For approval: SIL Open Font License 1.1

John Cowan cowan at
Tue Nov 11 01:52:20 UTC 2008

Wilson, Andrew scripsit:

> In the world of print, I have never heard of a typeface designer asserting
> a copyright interest in a printed work solely because the
> work was set using his/her typeface.

Sure.  The appearance of a font isn't copyright.

> In the world of bits, an outline font is really just an algorithm for
> rendering a specific glyph.  As we know, the copyright holder for the
> implementation of an algorithm, barring very unusual circumstances,
> does not in general have a copyright interest in a work produced by executing
> said algorithm.

So a rendering into pixels (on screen or paper or whatever) is the result of
executing the algorithm, so a TIFF or bitmap-PDF version of the document would
not have the copyrighted font in it.

But a PDF with text and the embedded font *does* physically contain the font's
code, and thus (so it seems to me) is a derivative work of the font.  I have
been reminded, however, that "derivative work" is left only partly defined on
purpose for the sake of flexibility, and that we really won't know the answer
until a founder takes a PDF distributor to court whether my theory is

IANAL, TINLA, but it is not UPL either.

John Cowan  cowan at
Linguistics is arguably the most hotly contested property in the academic
realm. It is soaked with the blood of poets, theologians, philosophers,
philologists, psychologists, biologists and neurologists, along with
whatever blood can be got out of grammarians. - Russ Rymer

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