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Unintended Consequences of Using GPL Fonts 514

innocent_white_lamb writes "An interesting discussion has surfaced on the Scribus mailing list. Simply stated, it appears that using GPL-licensed fonts in a document makes your document subject to the GPL. There are a lot of consequences here, such as internal corporate communications. It appears to make the use of GPL fonts undesirable in almost any document." Yes, it sounds crazy, but the experimental font-exception addition to the GPL (linked from the discussion) lends the idea some credence.
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Unintended Consequences of Using GPL Fonts

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  • Presensation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fembots ( 753724 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:26PM (#12264120) Homepage
    I thought that using GPL fonts only make your document's presentation subject to the GPL, since fonts only change presensation of the information but not the information itself.

    So isn't it the case either you can use the fonts, or not.
    • Why not... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bmac83 ( 869058 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:39PM (#12264233) Homepage
      Why not use the Lesser GPL (LGPL) [gnu.org] for fonts? Wouldn't that solve the problem?
      • Re:Why not... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by m50d ( 797211 )
        Absolutely. I'm surprised these are seen as "unintended consequences", since wanting this is the only reason I can think of for having your fonts GPLed.
      • Re:Why not... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nimrangul ( 599578 )
        Or even better, since it's just a damned font anyways, put it under the god damned public domain so anyone can use it without restrictions.

        I mean, come on, it's a damned font.

        • by vt0asta ( 16536 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:49PM (#12264672)
          Or even better, since it's just a damned font anyways, put it under the god damned public domain so anyone can use it without restrictions.


          I mean, come on, it's a damned font.

          Why do you hate America?

        • by Geoffreyerffoeg ( 729040 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @07:08PM (#12264785)
          put it under the god damned public domain

          Holden Caulfield? Is that you?
        • Re:Why not... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dr.badass ( 25287 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @07:27PM (#12264883) Homepage
          I mean, come on, it's a damned font.

          Perhaps you're not aware that type design is a pretty big business, and that good fonts are an exceptionally valuable product to those who are able to craft them.

          There's also the curious case that typefaces can't be copyrighted in the US. They are considered "property", but not "intellectual property", or something to that effect, while the names can be trademarked. So, they can be copied ("Arial" is basically a copy of "Helvetica", for instance), but not duplicated (you can't call your Helvetica-clone face "Helvetica").

          It's all very weird and it doesn't surprise me that there are strange legal possibilites cropping up. Type property rights have been argued over for as long as there has been type.
          • Re:Why not... (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Doctor_Jest ( 688315 ) *
            Simple solution: Make the font GPL, but if you use it in documentation, it's not subject to GPL, only if the font's used in a program like Scribus, Word, Open Office, and so forth.

            That way the font can be used by anyone to make a proprietary document, but if you intend to use the font for your program, you have to abide by the GPL.

            Thus, end users are exempted from putting their documents under the GPL (that just sounds dang odd... my words are now GPLed because of the font I used?) I don't recall Micros
            • Re:Why not... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by dr.badass ( 25287 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @12:28AM (#12266477) Homepage
              Simple solution: Make the font GPL, but if you use it in documentation, it's not subject to GPL, only if the font's used in a program like Scribus, Word, Open Office, and so forth.

              That's basically what the "experimental exception" bit was about. Though to clarify the issue (muddied by the inaccurate Slashdot post) -- the problem was over embedding a font in a document. In that case, you're including code (typefaces are bytecode) in a larger work, which the GPL is pretty clear about.

              The real conclusion is that the GPL isn't such a good idea for typefaces. For what it's worth, it doesn't even sound like there are any.

              I don't recall Microsoft owning my documents because I used their Wingdings font.

              You're confusing several different issues.
              First, Microsoft wouldn't "own" your documents like this because Wingdings isn't under the GPL.

              However, Wingdings is still subject to the license that Microsoft granted you to use it. You can't (under that license) copy it to another computer that doesn't have it. If you embed it in a Word document, and sent it to another computer, that computer will be able to display it, but not use it in other documents, unless it already has it.

              Second, "owning" isn't even right in reference to the GPL -- the issue is whether the GPL of the embedded font "infects" your document, making it GPL. Even then, it's your copyrighted document, and you are free to re-license it as you please. You just can't legally license it as anything but GPL as long as you have that embeded GPL typeface.

              Again, the only real conclusion here is that the GPL isn't really a good way to license fonts. This shouldn't be surprising to anyone.
        • by StuffJustHappens ( 869989 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @07:55PM (#12265010)
          All your (upper and lower) case are belong to us!?
    • Yeah, but if the presented form is GPL you have to include source, which would presumably mean the original.
    • Re:Presensation (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:45PM (#12264280)
      Worth mentioning is something Adobe came up against when attempting to copyright fonts in the completeness.

