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Re: [ft] Free Fonts

From: Dave Crossland
Subject: Re: [ft] Free Fonts
Date: Tue, 2 Jun 2009 15:21:40 +0100

2009/6/2 Werner LEMBERG <address@hidden>:
> Interesting reading :-)

He's talking nonsense IMO, but its a murky area.

First, we ought to note that its common to perceive 'software' as
meaning only programs, not data.

Some font formats can legitimately contain programs as well as data,
even referring to fonts as "font software programs" is somewhat
appropriate. (Type 3 is a full PostScript language unlike Type 1,
TrueType's hinting instructions are a full programming language, and
AAT's state machines are too; OpenType feature tables are ambiguous -
I tend to think of them as compiled programs since their "source
files" can be in a real programming language, but they are indeed just
data tables and are sometimes developed directly)

But we really are talking here purely about vector outlines, not the
programmatic parts of fonts which are really secondary and only exist
to  support the outlines.

Vector outlines can be expressed as a set of data or as program;
indeed, anyone who knows enough programming to have studied the LISP
language knows that the distinction between the two can be arbitrary.

So, the PostScript programming language in the Type 1 font format is
indeed a programming language, while SVG is a data markup format. Both
can describe the same set of shapes, Both can be called "font
software" - as here "software" doesn't refer to programs, but to
bitstreams - as in the distinction between hardware and software.

So if the points of an outline are drawn on screen and saved as data
or simple machine-generated program is not an important detail.

What matters is if the placement of the points in the outline is a
creative act; and in the SSI v Adobe case, Judge Whyte affirmed that
this is so.

Therefore vector outlines are subject to a literary copyright term,
the same copyright term as any music bitstream.

Now, as for the type designs themselves not being subject to
copyright, well, I am certainly unsure about that. My reading of the
UK law is that they are subject to the normal copyright of all
artistic drawings.

However, making an original type design to meet a specification that
could also describe another famous type design seems very obviously
legally safe - I believe its called  'clean room reverse engineering'
in software engineering circles :-)

FontForge is more than capable of such work, but the knowledge about
how to do it is not yet widely available. Something I hope to change

So, the type designs in the 1982 Linotype catalogue may or may not be
public domain; the font files certain are not, though.


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