IPA Font license

Michael Tiemann tiemann at opensource.org
Tue Feb 17 01:56:17 UTC 2009


I read, as you do, that source and binary materials are treated
differently by the OSD.  Moreover, I read that the second sentence of
OSD#4 (which says "The license must explicitly permit distribution of
software built from modified source code") explicitly allows one to
create a binary work from derived sources and distribute such a binary
work (though, again as you point out, named and/or versioned differently).

I guess that the question then becomes "in the pantheon of sources and
binaries, where does the font file fit?"  Is a font description file
source code because it's the preferred way of describing the font, or is
it a binary?  Technically one can patch either sources or binaries with
'patch', but clearly the most common use by far is to patch source code,
so perhaps this makes the font description source.  But it could be
binary.  Or is it both?  A document in postscript format or xml
certainly looks like both.  Or is it neither?  There was some discussion
during the SIL font review that font files in general don't fit the kind
of protective rubric established for things like books or software

I do think there is a legitimate mechanical question which is: if a user
creates a derived font by applying the patch file to the original font,
what are the limits of using and distributing of the resulting work?
And do those limitations reasonably comply with the OSD?  For example,
if a user did such a transformation on their PC, and then the derived
font were captured via an online backup procedure, would the media
holding the backed up derived work create a violation of the license?
What if it were restored to a different computer (or many different

I do think that the question you raise about the different treatment of
source and binary by OSD#4 is an important question, and I would like to
see the IPA folks answer how they see this distinction, and whether the
fact of this distinction might cause them to change anything in their


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