[OpenFontLibrary] ubuntu font family

Dave Crossland dave at lab6.com
Wed Sep 29 04:27:03 PDT 2010

On 28 September 2010 23:19, Alexandre Prokoudine
<alexandre.prokoudine at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi,
> Ubuntu Font Family is now public.
> http://font.ubuntu.com/
> And they just couldn't resist reinventing the wheel, of course.
> http://font.ubuntu.com/ufl/ubuntu-font-licence-1.0.txt
> Alexandre Prokoudine
> http://libregraphicsworld.org

I don't think they reinvented the wheel; the wheels available are not round.

http://font.ubuntu.com/ufl/README says,

- - - - 8< - - - -
This is the master distribution of the Ubuntu Font Licence

This licence is derived from the SIL Open Font Licence (OFL) 1.1. The
Ubuntu font licence is an interim licence which is intended to merge
with a future version of the OFL after a legal and community review
- - - - 8< - - - -

http://font.ubuntu.com/ufl/FAQ.html says,

- - - - 8< - - - -
The license chosen by any free software project is one of the
foundational decisions that sets out how derivatives and contributions
can occur, and in turn what kind of community will form around the

Using a licence that is compatible with other popular licences is a
powerful constraint because of the network effects: the freedom to
share improvements between projects allows free software to reach
high-quality over time. License-proliferation leads to many
incompatible licenses, underminding the network effect, the freedom to
share and ultimately making the libre movement that Ubuntu is a part
of less effective. For all kinds of software, writing a new license is
not to be taken lightly and is a choice that needs to be thoughly
justified if this path is taken.

Today it is not clear to Canonical what the best license is for a font
project like the Ubuntu Font Family: one that starts life designed by
professionals and continues with the full range of community
development, from highly commercial work in new directions to curious
beginners' experimental contributions. The fast and steady pace of the
Ubuntu release cycle means that an interim libre license has been
necessary to enable the consideration of the font family as part of
Ubuntu 10.10 operating system release.

Before taking any decision on licensing, Canonical as sponsor and
backer of the project has reviewed the many existing licenses used for
libre fonts and engaged the stewards of the most popular licenses in
detailed discussions. The current interim licence is the first step in
progressing the state-of-the-art in licensing for libre font

The public discussion now must involve everyone in the (comparatively
new) area of the libre font community; including font users, software
freedom advocates, open source supporters and existing libre font
developers.  Most importantly, the minds and wishes of professional
type designers considering entering the free software business
community must be taken on board.

Conversations and discussion has taken place, privately, with
individuals from the following groups (generally speaking personally
on behalf of themselves, rather than their affiliations):

  SIL International
  Open Font Library
  Software Freedom Law Center
  Google Font API (nb. crashes Firefox in Ubuntu 10.04... don't click!)

Document embedding

One issue highlighted early on in the survey of existing font licenses
is that of document embedding.  Almost all font licenses, both free
and unfree, permit embedding a font into a document without the
license terms of the font applying to the document. Embedding a font
with other works that make up a document creates a "combined work" and
copyleft would normally require the whole document to be distributed
under the terms of the font licence. As beautiful as the font might
be, such a licence makes a font too restrictive for useful general
purpose digital publishing.

The situation is not entirely unique to fonts and is encountered also
with tools such as GNU Bison: a vanilla GNU GPL license would require
anything generated with Bison to be made available under the terms of
the GPL as well. To avoid this, Bison is published with an additional
permission to the GPL which allows the output of Bison to be made
available under any licence.

The conflict between licensing of fonts and licensing of documents, is
addressed in two popular libre font licenses, the SIL OFL and GNU GPL:

  SIL Open Font Licence: When OFL fonts are embedded
  in a document, the OFL's terms do not apply to that document.

  GPL Font Exception: The situation is resolved by granting
  an additional permission to allow documents to not be
  covered by the GPL.

The Ubuntu Font Family must also resolve this conflict, ensuring that
if the font is embedded and then extracted it is once again clearly
under the terms of its libre licence.

Long-term licensing

Those individuals involved, especially from Ubuntu and Canonical, are
interested in finding a long-term libre licence that finds broad
favour across the whole libre font community. At the moment there are
a choice of licenses, but no single license is a clear favourite. The
deliberation during the past months has been on how to licence the
Ubuntu Font Family in the short-term, while knowingly encouraging
everyone to pursue a long-term goal.

Copyright assignment will be required so that the Ubuntu Font Family's
licensing can be progressively expanded to one (or more) licences, as
best practice continues to evolve within the libre font community.
Canonical will support and fund legal work on libre font licensing.
It is recognised that the cost and time commitments required are
likely to be significant.  We invite other capable parties to join in
supporting this activity.

The GPL version 3 (GPLv3) will be used for Ubuntu Font Family build
scripts and the CC-BY-SA for associated documentation and non-font
content: all items which do not end up embedded in general works and

Ubuntu Font Licence

For the short-term only, the initial licence is the Ubuntu Font
License (UFL).  This is based on the SIL OFL 1.1, and seeks to clarify
the issues that arose during discussions and legal review.  It is only
intended as an interim license, and the overriding aim is to support
the creation of a more suitable and generic libre font licence. As
soon as such a licence is developed, the Ubuntu Font License will
migrate to it - made possible by copyright assignment in the interium.
 Between the OFL 1.1, and the UFL 1.0, the following changes are made
to produce the Ubuntu Font Licence:


  Document embedding (see section above).
  Apply at point of distribution, instead of receipt
  Author vs. copyright holder disambiguation
    (type designers are authors, with the copyright
    holder normally being the funder)
  Define "propagate" (for internationalisation, similar
    to the GPLv3)
  Define "substantially changed"
  Trademarks are explicitly not transferred
  Refine renaming requirement (to allow for
    webfont format conversion and other minor
    modifications to retain the original name
    while making it clear the original has been
    modified, but still requiring substantial
    modifications to rename)


  Remove "not to be sold separately" clause
    (to allow for commercial improvement)
  Remove "Reserved name" declaration
- - - - 8< - - - -

So, I hope that clarifies things. Any questions? :-)

I am sad that the dialogue that went into the UFL has happened behind
closed doors, but that seems to be what was preferred by everyone else
involved. I very much hope that the next phase of dialogue will happen
in the open, but that isn't up to me.


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