Older blog entries for yosch (starting at number 9)

3 Nov 2008 (updated 3 Nov 2008 at 10:43 UTC) »
Licensing considerations for fonts

While embarking on the multi-year journey to draft the OFL and coordinate the expert and community review of the license, we analysed the needs and the existing models, how they worked and how people reacted to them. With feedback from the community we made a list of features which are crucial for good font licenses and tried our best to condense them all into an ideal model for both users and designers to build upon.

These key features are:

  • use, study, modification, redistribution (the 4 core freedoms)
  • bundling
  • embedding and its interaction with possible strong or weak copyleft requirements
  • derivative outlines and artwork status
  • derivative fonts status
  • artistic integrity
  • anti-name collision
  • name and brand protection
  • reputation protection for authors
  • preventing stand-alone reselling within huge collections
  • descriptive changes of modifications
  • clarity and readability for designers
  • awareness of the software nature of fonts
  • the multiplicity of font source formats, some open and human-readable and some opaque/binary
  • good integration with the font design toolkit
  • legal solidity through wide expert and community review
  • metadata integration
  • cultural appropriateness to both the type and FLOSS communities
  • stable trustworthy working model with a non-profit as the steward of the license
  • being reusable and not project and .org-specific
  • allowing linking in a web context (more recently)

There are of course differing views along the licensing spectrum but if you take into account the specific needs of collaborative font design then your criteria may well be in tune with the elements above.

With these criteria in mind, and taking into account the need for reducing licensing proliferation, where do existing font licensing approaches fit in? The following list has some of the existing licenses used for fonts out there along with some quick comments about problems the specific approach may have.

Don't get me wrong: for other uses many of these licenses are brilliant and do a fantastic job and I don't want to ignore the efforts by the corresponding authors or maintainers but with hindsight it seems there are probably better ways to release a font under a free software license.

  • Public domain: no rights reserved not even attribution, unclear under various jurisdictions which makes it problematic for a global license, fairly often found to contain elements from restricted fonts where copyright has been stripped
  • Utopia license: project-specific and organisation-specific and so non-reusable
  • AFPL: Alladin Free Public License: deprecated and rejected as non-free by FSF and Debian
  • Various Creative Commons combinations: designed to be used for content and not software
  • Baekmuk License: project-specific and organisation-specific and so non-reusable
  • Hershey font license: project-specific and organisation-specific and so non-reusable
  • Liberation Font License: project-specific and organisation-specific and so non-reusable
  • GPLv2 without exception: causing problems with embedding and satisfying source requirements
  • GPLv3 without exception: causing problems with embedding and satisfying source requirements
  • LGPL v2: confusing in terms of satisfying redistribution requirements
  • LGPL v3: confusing in terms of satisfying redistribution requirements
  • Bitstream Vera agreement: project-specific and organisation-specific and so non-reusable
  • Lucida Legal Notice: project-specific and organisation-specific and so non-reusable
  • MgOpen agreement: project-specific and organisation-specific and so non-reusable, a variation of the Vera license
  • Arphic Public License: project-specific and organisation-specific and so non-reusable, very closely modelled on the GPL, some clauses are odd in the context of font design
  • Design Science License: meant for data and not software: not endorsed by the FSF
  • Mincho License: project-specific and organisation-specific and so non-reusable

If you know about font designers wishing to release their creations under a community-validated font-specific license, then I'd recommend you point them to the OFL FAQ and use the Go for OFL campaign materials to advocate a common license which many in the FLOSS community believe caters better to these needs.

Modern typesetting on *BSDs

At the last EuroBSDcon which happened in Strasbourg, FR, there was a talk about using TeX in an *BSD environment (initially focusing on OpenBSD) by Ed Barrett. (Slides and audio are available).

A rather nice introduction to the wonderful world of typesetting with TeX with mentions of the great work going on porting TexLive to OpenBSD including Jonathan Kew's XeTeX and TeXworks along with demos of using various native OpenType fonts from the Open Font Library or from SIL with all the corresponding font freedom and Unicode goodness :-)

IMHO such cross-OS efforts around the Free Software typesetting stack are incredibly useful for everyone.

So another big shout out from me over here to the various maintainers for their dedicated efforts in porting/testing/packaging the whole stack like Karl Berry of TeXlive, Norbert Preining and Frank Küster of Debian and obviously Edd Barret from OpenBSD. And also Yellowshift who know about the profound meaning and benefits of giving back! Thank you all.

31 Oct 2008 (updated 2 Nov 2008 at 21:36 UTC) »
Improved Fontforge and Open Font Library integration

George Williams - typographer and font toolkit developer extraordinaire - has improved the great integration between the fontforge font editor and the OFLB Open Font Library (or OFLib). Which means that directly from your font editor (cvs version at this stage) you can search and retrieve existing open fonts and upload back your changes or your own creations. And with all the needed tags, font metadata, FONTLOG and specimen image included. Collaborative open font design to a whole new level. Brilliant :-)

Fontforge's changelog is certainly worth watching!

