Creating a for of the Open Font License

Hello, Jérémy Landes here, long-term member of the Velvetyne Type Foundry and writing in the name of the collective.

We have been happy users of the Open Font License for more than 10 years now, releasing over 100 font families under it on our website: http://velvetyne.fr/

These fonts have been used, studied, modified (more and more), redistributed, credited or not, we are all fine with that and that what we are aiming for.

That being said, we always asked ourselves if we couldn’t experiment with our license. We aim to educate people and believe that we made a lot of graphic designers discover and understand what are open fonts and what is open source in general. We think that we could offer them another license and make it legible for them. Recent events made us actively want to change some terms of the OFL.

Reading your FAQ, we know that we can’t start from the OFL without asking you. We acknowledge the work you put in this license and wanted to ask you if we could use some parts of the OFL to build our own license, following your terms: making it specific, clearly different from the OFL and without naming SIL. If so, would you need or want to read the draft of our license?

I hope I haven’t written too much,
thanks again for this great tool that is the OFL,
hoping to hear you soon,
Jérémy Landes

Hi Jérémy -

This is a support forum for SIL fonts, not the OFL, however I think I can briefly answer your question. We don’t recommend that you create your own license based on the OFL. See the OFL-FAQ 8.4:

Question: 8.4 I really like the terms of the OFL, but want to change it a little. Am I allowed to take ideas and actual wording from the OFL and put them into my own custom license for distributing my fonts?

Answer: We strongly recommend against creating your very own unique open licensing model. Using a modified or derivative license will likely cut you off - along with the font(s) under that license - from the community of designers using the OFL, potentially expose you and your users to legal liabilities, and possibly put your work and rights at risk. The OFL went though a community and legal review process that took years of effort, and that review is only applicable to an unmodified OFL. The text of the OFL has been written by SIL (with review and consultation from the community) and is copyright © 2005-2017 SIL International. You may re-use the ideas and wording (in part, not in whole) in another non-proprietary license provided that you call your license by another unambiguous name, that you do not use the preamble, that you do not mention SIL and that you clearly present your license as different from the OFL so as not to cause confusion by being too similar to the original. If you feel the OFL does not meet your needs for an open license, please contact us.

Experimenting with your own license is not a good idea and will likely add rather than reduce confusion for your users. Be aware that adding any restrictions on use or modification will make your license no longer open, and reusing parts of the OFL as described in the answer above is only allowed if the resulting license is also free/libre/open (non-proprietary).

I would be happy to discuss this in more detail with you privately if that would be a help to you.

Thanks,

Victor

Hi Jérémy,

Thanks for making the effort to reach out to us.
(I’m one of the authors and co-maintainers of the OFL along with Victor Gaultney).

Sorry, I don’t have much spare time to discuss this so I’ll try to be brief.
(I assume you mean “fork” in your title here rather than “for”).

Victor already pointed out the relevant OFL FAQ entry. Please take a moment to read it through carefully.

It lays out clearly the requirements from our perspective:

  • we strongly discourage it because license proliferation has lots of downsides
  • if you really want to do it you have permission but only when doing it in a way that minimizes the problems: don’t mention SIL or the OFL where you lifted the ideas and the wording, write your own preamble, give it a wholly different name that does not create confusion or seeks to benefit from the visibility of the OFL for other purposes. Make sure your license is not proprietary.

If your foundry really wants to create a new license you have to be realistic about why and how much effort it will be and for what kind of benefit at the end of the process. We went through various extended rounds of feedback from key stakeholders in the typeface and FLOSS communities. How much time and energy are you considering devoting to this? Taking a quick glance at the current publicly available versions, your license (what I can see in the pilowlava repository) fails OSD (Open source Definition) #5 and #6. And the one on vfl.velvetyne.fr fails OSD #1 as well as #5 and #6. Can I simply recommend you study the definition some more at https://opensource.org/osd ? It’s also at odds with https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.en.html
It also does not comply with our guidelines as described in the OFL FAQ.

Is this just an experiment or are you switching all your fonts to these new licenses ?
Then you probably shouldn’t advertise the open/libre aspect of your foundry if the licenses you intend to use do not comply with the definitions :slight_smile:
Obviously you can have your own foundry EULA whichever way you like, but don’t declare that it’s open if it isn’t :slight_smile:
For a new license to be declared compliant and recognized as such on official lists like https://opensource.org/licenses/alphabetical and https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html there is a long process where you have to argue your case.

You should also bear in mind that people commissionning open fonts (e.g. Google Fonts) are likely to see this with suspicion.
And then there is the compatibility issue with other open fonts under OFL of course.

I’m sorry if this sounds harsh but that’s the current situation.
Hope this helps you get a clearer picture of the issues at hand.

Hey Victor, Nico,
thanks a lot to both of you for having taking the time to answer our questions which such details.

We deeply understand the downsides of creating our own license. It will make it more complicated for most of our users, it will cut us from a lot of open-source ecosystems. But the truth is, we aren’t part of these ecosystems already, so it’s not such a big problem for us.

We also understood that, in fact, we might want to add some restrictions to our license, meaning, and you are right when you say it, that the license, the fonts and the foundry won’t be libre nor open-source anymore, and won’t be advertised as such.

One of the only points which was not exactly clear before and which is now, is the fact that the OFL can only be forked (when it can) to create licenses fully complying with the OSD. We understand this point and won’t proceed with the OFL as a base or reuse parts of it, then.

We are quite conscious about the amount of work we would need to involve to build our own license and that’s why we never pushed it further but feel that’s something we need now. To answer your question, Nico, this is an experiment for now but might be applied to some or our fonts in the future if and when we are satisfied by it.

That being said, the OFL license still is our main option for now and will stay an option for our future releases.

Thanks again for your time,
Jérémy