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Re: Please review: The OFL (Open Font License)

Nicolas Spalinger wrote:
>Could you elaborate a bit on why you think the "verbatim copy only" is
It renders the license text non-free.

The classic use case is the following:  If at some point new people at SIL 
want to make a revised version of the license, it will be technically illegal 
for them to do so, because they'll be violating the copyright held by the 
writers of the original license.  (At any
rate this will be the case in countries which don't follow the work-for-hire 
doctrine, which is most of them, and will be the case everywhere if your work 
on the license does not constitute a work-for-hire of SIL.)  They will need 
to get separate specific permission from you, Victor Gaultney, and anyone 
else who contributed text to the license, before they can revise it.  If they 
can't find you or if you're dead, they're screwed.

I pointed this out during the Apache License 2.0 drafting sessions: the 
verbatim-copy-only rule meant that email messages suggesting revisions to the 
license were mostly copyright violations.  This is a *bad thing*.

You could also look at it from the other side: why does it need to be 

>IIRC it's used in DFSG-validated licenses. 
Yes.  Those license texts are non-free.  (That includes the text of the GPL 
preamble.)  We allow non-free license texts in Debian main as a compromise, 
but only because we are required to distribute them as the legal license 
covering a piece of software in main.  (For instance, if you included a 
non-free license text in an essay on how to choose a license text, or in a 
'wizard' for attaching license text notices to your program, that essay and 
that 'wizard' would be non-free and could not go into Debian.)  Ideally they 
would accompany Debian rather than being part of Debian, but this is 
technically difficult at the moment.

>I don't think we want more licenses.
No, we don't want more licenses, but we do want more freedom.

But anyway, if there *are* more licenses, it is much better if they reuse 
clauses we've already analyzed from old licenses, than if they are totally 
fresh license texts.  This sort of non-freeness won't stop or reduce license 
proliferation.  If anything, it will cause people who are intent on making 
their own licenses (like, um... you) to make licenses which are gratuitously 
different from existing licenses, causing needless trouble.

You should note that you are currently writing a new license -- the OFL -- 
which has practically nearly the same effect as the zlib license (albeit with 
some potential non-freeness problems).  Probably this is because the people 
who you want to get to use the license are demanding "comfort clauses", which 
make them feel better even though they have little practical effect.  This 
sort of thing is going to continue to happen, and if we can convince people 
to use a preexisting license as a base when they do this, it makes things a 
lot easier.

The fact that these days everything is automatically copyrighted is the cause 
of this trouble.  In the Good Old Days, license texts would normally be in 
the public domain.

It  is worth noting that this is an issue mostly independent from whether 
things licensed under the OFL are free.  You (the copyright holders for the 
OFL) can issue a new license to the OFL text at any time, including after 
other people are using it.  If you like you can relicense the OFL text under 
the GPL.  Or under the OFL, for that matter. :-)

On the matter of freeness of software licensed under the OFL:
>3) No Modified Version of the Font Software may use the Reserved Font
>Name(s), in part or in whole, unless explicit written permission is
>granted by the Copyright Holder. This restriction applies to all 
>references stored in the Font Software, such as the font menu name and
>other font description fields, which are used to differentiate the
>font from others.

Non-free, because it prohibits accurate descriptive uses of the names, such
as "Foolio is based on Garamond".  This is yet another example of trying to 
enforce trademarks through copyright, which causes endless trouble (and 
doesn't work, because non-derived works can happily trample on your 
namespace).  You might be able to fix it by changing it to...

Oh, wait, I can't actually write that suggested new version legally because 
the OFL is verbatim-copying only.  Hmm, I guess I'll come up with a 
replacement clause which isn't a derived work....

You need something more akin to the zlib license, which says:

  The origin of this software must not be misrepresented; you must not
     claim that you wrote the original software....
  Altered source versions must be plainly marked as such, and must not be
     misrepresented as being the original software.

So here's a proposed clause based loosely on that:

Modified Versions of the Font Software must be plainly marked as such, and 
must not be misrepresented as being the original Font Software.  In 
particular, the Reserved Font Names may not be used as names for a Modified 
Version or any modified part thereof.  This includes all forms of naming used 
in the Modified Version, including the name visible in the font menu.

>5) The Font Software, modified or unmodified, in part or in whole,
>must be distributed using this license, and may not be distributed
>under any other license.
Too strong a restriction, since it disallows dual-licensing.  Not a freeness 
issue, but you don't actually *want* to disallow dual-licensing.  Put "unless 
separate permission is granted by the Copyright Holder" at the end and it's 

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