Droid font licensing problems

moyogo, IMHO they should really fix the licensing before it can be accepted by any serious distro...

Technically if the metadata stays as it is now (the standard Ascender EULA), use is restricted and designers can't branch or send patches back...

The fonts are in the base.git repo under data/fonts. There are README and Notice files mentioning the Apache v2 license but this is not reflected in the font metadata. The font metadata actually contains contradictory information!

The Ahem test font does not have any license information attached to it. No way of knowing who the upstream is. A FONTLOG should really be added.

And the Droid fonts themselves still refer to an unknown external EULA in the License Description field: "License Description: This font software is the valuable property of Ascender Corporation and/or its suppliers and its use by you is covered under the terms of a license agreement. This font software is licensed to you by Ascender Corporation for your personal or business use on up to five personal computers. You may not use this font software on more than five personal computers unless you have obtained a license from Ascender to do so. Except as specifically permitted by the license, you may not copy this font software.If you have any questions, please review the license agreement you received with this font software, and/or contact Ascender Corporation. Contact Information:Ascender CorporationWeb http://www.ascendercorp.com/"

A standard link to the Ascender restricted EULA is provided in the License Info URL field: http://ascendercorp.com/eula10.html

Not the kind of choice that will build a collaborative font designer community around this to make the Android stack more multilingual...

OTOH If this is fixed I really doubt many font designers have heard about or read through the Apache v2 license. IMHO it's in the interest of Google and the Android community to pick a community-recognized font-specific license like the OFL to provide a better collaboration mechanism to extend the font and to take care of embedding/naming problems.

I'll get in touch with the Android folks about this...

Open fonts for the deaf communities

I find it both heart-warming and mind-expanding to learn about a new writing system... But this one, well... we're reaching a whole new level!

A little while ago an experienced linguist working with sign languages around the world sent me information about an open font project designed specifically to enable sign language writing systems: ISWA 2008 (International SignWriting Alphabet).

The writing systems implementation (in which this font is a key element) uses a combination of iconic symbols to represent face, hands and body movements with meaning: it's called SignWriting.

And you have to recognize that the authors have their licensing strategy well thought out for maximum distribution and collaboration: GPL 3 for the software, OFL 1.1 for the fonts and CC BY-SA (Attribution-ShareAlike) 3.0 for the content. IHMO a great combination indeed!

Pretty amazing to see such a collaborative Free Software approach helping enable yet another writing system to be created and widely used. Sounds like a great step forward to bring increased literacy and means of expression to the deaf communities :-)

Now to learn some signs and try to write them down...

15 Oct 2008 (updated 15 Oct 2008 at 21:47 UTC) »
Open fonts on the XO (Sugar environment)

Today I flashed my XO (gotten through the G1G1 program from OLPC) to release 8.2 and I'm very pleased to see all the progress made with the whole stack. There are huge improvements to Sugar: nicer navigability and usability, higher responsiveness, a wider set of improved activities, tremendously improved neighbourhood view/network management, and of course the localizers/translators have done great work to reduce the language barriers.

In short there are a lot of very nice touches here and there to make the whole experience even better for the many children out there. Big kudos to all involved :-)

Besides Dejavu with its own peculiar license, various quality open fonts released under OFL are currently available by default. You can see choose them from the Write activity (Abiword-based):

And using the Terminal activity you can easily install extra open fonts packaged by the great Fedora Font SIG from the repositories via yum:

  • Ecolier Court
  • Ecolier Lignes Court
  • Gentium
  • Gentium Basic
  • Andika Basic
  • Padauk
  • Libertine
  • Jomolhari
  • Inconsolata
  • GFS Artemisia
  • GFS Baskerville
  • GFS Bodoni
  • GFS Bodoni Classic
  • GFS Complutum
  • GFS Didot
  • GFS Didot Classic
  • GFS Gazis
  • GFS Neohellenic
  • GFS Olga
  • GFS Solomos
  • GFS Theokritos
  • Edrip
  • Doulos SIL
  • Charis SIL
  • Brett
  • Silkscreen
  • RoadStencil

We'll see how some of these open fonts can be included by default in the deployment target where it makes sense.

High-quality redistributable and modifiable fonts certainly have a key role to play in the education goals of such a project. This is where a community-recognized license like the OFL taking care of issues like embedding, naming collisions and artistic integrity - allowing them to be used without problems as well as further maintained by the open font community - is crucial.

SugarLabs and OLPC have huge challenges to tackle in terms of i18n, so I'm glad to see the progress made in enabling wider language support by picking open fonts allowing designers to extend the fonts to meet local needs.

