[Openfontlibrary] new release of the Ubuntu titling font

Stephen Hartke hartke at gmail.com
Sat Jan 5 07:15:00 PST 2008

Nicolas, Karl, and Victor,

Thanks for responding to my message!  I'm leaving for a conference in an
hour, so I don't have much time to reply.  However, I would like to give my
initial thoughts.

First, let me explain the two main sources of my objection to the OFL. The
first is that my font Aurulent Sans is made primarily with MetaType1
scripts, with some gluing and polishing with FontForge scripts. No direct or
graphical editing of the splines is done. Thus, to me it feels very much
like software: I have source code that I compile to produce an object file
(the font file). As it currently stands, if I release the font under the OFL
and someone modifies the scripts and releases a derivative font, they are
not required to also release the modified scripts. Maybe a solution is to
release the source code under the GPL and the font file under the OFL,
though I'm not sure this can legally be done (as the GPL usually refers to
the whole program).

The second source is my attempt to modify Charis SIL to include Greek.  I
agree with Victor that there is very little difference in appearance of
quadratic and cubic splines. However, I think that there is a huge
expressive difference when editing.  I personally prefer to use cubic
splines when editing. It's trivial to convert Charis SIL from quadratic to
cubic splines, but the _original_ cubic splines are not recovered.  For
instance, I highly doubt that the lowercase Latin o is designed with 32
on-curve points.  It's much easier to edit the spline if there are fewer
points, but to recover that simpler form requires deciding to eliminate some
points. Perhaps there is an automatic way to recover the original cubic
splines from quadratic splines if it's known that the quadratic splines were
converted from cubic splines, but I do not know of any program that does
this. However, my point is not that this _could_ be done, but that it
shouldn't need to be done (for a FLOSS font). It feels to me too much like
disassembling object code and guessing what the source code looked like.

I think there is a fine line for what "source material" (in a broad sense)
should be required by a FLOSS license.  The GPL defines "source code" as
"the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it". However,
this has ambiguity: If I embed tables of data in my C source code, do I need
to release the scripts that generated the data?  Do I need to keep the
comments in my source code that explain what is going on?

I think that Nicolas's point about encouraging the release of everything
that was used to generate the final product is quite salient, and this
culture is certainly present in most FLOSS communities centered around GPL
projects (and so they release more than the GPL technically requires).
However, the GPL does require that everything is released needed to
generate, install, run, and modify the work. Thus, the legal contract tries
to capture the spirit of the culture above.  The OFL, however, does not have
any stipulation (however weak) to release any of the material used to
produce the font.

I don't think that the OFL is a bad license, and I'm happy that designers
are releasing fonts under the OFL rather than not at all.  I understand
Victor's point that the OFL is better than the legalistic GPL for designers
unfamiliar with the FLOSS world. However, it still feels to me that it's
missing an essential component---Victor's examples of OpenType features and
hinting are even better example that I hadn't even thought about yet.

More below.

On Jan 5, 2008 6:48 AM, Victor Gaultney <vtype at gaultney.org> wrote:

> > For example, the nice Charis SIL is released under the OFL by SIL in TTF
> > format with quadratic curves. Internally, SIL works on the font as cubic
> > splines. They even request that patches be submitted as cubic splines!
> > However, when I contacted them, they refused to release the cubic curves
> that
> > they internally use to produce the font.
> I don't think that's a complete and fair statement, but I will publicly
> apologize to you for having your most recent request in my inbox for far
> far
> too long.

I apologize if I misrepresented the situation.  Our email correspondence had
left me with the impression that you would not release the cubic splines,
not that it would just take awhile.  I can understand that things often take
a lot of time (see how long it's been since I've made a font release!). This
question is out of curiousity, and not to be snarky: Why do you request that
patches be submitted in cubic form, if it is so easy to convert from

> > For this reason, I am planning my future font releases (those created
> solely
> > by me) under the GPL+font exception.
> As I mentioned before, I think that option has some problems, and I
> certainly wouldn't recommend it. If we felt it was an adequate solution
> there would be no need for the OFL. :-)

I agree that the GPL+exception has some problems, mainly because the GPL was
designed for software.  However, as I described above, my method of creating
fonts is much closer to creating software than I think it is for many other
designers.  I am unhappy about the fact that future derivatives can discard
the font embedding exception.

Thanks for your messages!  I am finding this discussion to be quite

Best wishes,
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