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Re: OFL license analysis

On Sat, 28 Jan 2006, Nicolas Spalinger wrote:
> >      Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person
> >      obtaining a copy of the Font Software, to use, study, copy,
> >      merge, embed, modify, redistribute, and sell modified and
> >      unmodified copies of the Font Software, subject to the following
> >      conditions:
> > 
> >      1) Neither the Font Software nor any of its individual
> >      components, in Standard or Modified Versions, may be sold by
> >      itself.
> > 
> > This is likely to be DFSG free, as anyone can trivially bundle the
> > font with something else that can be sold and sell it. However, adding
> > this sort of clause to the license, especially in light of the clause
> > above, where we are granted "Permission [..] to [...] sell modified
> > and unmodified copies of the font software." This dissonance is rather
> > peculiar.
> This small restriction is needed for cultural reasons within the
> typography community but is designed to be easily circumventable to
> allow wide packaging and distribution so Debian and other distros
> can include the fonts in offline or online repositories. It's really
> no different than the terms used for the Vera font family which have
> been deemed DFSG-free, included in main and used by default for some
> time now. It satisfies the requirements of DFSG #1.

The DFSG freeness of the clause isn't the point of my comment; the
point was that the restriction was almost useless, as it could be
bundled with a README file and then sold. From this is seems clear
that the "typography community" isn't too interested in restricting
their work's sale, which is why I questioned the clause's inclusion on
general grounds. Furthermore, it also conflicts with the language
immediately preceeding this clause, where we are granted "Permission
[..] to [...] sell modified and unmodified copies of the font
software", as we aren't actually allowed to sell them.

> >      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.
> > 
> > Limited naming restrictions are permitted by DFSG §4. However, the
> > naming restriction above is significantly more broad than the
> > naming restriction that DFSG §4 was written to allow. [...] As
> > such, it's likely that this clause will restrict the inclusion of
> > works which have Reserved Font Names in Debian.
> This restriction only concerns the name of the font as it appears in
> a font menu and not the actual names of the files [...]. The goal of
> the OFL is to avoid naming conflicts so that documents actually
> render as expected but it doesn't impose any of the special
> requirements of the Latex License.

That may be the intent, but the way the clause is written makes it
read as I have indicated, as the filenames of the fonts themselves are
"references stored in the Font Software"; indeed any mention of the
"Reserved Font Name(s)" in part or in whole in the "Font Software"
appears to be verboten by this clause.

> Here's what OFL FAQ entry 2.8 says:


The OFL FAQ explains the intentions of the drafter of the license;
unfortunatly, the drafters of the OFL are not necessarily the
copyright holders who will be enforcing the licence. As such, the FAQ
is basically useless in terms of -legal's analysis of works under such
a license.

> Basically, it's about keeping the namespace sane while allowing
> branching and merging for font designers and - more importantly -
> avoiding a big messy breakage of end-user documents.

What you're trying to prevent is clear, it's just not necessary to use
a license to do this. Consider the following: Debian decides to
distribute works containing your font. The original upstream
disappears. A bug is discovered in the font, and Debian needs to fix
it. We can no longer distribute a fixed version of the font that
interoperates seamlessly with existing user's documents because we're
required to change the name of the font.

In the case where we introduce a change that breaks the end-user
documents, end-users are (hopefully) intelligent enough to realize
that they've gotten a version that is broken, and go about tracking
down the version that they actually want.

> > Beyond the mere DFSG Freeness issues of this clause, it also has a few
> > practical problems, as "in part or in whole" appears to preclude the
> > use of any part of the font name in a derivative version. [Taken to an
> > insane extreme, if the font was named 'abc', a derivative 'bad' would
> > contain the name in part, thus violating the license.] Nathanael
> > Nerode pointed this out as well in the discussion on debian-legal in
> > December.[1]
> Yes, this is an area of possible ambiguity - indeed an extreme case -
> that we're looking at clarifying in future refinements of the license.
> The "in part" is really meant to cover the case when there are
> various words used in reserved font names.

What you were trying for is clear; the issue is that the licence
doesn't say that.
> But for now, version 1.0 - which is in use for the Gentium font
> family (http://scripts.sil.org/Gentium_linux) and will be for other
> projects soon to be released - has been validated by the FSF and the
> SFLC as a free copyleft license for fonts:
> http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses

Just to forestall this entire line of argument: appealing to us on the
grounds that some other body has approved the licence is pointless.
The procedures that the FSF and/or SFLC use to weigh the freeness of
licenses are opaque,[1] and in any case, use entirely different
metrics than the ones that Debian uses.

> I don't think using the GPL is really appropriate for fonts because
> fonts under the GPL are problematic wrt. embedding and the status of
> the resulting document. This is one area where the OFL wants to fix
> the problem as clearly as possible: see OFL FAQ entry 1.

Well, if that's a goal, then it seems rather peculiar to include
section 5, as it seems to place the resultant document under the terms
of this licence as well (since it would contain a modified copy of the
Font Software; possibly as a derivative work.)

Indeed, since there's no copyleft present in this license at all, the
above requirement seems rather silly.

> > Anyway, as you can see there is basically one problematic clause
> > for inclusion in Debian, and a few other minor issues that should
> > probably be resolved before font authors start using this license.
> Are you sure the naming clause is really that problematic for
> inclusion in Debian?

If I wasn't sure, I wouldn't have said the above.

> > [I'd like to strongly suggest as well that font authors should
> > consider using an existing license with well known ramifications,
> > like the GPL or the MIT license instead of a license like this
> > which is less battle tested.]
> Well, we have found that existing licenses felt alien to the vast
> majority of font designers. The GPL certainly does not feel right
> for fonts, the FSF still calls for input on the subject and the
> experimental font exception isn't really getting that much support
> from designers.

This may very well be the case, but in the early stages of the Free
Software movement the same was the case for software.[2] Increasing
the number of licenses present in the world, especially when they have
the drafting inconsistencies that have been pointed out above, is not
something that should be supported unless there is no other choice at

The education and promotion of Free Software ideals to font designers
is far more useful in the long run than the generation of more
> They're a lot that needs be done to allow many more users to enjoy
> Debian in their own script :-D

Yes, and work is already in progress for many scripts which have
existing fonts that are government controlled to release them under a
set of licences which are non-trivially DFSG free, be they MIT or GPL.

Don Armstrong

1: For example, it's not entirely clear who weighed the license in
question and made the determination that it was a free software
license, or which clauses they examined closely.

2: Some may argue that it's still the case now.
If you have the slightest bit of intellectual integrity you cannot
support the government. -- anonymous

http://www.donarmstrong.com              http://rzlab.ucr.edu

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