The Ultimate Guide to Open Font License

Open Font License is a special type of open source license that SIL International designed for use with their Unicode fonts and other associated software with the purpose of enabling the growth of a real open typographic community. According to the Free Software Foundation, OFL is free and fonts using it may be distributed with different computer programs. It is the only type of license that is compatible with digital font characteristics, including how they are designed and used. The first version was released on September 5, 2005.

What OFL Does

Open Font License lays down a legal framework for the development and sharing of fonts throughout the world. It provides a collaborative environment where designers may release their work. It provides a platform for studying, modifying and redistributing fonts freely so long as they do not get sold independently. Such fonts and their derivatives cannot be released using another type of license. However, this does not include the documents the fonts are used to create.

Three types of interests were considered when developing the Open Font License:

• Lawyers: OFL makes use of reputable software lawyers to give it a solid legal base.

• Free software community: Fonts did not have any specific free software license, something that OFL was meant to address. Most free software package maintainers and developers are happy with OFL.

• Type designers: Unless the type designers were happy with the OFL, it was doomed from the start. Many of the designers are happy with the specific conditions included in the license.

This delicate balance ensures that people throughout the world get true free fonts of high quality. OFL is not confined to any computing environment or platform but encourages shared value. Both individuals and organizations can use it.

The Basics of Font Licensing

Use in commercial and personal documents: Every person is free to use fonts in a variety of documents, including PDFs, word processor files and Web pages.

• Redistributing font files: Any person may send font files to a printer together with other pre-press files. However, no one is allowed to independently sell the fonts licensed under OFL although they may be included in programs for which people pay.

• Editing font data: Any person who modifies and redistributes a font must also redistribute the associated source files to enable other people to make changes. In such a case, the edited font should not give the impression of coming from the original designer, including its name. Open Font License makes this requirement to avoid possible confusions.

• Remixing: OFL allows people to modify the fonts they download as much as they like but not redistribute them under typeface names similar to the original files. They may remix as many outlines from different typefaces licensed under OFL as they like.

• Adding to existing typefaces: Anybody who wants to add some characters to an existing typeface must get in touch with the original designer and then offer them as contributions, not new typefaces.

Any font family uploaded must contain a license and include a license document. Adding an Open Font License to a font file is relatively simple:

• Open the font file in FontForge and then select the following options consecutively: Element, Font Info and TTF Names.
• Then click the button marked ‘Add SIL OFL.’
• Double-click on the license field. Ensure the license includes name and email.
• Right-click to save the license as a text file, which is included in the zip file containing the font family to be uploaded.

Although OFL allows people to include fonts originally created by others, they cannot choose the font’s license. If the font has not yet been published under OFL, they must get in touch with the original designers and request them to do so.

How to Use OFL

People can easily employ OFL for their personal font projects. For copyright owners, these are the only necessary steps:

• Use dedicated placeholders to put reserved and copyright names at the start of the main file.
• Put copyright and OFL references in different font files and various components. It is important to have accurate metadata in all font files because different applications expose the details to the user.
• Write the first FONTLOG for the font to be included in the release package.
• Include the Open Font License in the release package.

It is also advisable to include relevant practical documentation in form of OFL-FAQ in the package. OFL graphics may also be used in Web pages.

Open Font License minimizes the chances of accidental misuse. It gives derivative makers a simple way free of debilitating restrictions, which removes the motive for deception. OFL is meant to be non-duplicable, reusable as well as clear and understandable.

Did you used OFL before? Let us know

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