      You can't copyright the font face, what a font looks like. I don't know whether this is a specific exception in copyright law for fonts and other entities like them however.

      What you can copyright are all the other particular parts to the font such as kerning & positioning info, the particular set of characters in the font, or the font file itself (whatever format it may be).

      No matter whether you use a GPL font, or one of Adobe's most expensive & protected DRM'd font, the font copyright owner has absolutely no hold over works created with that font whatsoever.
      • Re:Presensation (Score:5, Informative)

        by rebeka thomas ( 673264 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:50PM (#12264327)
        Exactly. Look at the font faq [nwalsh.com] regarding font face copyrightability.

        You cannot copyright the typeface itself, so documents printed from a font have no link legally with the font used to create it. That's embedded as a specific exception in copyright law.

        You can't embed the font file itself or substantial pieces of the data that created it in a document (such as a PDF) without permission from the owner, and it is there that GPL exceptions may be needed to prevent the entire document from becoming GPL.

        If anybody tells you that a typeface on a document you have created is GPLd, then that has absolutely no legal weight. Can't copyright font typefaces, fullstop.
        • Re:Presensation (Score:4, Interesting)

          by anthony_dipierro ( 543308 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:12PM (#12264467) Journal

          You can't embed the font file itself or substantial pieces of the data that created it in a document (such as a PDF) without permission from the owner, and it is there that GPL exceptions may be needed to prevent the entire document from becoming GPL.

          If you're just embedding the font without any changes in a document, it seems clear to me that this is an aggregation, and not the creation of a separate work. From the GPL, "mere aggregation of another work not based on the Program with the Program (or with a work based on the Program) on a volume of a storage or distribution medium does not bring the other work under the scope of this License."

        • Re:Presensation (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Roger_Wilco ( 138600 )

          This is interesting.

          So Knuth's METAFONT does something useful; when you compile a TeX document, the font stored in the resulting file is bitmapped, so not subject to copyright.

          Newer LaTeX setups with vector fonts could be subject to this, if the fonts are GPL'd.

        • Re:Presensation (Score:5, Insightful)

          by williamhb ( 758070 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:42PM (#12264638) Journal
          A) This all fails the reasonable expectation test. It's not a contract if one of the parties could not reasonably have known what they were agreeing to. Or some technical interpretation of it. (The "reasonable person" using a font is not a computer expert, but an average joe with a wordprocessor)

          B) A huge difference between this and modifying GPL code is that it is impossible to argue that a document is a derivative work of the font it was printed in. ..from A and B we can conclude...

          C) If this ever went to court [incredibly unlikely], the result would be "oh, ok I'll substitute a different font" not "suddenly all my documents are GPL". So the GPL isn't met and nothing else gives a license to use the font - that just means the suee'd have to stop using the font, not that the document would magically become GPL'd. Chances of damages in this kind of ridiculous logic-chopping of how fonts are implemented in typesetting documents: not a lot.

          And can you honestly see the copyright owner of a font chasing document writers? (After all, the person launching the suit has to have an "interest" in the case - they can't just be a bystander making mischief or the courts won't hear it).

          Not that big an issue after all, then.
          • Re:Presensation (Score:5, Insightful)

            by potentiallyprofound ( 876749 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @07:03PM (#12264755)
            "A huge difference between this and modifying GPL code is that it is impossible to argue that a document is a derivative work of the font it was printed in. ..from A and B we can conclude..." Sure, a text file is probably not going to be a derivative of the font, but how about a logo, or a poster layout, or an advertisement? In graphic design, at least in my experience, it would be very easy to argue that the final design itself is a derivative of the style of the font.
  • by Future Man 3000 ( 706329 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:26PM (#12264121) Homepage
    Just my opinion, but a document isn't a program, and when you distribute a document you are ipso fatso distributing the source (or everything you need to "compile and run" the document.)

    While I would like to see clarification, this seems like an attack on the GPL...

    • by cbiffle ( 211614 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:31PM (#12264174)
      Fonts are programs, as odd as that may sound. Postscript fonts are the obvious examples here, but Truetype fonts are also interpreted bytecode.

      Whether or not documents are programs is debatable, but they are information that makes a computer behave a certain way. They take interpreter software (your reader software), but then, so does Java or Perl.

      So if you're sufficiently nutty (and if you're involved in interpreting the GPL, you will be), using a font in a document is a lot like linking.

