release everything that can be useful to
designers: data files, glyph databases, smart code, build scripts,
documentation and rendering samples.

See FAQ entry 2.6, 4.1, 4.2 and 7

So the idea is to recommend releasing as much extended source as
possible and turning that into best practises but *not making it
mandatory* which would result in a participation barrier.

The FAQ has more details and, as you probably know, there is a
foo-open-font-sources VCS template with all kind of different elements
to encourage release of as much source as possible:
BTW, your feedback on this is still welcome, it's intended as a
cross-distro, cross-OS recommendation.

And if you really don't want any kind of anti-collision / name
protection features the OFL does not require you to reserve a name:
FAQ entries 2.11 and 2.12 have more on this.

I agree with you that the GPL (even with the current font exception) has
various problems. If it worked perfectly for fonts everybody would be
using it... It needs fixing.

I'd recommend also investigating how to distribute your build scripts
separately under a "full-source-required" license (documentation on the
requirements of the build environment would be very useful too).
Alternatively you could work with the ones interested in an absolute
full source requirement model for all recipients (with corresponding
source redistribution offer) to create the licensing model you like and
then organise community review.

I do understand the packager's perspective of ideally having a
self-contained autobuilding source rpm for each open font family, but
the reality is that this rarely the case at this stage. We have also
seen that as fontforge and related tools make progress, automatic
building from sources does introduce regressions. (IMHO most packagers
don't have the experience to fully compare between a font build done by
the designer himself and an automated build).

Thankfully there are various efforts going in this direction, but let's
not get ahead of ourselves. A fully automated build would be nice to
have but we're not going to drop from our distros all open fonts not yet
providing such a build path, that would be rather silly.


Nicolas Spalinger, NRSI volunteer
Debian/Ubuntu font team / OpenFontLibrary

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