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Legality of using Fonts

P: n/a
I have a question for all you Pythoneers out there. I'm making a game
with Python, and have a need for fonts. I am currently using a free
TrueType font, but am considering switching to a bitmap font instead.

Let's say I own a font, and use it in a paint program to 'draw some
text' on a picture that I slap up on the Internet. Everything's
probably fine, right? But what if I draw some text on a bitmap on the
hard drive, add drop shadows and decorations, and use it to 'blit' text
in a game? The answer is less obvious to me then.

Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated!

--Kamilche

Feb 10 '06 #1
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10 Replies


P: n/a
Kamilche wrote:
I have a question for all you Pythoneers out there. I'm making a game
with Python, and have a need for fonts. I am currently using a free
TrueType font, but am considering switching to a bitmap font instead.

Let's say I own a font, and use it in a paint program to ....


Typically you don't "own" a font, but you have a license to use it.
You need to read the license to figure out what you are allowed to do
with it.

--Scott David Daniels
sc***********@acm.org
Feb 10 '06 #2

P: n/a
On Fri, 10 Feb 2006 09:08:28 -0800, Kamilche wrote:
I have a question for all you Pythoneers out there. I'm making a game
with Python, and have a need for fonts. I am currently using a free
TrueType font, but am considering switching to a bitmap font instead.

Let's say I own a font, and use it in a paint program to 'draw some
text' on a picture that I slap up on the Internet. Everything's
probably fine, right? But what if I draw some text on a bitmap on the
hard drive, add drop shadows and decorations, and use it to 'blit' text
in a game? The answer is less obvious to me then.

Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated!


Free legal advice you get from non-lawyers on Usenet is worth 10% of what
you paid for it.

But generally speaking, for what it is worth (10% of nothing), you can
distribute *images* you design which happen to incorporate text from a
font, but you cannot distribute the font itself UNLESS the font is
provided under a licence which explicitly permits you to re-distribute it.

It is highly unlikely that any judge will be fooled by a mere change in
format ("but Your Honour, I converted the TTF file into a bitmap"). Adding
decorations and such merely means you have created a derivative work of
the font, which the licence may not permit.

I suggest that you use a font which comes under a clearly free to
distribute licence, or you design your own.
--
Steven.

Feb 10 '06 #3

P: n/a
Yeah, that's what I'm thinking, as well. Showing all the text on an
image is one thing... using that image as the basis of a font engine is
something different.

Luckily, someone has sent me a link to a set of free TrueType fonts -
http://www.gnome.org/fonts , the 'Vera' family. I guess I'll turn those
into bitmaps to stay out of the gray area.

I have other reasons I want to use a bitmap font, other than licensing
issues.

Feb 11 '06 #4

P: n/a
Steven D'Aprano wrote:
It is highly unlikely that any judge will be fooled by a mere change in
format ("but Your Honour, I converted the TTF file into a bitmap").


If that were true, almost the entire X11 bitmap font collection would
be illegal. Fonts aren't subject copyright, just the hints in most
outline fonts, which are considered computer programs.

Ross Ridge

Feb 11 '06 #5

P: n/a
Ross Ridge wrote:
Steven D'Aprano wrote:
It is highly unlikely that any judge will be fooled by a mere change in
format ("but Your Honour, I converted the TTF file into a bitmap").


If that were true, almost the entire X11 bitmap font collection would
be illegal. Fonts aren't subject copyright, just the hints in most
outline fonts, which are considered computer programs.


In the interest of adding some specifics:

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/fonts-faq/part2/

--
Robert Kern
ro*********@gmail.com

"In the fields of hell where the grass grows high
Are the graves of dreams allowed to die."
-- Richard Harter

Feb 11 '06 #6

P: n/a
On 10 Feb 2006 09:08:28 -0800
"Kamilche" <kl*******@comcast.net> wrote:
Let's say I own a font, and use it in a paint program to
'draw some text' on a picture that I slap up on the
Internet. Everything's probably fine, right? But what if I
draw some text on a bitmap on the hard drive, add drop
shadows and decorations, and use it to 'blit' text in a
game? The answer is less obvious to me then.


In fact, the answer depends on what country you are in.

In the United States, the actual visual images of the
characters in a font are not copyrightable material. You can
do anything you like with them.

TrueType, however, adds an extra wrinkle, because a TT font
is actually a *program* to create those images. However,
you can escape this entirely if the only thing you use is
the *rendering* of the characters. You could, for example,
create an entire *bitmap* font at a given font size, by
cutting and pasting output from a TT font.

Using the *name* of the font may be a bit stickier, because
it may well be trademarked (i.e. if you generated your
bitmap font from the FooBar(TM) TTF, you may not be able to
call your font FooBar, though you may get away with calling
it TooBar, or some such thing. Certain fonts that have wide
use in the free-software community, such as the "Lucida"
series have had this problem.

So far, this is all good news for you. But in fact, fonts
can be copyrightable under the laws of some nations, so you
could get into a sticky area just because of that.

I think that even in that case, though, you'd be okay with
just about any font you have a legal right to use.

So, I personally consider that reason enough to prefer free
fonts, and there are quite a few of them available. Many of
them are quite nice. Unfortunately, of course, there is
*not* as much selection as would be nice, and it would be a
great thing if more free-licensed typography was available.
But it is, of course, hard and exacting work that not many
people know how to do well.