      Now, you're right, generally you do distribute the 'source.' However, it's possible to embed fonts into a document (in a PDF, for example) and strip out the unused characters, which wouldn't be a full copy of the source. Moreover, you could print or otherwise rasterize the document, thereby losing the font source -- which is basically equivalent to compiling the source into binaries.

      IMHO, this is all really insane. But I don't release code under the GPL anyway.
      • XML (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Uber Banker ( 655221 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:39PM (#12264231)
        A little off-the-wall here:

        If a document's contents were in a file which mapped to a style sheet, a la HTML and CSS, or perhaps the more general purpose XML, then the contents (HTML) could be GPL conditions free, but the overall presentation would be subject to it.

      • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:59PM (#12264387) Journal
        Fonts have a whole bunch of bizarre rules covering the intellectual property involved with them, so it's not surprising the GPL needs to e tweaked a bit to deal with them. The names tend to be trademarks (so you'll see fonts named "TmsRmn" which are obviously trying to indicate their similarity to the canonical Linotype "Times" Roman font [linotype.com] ("Times is a Trademark of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG".) The black marks on paper tend not to be actually covered by copyright - if you design a font that makes the same black marks on paper as "Times", either using lead slugs or tiny bitmaps or whatever, you can use and sell it. That doesn't mean you can copy somebody else's copyrighted Postscript code, and you're probably not allowed to directly copy somebody else's bitmaps, even though you can make identical bitmaps of your own. (Yes, it's a really dodgy field...)

        Some fonts *are* programs, like Postscript. Some are bunches of black dots (or other shapes like lines or ovals, or other colors, especially grays if you like anti-aliasing.) Some are bunches of equations. Some are programs in languages other than Postscript that implement equations to produce black dots. Some are stacks of twisty little metal pieces, all different, carved by hand. Some are programs to produce stacks of twisty little metal pieces.

    • Well, it would be nice to be able to distrbute a confidential document with GPL fonts, it would also be nice to distribute one without the GPL (for example a one page letter would be real awkward with a long liscense attached.

      The source is not the only thing required to be attached to the GPL, the right to redistribute is not always a good thing to give to people (medical records etc.).
    • by ComputerSlicer23 ( 516509 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:38PM (#12264222)
      The GPL requires that you put no further limitations on the re-distribution of said document.

      I'll also point out that for a LaTeX document, I'm not giving you the prefered source format. If I generated the document from LaTeX source, and gave you the PDF version with an embedded GPL'ed font, you could easily claim I didn't give you the "preferred format". If I printed the document and handed it to you, that's not in electronic format, which is against the GPL (I'd have to at the very least give you a written offer for the document in electronic format good for at least 3 years if I remember the clauses correctly).

      You couldn't print Trade Secrets in a font that is GPL'ed, as it would inheriently have more limitations added to it that the GPL doesn't allow.

      Personally, I think GPL'ing a font is a lot like me saying I'm GPL'ing the blueprints to my house. It doesn't make any sense. I suppose it makes some, in the context of a derived work. However, I'm fairly doubtful it'd stand up to scruity in court. It probably means you are a copyright infringer, but as a license, it's fairly incoherent when applied to a font.

      Kirby

  • Internal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HRbnjR ( 12398 ) <chris@hubick.com> on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:27PM (#12264128) Homepage
    How does this effect "internal corporate communications"? It is my understanding that you are allowed to use and modify GPL licensed software *internally* without having to release your changes.
    • Yeah, I like your line of thinking....

      Consider also, the GPL does not force you to distribute to EVERYONE, only the people who have received binaries from you. This would be the obvious case when passing a text document around. Like all other GPL code, the receipients can consider if they want to pass it on further.

      I really don't see this as a problem. There's no way that they could possibly mean that all your documents would need to be made available for everyone. Why, the only way that everything yo
      • Re:Internal? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Cylix ( 55374 ) * on Sunday April 17, 2005 @07:02PM (#12264751) Homepage Journal
        Yeah,

        Then of course, just because you compile programs with GCC or write a script that uses the PHP interpreter does not make it open source.

        I think this story should be -2 Troll

        I really don't understand how someone reaches the belief that a font would require the document to be open source as well.

        Unless you are storing your fonts inside the document itself.
  • by Artega VH ( 739847 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:27PM (#12264132) Journal
    From the GPL Faq [gnu.org]

    As a special exception, if you create a document which uses this font, and embed this font or unaltered portions of this font into the document, this font does not by itself cause the resulting document to be covered by the GNU General Public License. This exception does not however invalidate any other reasons why the document might be covered by the GNU General Public License. If you modify this font, you may extend this exception to your version of the font, but you are not obligated to do so. If you do not wish to do so, delete this exception statement from your version. (emphasis mine)
    • by Artega VH ( 739847 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:30PM (#12264161) Journal
      After reading my own comment I think I see the problem...

