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

Nicolas Spalinger nicolas_spalinger at sil.org
Thu Apr 15 11:40:13 UTC 2010

Walter Landry wrote:
> Nicolas Spalinger <nicolas_spalinger at sil.org> wrote:
>> Paul Wise wrote:
>>> I'd strongly suggest to indicate a preference about which license you
>>> would like them to choose.
>>> I would personally suggest standard FLOSS licenses like BSD,
>>> MIT/Expat, ISC, GPL + font exception etc. If those aren't acceptable,
>>> the SIL OFL is a DFSG-compatible compromise between font foundry needs
>>> and free software principles.
>> Yes! Recommending a particular validated model and explaining how it
>> will benefit both upstream and downstream is much more effective in such
>> advocacy efforts.
>> I recommend you take advantage of the campaign resources on
>> http://www.unifont.org/go_for_ofl/
>> Considering how various key Libre Software communities have given their
>> support to the licensing model it seems like a good model to recommend
>> to URW. Various fonts in CTAN are under OFL as well.
> Please do not recommend the OFL.  Legally requiring a name change is
> unfriendly and subject to abuse.  Not allowing a font to be sold by
> itself is a useless countermeasure.  It is GPL-incompatible to boot.
> As someone who just recently needed a GPL compatible font, it was
> quite annoying trying to find one.

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:

A name change mechanism has already been in use for a while for many of
the core fonts the distros have included in their main archive and use
by default (Dejavu or Liberation for example): the OFL simply makes that
mechanism generic, re-usable and understandable by actual upstream
authors of fonts and downstream modifiers. Similar ways of requiring a
derivative branch not to advertise itself as the upstream branch or the
trunk exist in other community-recognized licenses.

The BundlingWhenSelling clause has been researched, validated and
recognized as a useful nexus between the concerns of the actual
producers of font software and the free/libre software values. It is
social signalling that font designers want and that still satisfy the
DFSG. You may see it as useless from your perspective but many others
can guarantee you that various libre/open fonts would never have been
released by their authors without this clause.

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

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.

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.

BTW when looking for fonts for your own use you may find the review that
we run weekly on the Debian fonts team useful:

> 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?

>> 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 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... And that from a designer perspective there are no name
collision protection, no reputation protection, no explicit declaration
to derive artwork from the outlines, and of course the trouble with
defining what font sources are and how to properly satisfy the GPL
requirement in this context. Also v2 and v3 react differently. The
patent clauses could be misunderstood and scare away font designers when
they mistake it with "design patents"...

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.

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

Anyway, let's see what happens for URW Garamond No. 8.

> Cheers,
> Walter Landry
> wlandry at caltech.edu



Nicolas Spalinger, NRSI volunteer
Debian/Ubuntu font teams / OpenFontLibrary

More information about the Pkg-fonts-devel mailing list