[Gllug] font annoyance of the day

Tethys sta296 at astradyne.co.uk
Thu May 17 22:02:09 UTC 2007

John Southern writes:

>What is the current status on font copyright?

Same as it always has been. In the USA, the glyph shapes themselves
are not directly copyrightable. Thus for computerised fonts, Adobe
deliberately made PostScript fonts valid PostScript programs,
specifically so that they could be given copyright protection.

There's nothing stopping people making very accurate recreations of
a typeface, so long as they don't use the same control point data as
the original. Indeed, various people have made copies of the standard
PostScript fonts -- such as those distributed with Ghostscript,
for example. And Arial is widely acknowledged to be a poor man's
Helvetica -- there are significant differences between the two, but
crucially, they share the same metrics. There is some abiguity about
whether font metrics are copyrightable. Common sense would seem to
dictate that font metrics shouldn't be copyrightable, but I seem to
recall legal action being taken over the matter a few years ago.
Unfortunately, I can't remember the details (or indeed the outcome).

In the UK, glyphs from a given typeface are copyrightable, but you
would need to show that the design is sufficiently unique in order
to be able to enforce that. Thus a display font like Roger Excoffon's
Calypso might be copyrightable, but a sans-serif Helvetica clone
probably wouldn't be.

>Does any company offer a font pack for OpenOffice or is there a portal
>site for copyright free fonts?

>From what I recall, OpenOffice is not particularly unique in terms of
its font handling. Any supported X11 font (which these days means anything
that fontconfig understands) should work. There are hundreds of sites on
the net offering free fonts, although you'll need to check the licenses,
as many of them aren't as free as the download site might imply. If you
want a truly free font collection, then you could try here:


Ray Larabie also makes his collection of TrueType fonts freely available
(although the PostScript and OpenType versions aren't free) under a fairly
permissive free (beer) license:


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