      Also from the GPL Faq is that you need to specifically add the exception text to the license. If this was not done then yes there is a problem.. Otherwise then there wouldn't be... As per usual the slashdot blurb is a bit sensationalist...
      • by shellbeach ( 610559 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:39PM (#12264235)
        Also from the GPL Faq is that you need to specifically add the exception text to the license. If this was not done then yes there is a problem.. Otherwise then there wouldn't be... As per usual the slashdot blurb is a bit sensationalist...

        Actually, the important point in the FAQ you quoted is that it only applies to embedded fonts. Thus the /. blurb is completely wrong AFAICS - you can use the font without any license restrictions being imparted on your own documents provided you don't embed it in the document. So while this may be an issue if you send off artwork to a printhouse, if you don't embed the fonts but just include a copy of each font (and relevant license info) along with the artwork I'm guessing that should be fine.
      • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:45PM (#12264282) Journal
        The font exception wording does clarify that using the fonts doesn't mean that all your text are belong to us. I don't see that meaningfully saying that without the exception, that you've got legal problems, though it may be useful to calm down some lawyers, especially armchair lawyers or lawyers who are already paranoid about contaminating their intellectual property.

        In some cases, a font is a program, especially in Postscript; in other cases, it's a set of bitmaps or curves or equations. Using a GPLed font *could* require that if you're including the binaries of the font in a document you give somebody, you might be required to tell them where to get source code for the font (if the font is the kind of program where there's a meaningful difference between the source and the binary, which isn't usually the case for Postscript fonts.) At worst, some people could argue that it could require that if you've printed a document using the GPL'd font, that you provide information on how to get the font program, but that's somewhat like saying that if you use a GPL'd version of printf, then anything you print out needs to include a GPL notice and information on where to get the source code.

        So calm down. This isn't a case of GNU/RMS being expansively greedy for ownership of everything everybody writes or prints. On the other hand, if you do modify GPL'd fonts, then GPL coverage of the modified versions is a perfectly reasonably thing.

      • by Elwood P Dowd ( 16933 ) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:09PM (#12264449) Journal
        But the main BS angle from the writeup is this:
        it appears that using GPL-licensed fonts in a document makes your document subject to the GPL. There are a lot of consequences here, such as internal corporate communications.
        Even if using a GPL font requires all documents using that font to be GPLed, that doesn't make your business document GPLed. It means that you cannot legally distribute your business document except under the GPL, which is very very different. If you illegally distribute your document not under the GPL, you've committed a copyright violation. That still doesn't put it under the GPL. It just means that you will have to stop publishing the document until you stop using the infringing copyrighted material, and you may be liable for the infringement you've already done. Still, the GPL has not been applied to anything you've produced.

        This just means that GPLed fonts are unusable for non-GPLed documents, not that you'll accidentally GPL your document. Assuming that it's true in the first place. So stop using the unusable fonts, and you'll be fine.
    • You forgot to quote this part:

      To use this exception, add this text to the license notice of each file in the package (to the extent possible), at the end of the text that says the file is distributed under the GNU GPL:

      It clearly doesn't apply if a font is distributed under the GPL without such an addition.
    • by captnitro ( 160231 ) * on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:40PM (#12264237)
      So somebody clear this up for me. I'm a graphic designer, and in the past have enjoyed the Bitstream Vera line of GPL fonts, though usually I find them too 'plain' to use in much design at all.

      Theoretically, do I need to be distributing the my Fireworks/PS files themselves or just the fonts? Obviously I'm a bit confused as to how this works, and hadn't considered that the GPL would apply to my "documents", many of which I've sold.

      Back to Frutiger.
  • Doesn't make sense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TelJanin ( 784836 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:27PM (#12264134)
    Using a GPL-ed font in a document would be just like using a GPL-ed IDE, I would think. Why would the license of the tools affect the license of the finished product?
    • Linking a document against a font sounds a lot like linking a binary against a library, and if you want to allow that (as in, for example, an IDE), you want to be using the LGPL, so I guess it sorta makes sense. For example, glibs is LGPL iirc, and the Linux kernel adds a special exemption for closed code making system calls.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Using a GPL-ed font in a document would be just like using a GPL-ed IDE, I would think.

      That depends what type of document.

      When you create a program with an IDE, does the IDE get included in the program it creates? No.

      When you create a document that uses a certain font, does that font get included in the document? In many cases, yes.

      I'm surprised that this is so controversial, it seems plainly obvious to me. Are you copying fonts? Then you need a license. The GPL is one such license.

