License Committee Report for April 2009

Nicolas Spalinger nicolas_spalinger at
Wed Apr 1 12:24:02 UTC 2009

Russ Nelson wrote:
> I'm the chair of the license approval committee.  This is my report
> for the current set of licenses under discussion.  The OSI board will
> be meeting April 1st.
> Title: SIL Open Font License 1.1
> Submission: 
> License:
> Comments: Bruce doesn't think it will be successful, but we've never
>     used likelihood of achieving the author's goals as a criteria for
>     license approval.  Matt believes it complies with the OSD.  The
>     chief concern is that you can't sell the fonts as fonts -- you can
>     only redistribute them as data included with a program.  Seems
>     like a restriction, but that's what we've had on the Bitstream
>     fonts for three or four years now and nobody seems to complain
>     about them.
> Recommend: approval

Thank you for the report.

The time difference allows me to add a few comments before the board

We have published an updated OFL FAQ with new sections clarifying some
aspect of the intent of the license and covering among other things the
concerns expressed during the review:
 (especially the concerns related to document bundling and extraction).

If success is measured through community adoption and the number of
software projects using the licensing model then we are there
already. Various communities recognize and recommend the licensing model
and there are well over a hundred open font families released with many
more underway. There is little doubt that the appropriate license
proliferation category for the OFL is:
"Licenses that are popular and widely used or with strong communities".
Otherwise why would all the major distros ship with various OFL fonts in
main and the major community bodies support the Go for OFL campaign?

And saying that no attorney has ever come near the license is simply
untrue. It also dismisses the work of many reviewers with legal
experience in the community.  (I recommend the technical aspects of
extraction - and the way other font licenses including the IPA font
license still struggle to deal with potential extraction concerns
properly - are studied a bit more closely).

Concerning the BundlingWhenSelling aspect of the license, it is a design
feature of the model. The "Not-selling-by-itself is social signalling
that designers really want. We have built a nexus where the needed
social signalling is there and where the DFSG/OSD are still satisfied.
And as you rightly point out the Bitstream Vera font family whose Dejavu
derivative is now the default font in various places has had this
feature for years. What the OFL does is to provide a mechanism that is
reusable and not project or organisation-specific so as to avoid each
collaborative font project making up their very own slightly different
and incompatible Vera-like agreement.  Surely the OSI will be supportive
of such a license proliferation reduction effort.

Note that OTOH gratis redistribution is explicitly permitted and
encouraged. This restriction only applies to selling: when you sell,
only sell in a bundle otherwise share and share-alike.

A small but important clarification is that fonts are not "data included
with a program" but Font Software bundled with other software. The OFL
makes explicit provision for such bundling but the bundled fonts are
still software and stay under the licensing model chosen by the authors.
Granted, fonts contains outlines and artistic data but various elements
in the font sources are software. Fonts are the software expression of a
typeface design. There are various courts cases which have demonstrated

It's good to hear the OSI plans align with the rest of the community to
recognize the value of the OFL :-)

Your support of the open font movement will be a big benefit the
community at large.

Thanks and best regards,

Nicolas Spalinger, NRSI volunteer
Debian/Ubuntu font teams / OpenFontLibrary

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: signature.asc
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 260 bytes
Desc: OpenPGP digital signature
URL: <>

More information about the License-review mailing list