For approval: SIL Open Font License 1.1

Bruce Perens bruce at
Sun Nov 9 05:48:13 UTC 2008

Matthew Flaschen wrote:
> Bruce Perens wrote:
>> Matthew, I want to make sure you are entirely aware of this. I'm sorry
>> if it will sound hurtful, but I've got to say it.
>> Nobody has the slightest hope of ever enforcing this license. You have
>> written
> I didn't have any role in writing this license... or suggesting OSI
> review... but I think the license is enforceable.
Sorry. The way you were defending it, it sounded as if you had something 
to do with it.

I can't even construct a theory by which it's enforcible. Anything 
you're charged with, you can go to court and show how the license didn't 
apply to you because your font was part of a document once upon a time, 
or because vector fonts are programs and thus you aren't blocked from 
distributing, etc.
> I agree the license is fairly liberal, but that's hardly the same as
> unenforceable.
Liberal I can live with. BSD is liberal and doesn't ask for more than it 
can get. But I am not aware of a license OTHER than the Artistic (first 
version) and this one that allows you to convert the content to public 

I know exactly what they intend to do, and everything they intend is 
possible, just not with the words they wrote.
> "All rights reserved" has no legal meaning, but I assume you mean
> without the OFL license text.  The only way I think that /maybe/ could
> be done is by embedding all the glyphs in a document, ripping them out,
> then remaking a font (without referring the unmangled font in any way).
There is nothing in the license that specifies the way the font is to be 
embedded in the document. Thus, it is trivial to embed the font entirely 
in the document, bit-identical to the way it is in a stand-alone file, 
and then extract it. Because OpenDocument is a compressed zip archive, 
that's trivial to do with two command line tools available to everyone.

While we're talking about glyphs, let's be clear about the various 
pieces according to current U.S. law.

Typefaces are not copyrightable, but you can register a design patent 
and thus protect them.
Fonts are the computer (or other device) implentation of typefaces, and 
vector fonts can be copyrighted as computer programs.
Bitmap fonts are not copyrightable.
Glyphs are probably copyrightable if they are still a computer program 
to draw a polyBezier path of the glyph and cause it to be rendered.
> However, I do know
> that Nicolas Spalinger never claimed the license was an air-tight
> copyleft. What he said is "The key idea is that people who just wish to
> resell open fonts as such in their usual reselling system will have to
> think twice" and I think that goal is accomplished.  The embed font-rip
> out-remake process is hardly part of normal font reselling.
Uh-huh. But the difference between this license and a license that 
actually does what this license is supposed to is just a few days of 
work by a competent license designer and attorney. So, what really 
bothers me is that they fell short of the mark when it was so easy to 
hit it, and they don't care. Thus, I feel it's a real disservice to the 
developer for anyone to make this license available for others to use 
without further work.
> He explicitly said "SFLC interacted with the
> FSF licensing committee about this AFAIK", and certainly never said they
> paid SFLC directly for review.
> You should be careful when accusing people of dishonesty.
It's not dishonesty. It's not understanding what was going on. They 
didn't get a legal review, as far as I can tell. They got a call from 
FSF on whether it was Free Software or not.



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