      • Most documents (eg, OpenOffice and MS Office formats) simply say which font to use. They do not actually include the font itself. This is no different from an IDE including a little "Created in XXXX" comment in the source code.

        If it were a format that actually included the font itself, but just applied the saved font to the text, the point still stands. Distributing the document at all would distribute the code for the font.

        If you were going to take the GPL-ed font, use it in a document, and then print th
      • by danila ( 69889 )
        I'm surprised that this is so controversial, it seems plainly obvious to me. Are you copying fonts? Then you need a license. The GPL is one such license.

        This is obvious. What isn't so obvious is whether the document is a derivative work. I'd say it isn't. If I write a Java program, that doesn't make it a derivative work based on the JVM, no matter whether I distribute it with or without said JVM. If I write a Visual Basic program, it doesn't become derivative work based on the runtime library, even if di
    • by m50d ( 797211 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:45PM (#12264287) Homepage Journal
      Far closer to a gpl-ed library, because the font is part of the finished product - the letters of the font are in the document. No ide code ends up in the finished program
  • Why hasn't this clause been added to the official GPL itself? Who would want to require anyone who uses their fonts to make their program GPL'ed? That would seem very odd.
  • if MS copied the windows source code and typed it up in MS word using a GPL font? :)
  • Doubtful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ryvar ( 122400 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:30PM (#12264157) Homepage
    This sounds a lot more like the usual Slashdot panic-attack than anything actually factual, and unlike the SCO case I think testing this in court would result in a significant weakening of the GPL. That said, if we assume for the moment that this is the case, I would pay a metric fuckton of money to hear Stallman try and defend it.

    --Ryv
  • I have heard that fonts hold a special position when it comes to copyright legislation. Visual appearance of fonts can not be copyrighted, but font names can be.

    This is a layman rumour, don't take my word for it, but since GPL builds upon copyright legislation, it could mean that the GPL license does not hold in this case.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Extensions to the font or the typeface family should be covered by the GPL. For example, if I extend a GPL'd font by adding additional characters I should have to respect the GPL.

    The GPL should not have anything to do with the text that I have happened to render in a GPL'd font.

  • There are some things that the GPL should stay out of. This is a perfect case to demonstrate that the GPL is not the perfect solution for every situation. Hopefully this is a wake up call for all those who treat the GPL as gospel. Back to the drawing board for RMS, I suppose.....
    • Yes, there is public domain as well ;-)

      Hehehe.

      I think *shock* the license should be product specific. Clearly a font and a PNG library are meant to be used differently. Why you'd use the GPL for both ...

      If anything fonts should be LGPL since they're part of the document but you're not modifying them...

      Tom
  • by LuxFX ( 220822 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:32PM (#12264187) Homepage Journal
    If you think it's bad that using certain fonts makes your documents 'open' -- then watch out for those GPL'd words! If you use words like "open," "free," or "fair" or phrases like "as in speech" or "as in beer" then your document will also fall under GPL licensing!

    When asked for comments, a Microsoft spokesperson said, "Well, we certainly don't know anything about 'open' or 'free,' and I'm pretty certain our company has never acknowledged the existance of the word 'fair.' We will be opening an investigation to make sure that other communist...uh...GPL'd phrases are not and will not ever appear in our literature."
  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:32PM (#12264189) Journal
    Cmon, boys, you missed April 1st by a good 16 days, now...

    Why would using a font make the end-product fall under the GPL?

    First of all, if you haven't changed the font itself, you have no obligation to provide it to anyone - Just like with GPL'd software.

    Second, if you only use it for within an organization, you have no obligation to provide it to anyone - Just like with GPL'd software.

    Third, the license under which a given tool falls does not usually extend to what it creates - I can use GCC to compile non-GPL code, I can use GIMP to create non-GPL (or CC, in this case?) artwork, and I can use OO to produce non-GFDL documents.

    So why would any of the above magically differ for a font?
    • by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) <tomstdenis@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:39PM (#12264232) Homepage
      You're distributing a copy of the font inside the document. So if you [for instance] have whitepapers on your website you're distributing the font. That means you have to give the source to whatever you made with it away as well. Of course since you intend to give the document out anyways this has no bearing.

      A different angle would be TeX documents... this means I would have to give out the source for the font and the TeX along with PDFs I give out. Again not the end of the world I guess.

      Like you said I too can't see how this actually impacts on how people use tools. Perhaps this is more MSFT inspired FUD?

      Maybe we should get the authors of the fonts to weigh in. I suspect they don't give a rats ass provided copyright has been attributed properly.

