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Re: [Pkg-fonts-devel] About the licensing of URW Garamond No. 8

Nicolas Spalinger <nicolas_spalinger@sil.org> wrote:
> Hi Walter,
> There are obviously varying needs and preferences (prejudices?) along
> the licensing spectrum but IMHO your reply is very reductive.
> At the end of the day upstreams make up their own mind about how they
> license their own creation but allow me to explain the reasoning of the
> OFL model a bit more:

I understand that many font designers want to put in annoying license
terms.  I really do understand that.  In fact, there are many regular
software developers who want to put in annoying license terms for
their programs.  Debian does not encourage these annoying terms for
programs, and Debian should not encourage annoying terms for fonts

> For the GPL imcompatibility, fonts are much more useful aggregated to
> rather than "merged" with existing software, possible incompatibility
> with existing software licenses is not a problem. See
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html#Fonts

I was using the rendered fonts as art.  In the US, rendered fonts are
not copyrightable (as far as I understand).  Elsewhere, the situation
is unclear.

> You say you needed a "GPL-compatible font" but what does that mean? I
> assume you needed a font to bundle with when distributing a piece of
> software under GPL, right? OFL-ed fonts explicitely allow anyone to
> bundle. (even with restricted software).  OTOH you probably want to
> recommend an external open font instead by adding a package dependency.

You have it backwards.  It is the GPL which does not allow
incorporating OFL-ed fonts.

> BTW one of the goals we have in the Debian fonts team is to work to
> reduce the big duplication of fonts in various packages in our archive:
> there is no absolute need for every single piece of software to ship
> with its very own set of fonts... Sometimes it does but from a Debian
> perspective IMHO a dependency is much nicer. There is a lintian check
> for this too.
> I do agree that GPL-compatibility is great and very desirable but fonts
> have a different set of requirements corresponding to their special
> status and usage scenarios.

Somehow, everyone thinks that they are special and therefore they
deserve annoying license terms.  We had this debate on debian-legal
before with the LPPL.  I am sure we will have it again.  I still have
zero sympathy for this view.

> BTW when looking for fonts for your own use you may find the review that
> we run weekly on the Debian fonts team useful:
> http://pkg-fonts.alioth.debian.org/review/

Interesting.  Thank you.

>> Also, I found this page
>>   http://openfontlibrary.org/wiki/Font_Licensing
>> which mentions
>>   Despite the problems, the base 35 PostScript fonts donated by URW++
>>   to (originally) the Ghostscript project are licensed under the GPL,
>>   with an exception similar to the font above.
>> But then I found this page
>>   http://www.advogato.org/person/raph/diary/257.html
>> which says
>>   By the way, URW did not donate these fonts under the GPL out of
>>   their own hearts. Artifex paid good money for them, and donated them
>>   out of a mix of self-interest and altruism.
>> So is may be easy to change the license to GPL, but you may want to
>> talk to Artifex, not URW++.
> TTBOMK previous attempts have not been successful, anybody is welcome to
> try again.
> Also IIRC GUST had derived a branch under LPPL. You may want to search
> for that. I don't recall the exact details.
> I'll simply point out that Raph Levien (whose diary you link to) has
> chosen to release some of his own fonts under the OFL finding that the
> model makes sense.
> BTW have you read through the thread in -devel that he linked to?

I just did.  I am not sure what point you are trying to make, though.
Ian Zimmerman asked the same question I did:

  Ben> "How am I going to deal with it when someone changes my font to
  Ben> something ugly and it reflects poorly on my skills as a
  Ben> fontographer?"

  How is this at all different from the same question asked about
  program source code?

  In that context, it is part of the rationale for the Q license,
  AFAIK.  (Redistribution only as original source + patches).


I have not seen anyone in Debian suggest the Q license for the longest
time.  It would really suck if everyone used the Q license.

>>> Hopefully your advocacy efforts will benefit many people throughout the
>>> communities. Thanks! Let us know how it goes.
>>> BTW the font exception for the GPL still has a bunch of unsolved
>>> problems. I wouldn't recommend that.
>> What are these problems?  A quick search yielded nothing.
> The fact that the exception may disappear downstream

Why is this a problem?

> and that as an end-user it's tricky to know if you can safely embedd
> or not without suddenly having to satisfy the GPL requirements for
> your whole document or not...

Maybe I am arguing with the wrong person here, but this is an
education issue, not a legal issue.  That does not make the license
bad.  Making a good copyleft license is hard.  There are legions of
people who have made flawed copyleft licenses.  The solution is not to
make a new license that is incompatible with everything else.

For this particular concern, I fail to see how the GPL font exception
could be any clearer.  The last sentence of OFL's section 5 is pretty

> And that from a designer perspective there are no name collision
> protection, no reputation protection, no explicit declaration to
> derive artwork from the outlines,

These are all annoying restrictions that regular software programmers
sometimes ask for.  They may not conflict with the DFSG, but Debian
does not recommend them for regular programs, and Debian should not
recommend them for anything else in the archive.

> and of course the trouble with defining what font sources are and
> how to properly satisfy the GPL requirement in this context.

There has been ample discussion on this topic on debian-legal for
years.  This is not actually difficult to figure out.  For some
reason, people think it is, but it is not.

If you do not want a source requirement in the license, then you do
not really want a copyleft license.  Otherwise, the copyleft becomes
almost, but not entirely, useless.

> Also v2 and v3 react differently. The patent clauses could be
> misunderstood and scare away font designers when they mistake it
> with "design patents"...

Again, an education issue.

> The font exception was written way back with not a huge of amount of
> discussion with font designers and the FSF is still looking for
> feedback. IHMO using the exception is really an exception considering
> the increasing body of libre/open fonts we now enjoy.

I am still having a hard time finding a GPL-compatible monospaced

> There's plenty of discussions on the open font library mailing-list for
> example. If you want to contribute to getting this fixed, I recommend
> you talk to Dave Crossland who has been proposing to tackle this for
> years...

Getting what fixed?  I still do not see the real problems with
GPL+font exception.

Walter Landry

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