It's also a joy to see how beautifully the fonts render on the tiny but high-res XO screen and to imagine the many kids learning to read and write in this environment. Seeing the beautiful shapes of your mother-tongue script has to be a good motivator to learn...

20 Sep 2008 (updated 22 Sep 2008 at 20:32 UTC) »
Feedback from AtypI 2008..

moyogo, I'm really looking forward to more info about your work on fonts for African languages... So what about the reactions to your talk and the FLOSS culture/methodology aspects? Follow-up discussions?

How's the atmosphere of the conference? Beside some pictures of the conf it's good to know some talk slides will be up on the site :-)

17 Sep 2008 (updated 21 Sep 2008 at 18:40 UTC) »
AtypI 2008 schedule from an open fonts perspective

A few sessions I think are really worth attending and contributing to if you happen to be in St-Petersburg for the AtypI conference this week:

  • Open fonts and African needs by Denis "moyogo" Jacquerye, Dejavu's co-lead about the special needs of African languages and the various ways in which a FLOSS approach is useful.

  • Fonts for every language: New types for cultural treasures by Victor Gaultney of SIL about advocacy and awareness-raising for the many writing systems still in need of proper fonts and ways in which initiatives in the wider open font community are helping tackling these challenges and how you can participate.

  • Crossing borders: The best of different worlds by Frank E. Blokland about integrating various tools and platform in a font design workflow. Hopefully raising awareness about the maturing open font design toolkit: inkscape, fontforge (with spiro goodness) and various helper scripts...

  • Also there will be some talks and debates on the future of fonts on the web. I hope these discussions about web fonts will take into account the needs/goals of all the stakeholders.

Hopefully some slides and recordings will be made available...

13 Sep 2008 (updated 13 Sep 2008 at 18:49 UTC) »
Open fonts for the web

Seems like the whole web fonts issue is making good progress these days.

Mozilla (thanks to the amazing Robert O'Callahan and John Dagget) has just recently joined the other User Agents implementing @font-face from CSS3 (not yet cross-platform but well on its way).

Open fonts - as in fonts released under the Open Font License - certainly have a key role to play as the W3C recognizes. And for this IMHO the next step is parsing the font metadata and showing it to the user so they can know more about the fonts used in each page: for example which designer, supporting organisation/foundry is involved (there are links for that too), some description and among other useful things if it's an open font or not via the License and License URL fields. The Opentype spec has provision for enough metadata placeholders.

The idea of expressing the OFL in Creative-Commons-like human-readable icons may well be the model to follow...

Coming of age for the open font community

Well I guess I should start blogging and join the web-based pow-wow since Planet Open Fonts is now up and has already gathered a number of very interesting posts. (There's also a Satellite open fonts vcs tracking VCS commits for various font-related community repos).

So what's been happening in font land these days? We are we in term of the open font community now? Glad you asked because actually things have pretty much exceeded our initial expectations! Despite the many challenges to tackle - especially with the more complex writing systems - we're well on our way I think! Looking back at the beginning of our research around the ideal community model for fonts back in 2001 with Victor's Gentium project and the Writing Systems Implementation work with UNESCO it's tremendous to see the concerted efforts from many amazing people out there to establish what is needed for a collaborative typographic community over the past few years...

But first of all, why do we actually need open fonts at all? What's the purpose of all this?

Let's put it this way: if Gutenberg's genius and consecutive transformative reforms are attributed to "movable type" designed to accelerate and make the creation of books easier and cheaper, then the open font movement with its Open Font License is designed to go even further and do this at the Free Software level: allowing and encouraging the moving of glyphs and the smart code (modern information age type if you will) around more easily, extending and fixing fonts to make it easier to publish content in as many languages as possible...

The consultation for an ideal collaborative type design and distribution model has been done with much input and refinement from various communities: many different conferences have seen discussions with key community figures, lightning talks, BoFs, talks, demos and workshops covering aspects of the open font community's projects and challenges... Events like Solutions Linux in Paris, RMLL in Dijon, WSIS in Geneva and Tunis, GUADEC in Vilanova, Akademy in Glasgow, UDS in Paris and Prague, Debconf in Edinburgh, LGM in Lyon Montréal and Wroclaw OOoconf in Lyon, TLM in Boston Glasgow and Wroclaw, AtypIconf in Lisbon, TUG in San Diego, BachoTeX in well Bachotex, GNU Hackers meeting 2008 in Bristol. There were also a bunch of IRC meetings, confcalls and mailing-list discussions.

The result is that we now have a good and community recommended licensing framework, a pretty advanced toolkit (fontforge and friends) and an increasing number of community members (upstream projects and distros as linked from the planet ) benefiting from and contributing to the improvement of an open font landscape.

I'll go over some figures and give a more precise overview of who's been involved, the significant milestones and the next challenges we have in the next posts. Stay tuned.

Free the glyphs !

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