      Tom
    • The font is a part of the finished document in a way the gimp isn't a part of a picture and gcc isn't a part of the code it makes. Under today's ridiculous copyright interpretation I can very much believe that having a font used in a document would mean the document was legally a derivative of the font.
    • by Noksagt ( 69097 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:42PM (#12264261) Homepage
      First of all, if you haven't changed the font itself, you have no obligation to provide it to anyone - Just like with GPL'd software.
      While your analogy holds true for LGPL, it doesn't for the GPL. ANY redistribution of GPLed software is bound by the GPL & that says that any DERIVED WORKS of GPLed software must also be GPLed. Which is why coders who are writing software under a license more restrictive than the GPL avoid GPLed libraries.
    • While I think you understand the spirit of the GPL, the facts are a little different.

      First of all, if you haven't changed the font itself, you have no obligation to provide it to anyone - Just like with GPL'd software.

      In fact, anyone who distributes GPL software in binary form is obligated to distribute the source, whether or not they've made modifications to the source.

      Second, if you only use it for within an organization, you have no obligation to provide it to anyone - Just like with GPL'd software
  • GNU Privacy Guard (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shimmer ( 3036 ) <brianberns@gmail.com> on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:33PM (#12264194) Homepage Journal
    So if I encrypt using GPG [gnupg.org], does that mean all my e-mails are covered by the GPL? Yikes.
  • by duncan ( 16437 ) <chuckf410@NOSPAM.yahoo.com> on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:33PM (#12264195)
    They would be more of an idiot than SCO and MS combined.

    And I don't say this as a troll.
  • by Husgaard ( 858362 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:40PM (#12264240)
    ...not other content like fonts.

    This is just another example of why using the GPL for content other than programs is a bad idea.

  • Anti Open-Source groups are going to have a feild day with this one. Time to batten down the hatches.
  • Assuming there wasnt an exception, I very much doubt this would hold up. As a document itself is the content, and the font is a visualization tool, the font doesn't change the content. It is part of the display of said document.

    It is somewhat analogous to saying GIMP to make an image, the image does not become part of the GPL.

    Also with a font, a document is not typically intended to be a font distribution method. Fonts are almost always distributed as stand alone objects to be installed in your system. No
  • No no no. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BillsPetMonkey ( 654200 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:46PM (#12264298)
    The font is defined as "the Program" in the GPL - therefore if you modify the font your work is subject to GPL. The document is not.

    If I use a GPL program to assist creation of a website, that website is not then subject to GPL.

    This story is addressing a non-issue
  • by Malor ( 3658 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:50PM (#12264321) Journal
    I haven't looked at the Scribus format, but very few programs encapsulate the actual font data inside a document. In essence, most word processors include pointers to a given font, but if you don't have the font on your system, it doesn't magically just show up. Instead, you get a replacement font mapping.

    In other words, I'm just saying "I thought this document would work best with font X", which would in no way create a GPL obligation. PDFs do, however, include actual font data, so you could presumably be creating a GPL obligation by publishing one.

    But remember, unless you EXPLICITLY license a copyright you hold as releasable under the GPL, simply including other GPLed work with it DOES NOT make you lose the rights to your code. You are violating the copyright on the GPLed section, and you may be liable for damages for doing so, but it's not like you magically lose control over the code you wrote yourself.

    When you combine your own output with GPLed ouput, the resulting program, in essence, has at least two owners... you, and the person or people who wrote the GPLed section. You can't lose ownership of your code by combining it with GPLed code. You still own the part you created.

    Likewise, you can't lose ownership of your document by publishing it with GPL fonts. Even if the GPL is found to be applicable here, about the worst that could happen would be a forced rerelease with a different font. You will never lose control of the actual document information. And the chance of a copyright-infringement lawsuit is nearly zero. In this scenario, it's not clearly obvious that a violation occurred, and the actual damages are most likely zero, since GPLed fonts are usually free-as-in-beer. About the worst that's likely to happen is a nasty letter from some zealot somewhere in the OSS community.

    I think I can safely risk that.
  • Derived work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by claes ( 25551 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:53PM (#12264349)
    GPL refers to derived work. It is foolish to believe that text that written in a word processor is a derived work from the font that is used. Written text is not derived from a font. Text is derived from thought processes in the author's brain. Chage the font - the message will still come across, the message is there even without the font. The font has nothing to do with the text, whether it is distributed with the document or not. It has as much to do with the content in the document as the color of the reader's glasses.
  • Controversey Lovers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KidSock ( 150684 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:58PM (#12264380)
    Simply stated, it appears that using GPL-licensed fonts in a document makes your document subject to the GPL.

