The Effects of Weak Copyleft

    <p>I&#8217;m trying to wrap my head around embedding, given the <a href="http://typophile.com/node/48971">on-going attempts to make the DRM font format</a> &#8220;Embedded OpenType&#8221; a W3C web standard.</p>

From OFL 1.1:

5) The Font Software, modified or unmodified, in part or in whole, must be distributed entirely under this license, and must not be distributed under any other license. The requirement for fonts to remain under this license does not apply to any document created using the Font Software.

From OFL-FAQ 1.1:

Question: 1.1 Can I use the fonts in any publication, even embedded in the file? Answer: Yes. You may use them like most other fonts, but unlike some fonts you may include an embedded subset of the fonts in your document. Such use does not require you to include this license or other files (listed in OFL condition 2), nor does it require any type of acknowledgement within the publication. Some mention of the font name within the publication information (such as in a colophon) is usually appreciated. If you wish to include the complete font as a separate file, you should distribute the full font package, including all existing acknowledgements, and comply with the OFL conditions. Of course, referencing or embedding an OFL font in any document does not change the license of the document itself. The requirement for fonts to remain under the OFL does not apply to any document created using the fonts and their derivatives. Similarly, creating any kind of graphic using a font under OFL does not make the resulting artwork subject to the OFL.

I wonder, if the fonts do not remain under the OFL, what license are they under?

Suppose I make ‘Gentleman.otf’ and publish it with the OFL1.1 and then someone else makes a document ‘Lady.pdf’ that contains a much improved version of my font, subsetted and embedded into the PDF document. I can technically extract the outline data and perhaps some of program code from the document, but I can’t legally do so - and so I can’t integrate their improvements with my original. Is this so?

Suppose I make ‘Gentleman.otf’ and publish it with the OFL1.1 and then someone else makes a document ‘Lady.html’ that has a @font-face CSS stanza that links to ‘Lady.eot’ - a much improved version of my font, subsetted and DRM locked to that particular web document. I can technically extract the outline data and perhaps some of program code from the document, but I can’t legally do so - and so I can’t integrate their improvements with my original. Is this so?

Creative Commons License
The The Effects of Weak Copyleft by David Crossland, except the quotations and unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Comments

2 Responses to “The Effects of Weak Copyleft”

  1. John Hudson on September 2nd, 2008 03:46

    I’m not going to comment on the legality, under the license, but it seems to me that open source implies access to a font independent of extracting it from a document. What is important seems to me that access be available, not that every means of getting at a font should be equally open.

    Last year, I came at this issue from the other side: Ralph Hancock and I found the OFL license too restrictive because we didn’t want to limit use of our Biblical Hebrew layout intelligence to open source projects. So we opted for the MIT license. SIL releases some fonts with derivative layout under OFL, which of course they are free to do according to the terms of our MIT license. What this means is that people have different rights to the data depending on what source they use for it. So long as the less restrictive of two sources is available, the existence of more restrictive sources doesn’t seem to me a problem.

  2. yosch on September 2nd, 2008 11:17

    Well, what you call a danger, many would call a welcome clarification feature. Exploring “stronger copyleft” models still faces a number of issues…

    I seems to me there are a few misunderstandings here on which your scenarios are constructed… Maybe I don’t understand what you’re trying to say (or your thought experiment) but I don’t see how you go from “The requirement for fonts to remain under the OFL does not apply to any document created using the fonts and their derivatives.” to “if the fonts do not remain under the OFL…”

    Also PDF extraction and the use of DRM or opaque formats is outside the scope of the OFL.

    The purpose of the clause you quote (and its corresponding FAQ item) is to make it clear that while the font and its sources stay under the same licensing - which means branches inherit that licensing and sources/patches can flow freely between the various branches and the trunk - any document or outline made from that open font can have any license you want and that license may change. In short, using an open font does not influence the license and distribution rights of your document.

    And really no software license should influence the output! I seriously doubt that you’d accept a text editor forcing you to publish everything you wrote/typed with it under a particular license only. This would really be going too far. (See the definition of output in the GPL itself and also the earlier yacc problems).

    Not a lot of licenses make that explicitly clear but it’s really needed for the font-specific environment. IMHO the nexus lies between allowing embedding but clarifying what the status of the embedded document is.

    In your example, the Lady.pdf document containing an embedded version of a derivative of Gentleman is still just a document, and not really the font source of a derivative. I remember George Williams indicating on the fontforge user list that only some outlines can be retrieved from a pdf anyways, I doubt retrieving the smart code is doable. (But reusing glyphs you’d want to respect the licensing model chosen by the author).

    Also AFAICT the proposed EOT format restrictions are linked to a domain and not a document as such…

    As for not being able to integrate derivatives back into your trunk, I’d say that the OFL model encourages releasing of as much useful source as possible but does not make it a requirement. Some branches you will get the source back whereas others may choose not to.

    BTW, we’re working on a update to the OFL FAQ concerning webfonts / font linking. I can send you the ideas we’re looking at.

    There are probably things we can do to make it easier for open fonts to be used by @font-face user agents…

    @John Hudson

    AFAICT Dave’s exploring stronger copyleft models in the context of open fonts, and while the MIT/X11/Expat is a brilliant license, it really goes in the opposite direction.

    BTW thanks for releasing your impressive work on Hebrew smarts :-) (Ezra is now available on Debian and Ubuntu among other platforms: http://packages.debian.org/sid/ttf-sil-ezra http://packages.ubuntu.com/intrepid/ttf-sil-ezra)

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