Simon Pascal Klein

Licensing and Greek Baskerville

Posted by Simon Pascal Klein on February 6th 2009 06:37 AM

So as noted on the Open Baskerville page, there is a toss up between the GNU GPL v3 and SIL OFL. We could dual-license if it came down to it, but that sounds like extra complexity and doesn’t deal with the problem faced by the OFL whereby it doesn’t require accessible source versions of published fonts to be made available. Dave explained this better:

A problem with the OFL is that it doesn't require source code for published versions to be available.

This means that someone can take an OFL font, run it though a proprietary tool and publish their improved version without source code, making it very hard for others to further build on that work. This is by design, because the OFL is written for font publishers who don't want to deal with the 'complexity' 'burden' of supplying source code, or type designers who don't really know about or care for software/culture freedom and how copyleft works. For them, the GPL is too much; too long to bother reading, supply source code is too much of a burden, and so on. That's fine, and the OFL is really great at persuading them to make their fonts free software.

But for a project like Open Baskerville, where it is developed from the very start with the intention of being free software, developed communally, and perhaps by default with free software, the situation is quite different. The terms of the GPL are already known about and acceptable, and in fact may be seen as a plus, as it protects against a lack of sources, and GPLv3 even protects from proprietary tool lock-in because it requires source code in an open, documented format. This doesn't lock people out from using proprietary tools like FontLab or Superpolator for fonts that they want to redistribute, but it requires them to use an open format like UFO for the sources.

I hope that as fonts developed primarily in UFO format through a version control system become more widespread, instead of a individual making a font totally on their own and chucking the final TTF/VFBs over the wall with some non-copyleft free software license, then this will become less of a problem.

Something we might want to consider however is that the Greek Font Society has made available a good range of Greek glyphs based on a Baskerville revival of Greek by Sophia Kalaitzidou and George D. Matthiopoulos that was used in a 1763 printing of the New Testament for Oxford University. The site features OTF, TTF, and a PDF specimen (which is worth a look at), but this is the kicker: the work is released under the SIL OFL. Would it be worth considering contacting with the possibility of getting access to UFO files or perhaps even a relicense of the work?

Ultimately I’d like Open Baskerville to be as accessible as possible. It’s license terms should allow it to be packaged with free and proprietary software alike, shared and edited provided all edits are made available in open ‘source’ files. There is a FAQ file provided with the GFS Baskerville downloads on the OFL that is worth going through. I don’t know where to best find such a thing for the GPLv3.

What do you guys think?

  • Simon Pascal Klein

    Simon Pascal Klein February 8th, 2009 @ 02:33 PM

    I’ve decided to dual license the initial commit for now. On that note, you can now find the files for editing at

    I’m going to blog about the project and add the relevant info and links for coming here and for grabbing the font files from github shortly to the main project page. Stay tunned.

  • Simon Pascal Klein

    Simon Pascal Klein February 25th, 2009 @ 01:45 AM

    As a note, the blog entry on the project and subject of open fonts is up. See

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Open Baskerville is an open source project to create a digital revival of the famous ‘Baskerville’ typefaces. To be more exact, Open Baskerville is based upon Fry’s Baskerville, a Baskerville derivative created by Isaac Moore, a punchcutter who worked for John Baskerville. work. The font is to be licensed under either the SIL OFL or the GNU GPL v3.

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