    For whatever reason, there are some people who just LOVE contronversey. They LIKE to get into big flame wars on mailing lists. These people are TROLLS and should be ignored. This one's not even close to being right. A document is not a derived work of a font. Is a document with copyrighted Adobe fonts subject to that font's license? If you extracted the font from the document and created a new font file THAT would be a violation but the document itself is a separate work. This is just like the apache fools who claim the LGPL is not suitable for Java libraries. The Sun libraries constitute the standard environment of the Java language. These guys need to actually read the GPL before that make such rediculous claims.

    Also, the GPL and LGPL is slightly subject to some community interpretation. To some extent it is what we say it is. That's why what these folks are doing is also a little dangerous. I claim the LGPL is ok for Java libs. Who's going to stop me from shipping my library as LGPL? Linux binary only modules are not subject to GPL. Why? Because Linus says the're not derived works of the Kernel. I'm pretty sure everyone will conclude that documents that use GPL fonts should not be GPL. And therefore they aren't.

    Ignore these IP-issue sensationalizing trolls. They just want something to argue about. Let them argue - in courier.
  • No, it doesn't. (Score:5, Informative)

    by anthony_dipierro ( 543308 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:08PM (#12264439) Journal

    Simply stated, it appears that using GPL-licensed fonts in a document makes your document subject to the GPL.

    No it doesn't. A derivative work which is derived from both your document and the fonts must be released under the GPL (which is different from saying that it automatically is released under the GPL), but in any case the document itself need not be released under the GPL. From the GPL:

    These requirements apply to the modified work as a whole. If identifiable sections of that work are not derived from the Program, and can be reasonably considered independent and separate works in themselves, then this License, and its terms, do not apply to those sections when you distribute them as separate works. But when you distribute the same sections as part of a whole which is a work based on the Program, the distribution of the whole must be on the terms of this License, whose permissions for other licensees extend to the entire whole, and thus to each and every part regardless of who wrote it.
    Thus, it is not the intent of this section to claim rights or contest your rights to work written entirely by you; rather, the intent is to exercise the right to control the distribution of derivative or collective works based on the Program.
    In addition, mere aggregation of another work not based on the Program with the Program (or with a work based on the Program) on a volume of a storage or distribution medium does not bring the other work under the scope of this License.

    Finally, all this needs to be combined with the fact that fonts are probably not copyrightable in the first place, at least not in the United States.

  • by lakeland ( 218447 ) <lakeland@acm.org> on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:11PM (#12264463) Homepage
    I remember an early version of yacc was GPLed (GPL v1 from memory). That included the boiler-plate code which it inserted into your program, which means every parser built using it was using GPLed code.

    Just as in this case, that was an accident and after much apologising the yacc people relicenced the boilerplate code to public domain. It simply is not the intention of free software developers to 'infect' other programs.

    I would anticipate a very similar solution in this case. The licence for the fonts just needs a minor tweak explicitly allowing their inclusion and everything goes back to how you'd expect.

    It's legalesse. People stuff up occasionally. When they notice, they fix it and move on.
  • Nonsense (Score:5, Informative)

    by cfulmer ( 3166 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:25PM (#12264530) Homepage Journal
    I am not a lawyer. Go see one if you need advice.

    By my reading, there are two cases in which the GPL requires you to allow others to reproduce your work.

    1. If you "modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion of it ... and copy and distribute such modifications ..." (Paragraph 2).

    Even if you assume that the font is a "Program," you are not modifying your copy of the font by using it.

    2. "You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form ... provided that you also do one of the following...."

    Fonts are not in either object code or executable form, so no problem here.

    3. "Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license form the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program...."

    But, that's not a problem -- they get your document and they get a right to modify the font from the original licensor.

    Incidently, how many GPL'd fonts are distributed with the font equivalent of "Source Code" -- the data file used by whatever font program you used?

    One reason that we have so many competing Open Source Licenses is that the GPL is not exactly clear in a lot of areas. For example, section 2 says "You may modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion of it, thus forming a work based on the Program," and a "work based on the program" is defined to be "the program or any derivative work under copyright law." But, does that mean that section 2 applies to all derivative works or only to modificiations of the original program? I'm guessing the intent was that it should apply to all derivative works, but it actually reads like it only applies to modifications. Not all derivative works are modifications.

    There's a rule of construction in contract cases that says that you "construe the contract against the drafter." In the case of fonts, that probably means that writing a document using a font is not covered by the GPL.
  • by borgheron ( 172546 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:40PM (#12264627) Homepage Journal
    IANAL, but here goes:

    The GPL repeatedly refers to "the Program" or "a Program" and it's "source code".

