[Openfontlibrary] new release of the Ubuntu titling font

Ben Laenen benlaenen at gmail.com
Wed Jan 9 12:04:29 PST 2008

On Saturday 05 January 2008, Dave Crossland wrote:
> I am currently writing a "Font GPL" guide, on how to best apply the
> GPL to fonts.
> The GPLv3's section 7 says that "you may (if authorized by the
> copyright holders of that material) supplement the terms of this
> License with [the following] terms" and one of those is "e. Declining
> to grant rights under trademark law for use of some trade names,
> trademarks, or service marks." This is the basis of another of the
> main features of the OFL, I think.
> So it might be that a a "Font GPLv3" guide is all that is necessary.

With all that discussion of the GPL license for fonts and fonts sources, 
I started wondering whether GPL fonts without sources can be called 
Free software then...

So the logic is that you need to give source code when modifying a GPL 
product, which is rather impossible since we didn't get the source in 
the first place. Hence we can't modify the fonts...

Sure, we can argue about what we call source code of the font, but 
there's no way I call the ttf "binary" a source, given the huge amount 
of information that's missing in it (cubic glyph shapes, anchor names, 
build scripts, opentype rules, metahinting instruction as opposed to 
raw instructions etc).

In other words, in my eyes that would be like releasing a compiled 
program and telling it's GPL. Sure, you can decompile it and call the 
result of that "source code", but you know it's not anywhere near the 
original source code and that you have much less information in the 
end. The same with ttf binaries, you can "decompile" with fontforge or 
something else, and perhaps it's a bit easier to edit the result 
compared to a decompiled program, but for decompiled programs and for 
decompiled ttf fonts a lot of time goes into trying to find the 
original source (like the cubic shapes).

So, what's the difference then that we allow to use GPL on binary font 
files? Is it just that we don't have a font "programming language" that 
can be used? Was it just that there was no alternative license 
available? Or is it just that people deciding things about the license 
didn't really know anything about other data that can be in a font 
compared with the actual font binary? Or didn't people care (I can 
imagine that several years ago Free fonts were desperately needed for 

Anyway, we now have several (L)GPL fonts with no source at all, it seems 
wrong to me to use that license then. I even started to have doubts 
whether they're really Free since according to the license you can't 
redistribute or modify since you don't have any source code...


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