Finding truly free-licensed fonts can be a bit difficult
because there are so-many "sort of" free fonts that it
clutters the field. Several good fonts are included in the
Debian Linux distribution, though, and of course, they had
to get debian-legal's stamp of approval to get there, so
they are indeed free. Otherwise, you have to look harder,
and read carefully.

Cheers,
Terry

--
Terry Hancock (ha*****@AnansiSpaceworks.com)
Anansi Spaceworks http://www.AnansiSpaceworks.com

Feb 11 '06 #7

P: n/a
On Fri, 10 Feb 2006 20:24:34 -0800, Ross Ridge wrote:
Steven D'Aprano wrote:
It is highly unlikely that any judge will be fooled by a mere change in
format ("but Your Honour, I converted the TTF file into a bitmap").


If that were true, almost the entire X11 bitmap font collection would
be illegal. Fonts aren't subject copyright, just the hints in most
outline fonts, which are considered computer programs.


This may come as a shock to you, but the USA is not the entire world, and
the US government's decision to exclude typefaces from copyright
protection is anomalous. In almost the entire rest of the world,
typefaces (the design of a font) are able to be copyrighted, and so are
fonts whether they are bitmapped or outline (with or without hints).
See, for example: http://www.typeright.org/feature4.html

In any case, even in the USA, hinted fonts are copyrightable, and merely
removing the hints (say, by converting to a bitmap) is no more legal than
whiting out the author's name from a book and claiming it as your own.

Of course, like all these issues, the actual decision of a judge and jury
in the USA is uncertain -- who knows whether they will consider a
bitmapped version of a TTF font to be a derivative work or not? So even in
the USA, unless you want to spend big dollars on legal fees, the best
advice is to stick to fonts which are distributed under open licences.

--
Steven.

Feb 11 '06 #8

P: n/a

Steven D'Aprano wrote:
In any case, even in the USA, hinted fonts are copyrightable, and merely
removing the hints (say, by converting to a bitmap) is no more legal than
whiting out the author's name from a book and claiming it as your own.


That's an absurd comparison. By making a bitmap font from an hinted
outline font you're only copying the typeface, you're not copying the
hints, the computer program, that's the only part of the font that's
subject copyright. If a book consisted of two parts, the first a play
by Shakespeare, and the second a commentary of that play, and someone
copied only the first part, they'd be doing nothing illegal.
Ross Ridge

Feb 11 '06 #9

P: n/a
On 2/11/06, Steven D'Aprano <st***@removethiscyber.com.au> wrote:
On Fri, 10 Feb 2006 20:24:34 -0800, Ross Ridge wrote:
Steven D'Aprano wrote:
It is highly unlikely that any judge will be fooled by a mere change in
format ("but Your Honour, I converted the TTF file into a bitmap").
If that were true, almost the entire X11 bitmap font collection would
be illegal. Fonts aren't subject copyright, just the hints in most
outline fonts, which are considered computer programs.


This may come as a shock to you, but the USA is not the entire world, and
the US government's decision to exclude typefaces from copyright
protection is anomalous. In almost the entire rest of the world,
typefaces (the design of a font) are able to be copyrighted, and so are
fonts whether they are bitmapped or outline (with or without hints).
See, for example: http://www.typeright.org/feature4.html

In any case, even in the USA, hinted fonts are copyrightable, and merely
removing the hints (say, by converting to a bitmap) is no more legal than
whiting out the author's name from a book and claiming it as your own.


This is absolutely wrong. It is perfectly legal to extract the
non-copyrightable elements of a copyrighted work (the typeface itself,
in this case) and do whatever you want with it.
Of course, like all these issues, the actual decision of a judge and jury
in the USA is uncertain -- who knows whether they will consider a
bitmapped version of a TTF font to be a derivative work or not? So even in
the USA, unless you want to spend big dollars on legal fees, the best
advice is to stick to fonts which are distributed under open licences.

I'd say this is a case that isn't uncertain at all. The lack of
protection for typefaces is not a loophole or unclear convention -
Congress and the copyright office explicitly refuse to extend
copyright protection to typefaces. The loophole, in fact, is the
protection of hinted fonts, which are only protected to the degree
that they are "computer programs", because they are *not* protectable
as fonts, period. Saying it is uncertain is not intellectually honest,
in my opinion.

Now, I personally feel that this is a case where Congress made a poor
decision on all counts - TTF files are a prime example of programs
that should not be copyrightable (mechanical implementation), and
typefaces should be. But that's not the state of affairs in the US.


--
Steven.

--
http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/python-list

Feb 11 '06 #10

P: n/a
Kamilche <kl*******@comcast.net> wrote:
Yeah, that's what I'm thinking, as well. Showing all the text on an
image is one thing... using that image as the basis of a font engine is
something different.

Luckily, someone has sent me a link to a set of free TrueType fonts -
http://www.gnome.org/fonts , the 'Vera' family. I guess I'll turn those
into bitmaps to stay out of the gray area.

I have other reasons I want to use a bitmap font, other than licensing
issues.


You should probably check out X11 misc-fixed family of fonts.
They have free license and are designed from the begining as bitmaps,
which means they are more readable at small sizes (since they were
designed to be displayed at fixed sizes). They are monospaced, which
might be an advantage or not.

--
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Feb 12 '06 #11

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