    A document, which is data, cannot be construed to be code, it's quite as simple as that.

    Using a font, in the document, further, does not make the document a "derivative work" of the font nor does the document "link with" the font in the usual sense, as the document only references the font in it's metadata.

    In short. The author of the above article is totally full of it and doesn't know what he/she is talking about as are all of the fine souls on the scribus list.

    GJC
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:55PM (#12264705) Homepage
    This sounds like complete and utter FUD.

    The GPL is about taking an existing free work, adding to it and then giving it back to the community who owns it. If I compiled code using 'gcc' would the binary resulting then become subject to the GPL? I don't think so.

    While a font isn't a tool like gcc, it's still an unmodified component used. At the very worst, you might be required to accompany the font(s) used to create the document along with the GPL agreement, but to require the document become GPL is utter ridiculousness. (Is that a word? if it's not, then I hereby copyright, trademark and patent the word.)

    Okay, now I'm going to read this article, but I still think this is bullshit... this truly violates the spirit of the GPL as I do not consider a document to be a derivative work of a font any more than house is a derivative work of the paint used in coating the walls.
  • Apple Geneva, the Helvetica take-off? All the other Apple "city" fonts? All the versions of Courier, Letter Gothic, and of course Helvetica again and again and again?

    The appearance of fonts can not be copyrighted in the US, which means in practice they can't be copyrighted. That's why there's lookalike fonts all over the place.

    I call FUD.
  • Use, or embed? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @05:43AM (#12267571) Homepage
    After looking at the font exception they mentioned, it looks to me as though this only applies if you embed the font in your document. Simply using the font doesn't trigger the source requirement, and the exemption would mean that embedding the font doesn't trigger the requirement either.
  • by shimmin ( 469139 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @08:34AM (#12268116) Journal
    But I thought, much to the chagrin of Adobe et pals, that U.S. Courts had repeatedly denied font copyrightability. While fonts are often patented, and the code used to generate the letters can be copyrighted, the letterforms themselves are not copyrighted. And if no copyright resides in the letters, the GPL is toothless, isn't it?
  • Bad example. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mpe ( 36238 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @09:47AM (#12268651)
    There are a lot of consequences here, such as internal corporate communications.

    This is probably the worst possible example. Since there is only one party, the corporation in question, involved here. The GPL would only be any kind of an issue here in the case of external communications.

    It appears to make the use of GPL fonts undesirable in almost any document.

    It is also relevent if the document is electronic or printed...
  • by rew ( 6140 ) <r.e.wolff@BitWizard.nl> on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @05:11AM (#12290614) Homepage
    In the INTERPRETATION of the normal GPL someone decided that "derived work" would include linked-binaries. Even if say you just included a verbatim copy of a certain GPL library function.

    The intent of GPL is that you get the source, and are free to modify the source. If you do so, and distribute the result, you also get to distribute your modifications to the original source.

    In the case of the font, do you use the source of the font to modify it a little bit, and distribute the results?

    If you write a spreadsheet using gnumeric, does the spreadsheet become GPL? Ah, it's a separate file? but what if you print-to-ps an extract of the spreadsheet and intend to distribute that? (but not your formulas). Now your spreadsheet is sort of "linked" with the GPL stuff from gnumeric into one file. Is the separate "source" (your spreadsheet) suddenly "derived" from the gnumeric source? Come on!

    What prompted the GPL was that the BSD licence allowed SUN and DEC to take BSD, fix bugs, and then sell the result. This meant that they both had to fix the same bugs separately from the "open source" people. This is a waste of time. DEC and SUN clearly had a "derived" product.

    If I make a program that does something, but requires say a CRC32. I can find a GPL CRC32 source on the internet, and I'd argue that as long as I don't modify a byte in the crc32.c file, my whole directory with sources isn't suddenly a derived work of the crc32.c that I got from the internet. Similarly, if I compile it and happen to statically link the binary, all of my sources are not suddenly derived from the crc32.c I found on the internet. Now the binary still DOES contain GPL stuff. So I get to provide the LICENCE file with my software, and I need to make the crc32.c source available to anyone who asks.

    Suppose I write proprietary software. Suppose I distribute it on a CD, and I decide to put a small GPL utility on the CD as well. These two are "linked" on the cd.img.iso image, right? Suddenly my million lines of code are "derived" from that simple GPL utility source code? Get reasonable!

    Of course people buying the CD get the right to the source of the utility.

    Of course people getting a "linked" version of your document with GPL fonts get the right to the source of the GPL font. But they don't automatically get the right to publish (modified or not) versions of your document.

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