View Full Version : Fonts - Legal Issues


ahi
08-05-2009, 03:36 PM
Are ePub creators limited in their choice of fonts due to font vendors' forbidding of third-party distribution of their commercial fonts? And are there reliable software-based methods to check a given font's permission settings?

- Ahi

wallcraft
08-05-2009, 04:32 PM
If you are creating or hosting a non-commercial ePub then there are relatively few fonts that can be embedded without permission. Even the so called Core fonts for the Web (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Core_fonts_for_the_Web) probably should not be be embedded in an ePub. They are "core" because they are almost universally available on desktop computers, but their EULA makes it difficult to legally include them in an ePub.

pdurrant
08-05-2009, 04:38 PM
Are ePub creators limited in their choice of fonts due to font vendors' forbidding of third-party distribution of their commercial fonts? And are there reliable software-based methods to check a given font's permission settings?

- Ahi

Very limited. Most commercial fonts come licensed for a certain number of computers and/or printers, and forbid embedding in ebooks.

Font foundaries are excessively worried about people copying their fonts. I did ask Monotype about the cost for a distribution licence for fonts embedded in an ePub, and the cost was £1500 for up to five fonts, in up to five books, per year.

For chapter headings and other display type, I expect it's possible to find a free font that allows redistribution without too much difficulty. But finding the body text font that you want in a redistributable form is very hard.

ahi
08-05-2009, 04:42 PM
If you are creating or hosting a non-commercial ePub then there are relatively few fonts that can be embedded without permission. Even the so called Core fonts for the Web (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Core_fonts_for_the_Web) probably should not be be embedded in an ePub. They are "core" because they are almost universally available on desktop computers, but their EULA makes it difficult to legally include them in an ePub.

There is no way to embed fonts in an ePub file in the usual technical sense of the word. If there were, it would make things simpler, as embedding (as one would embed into a PDF file, in a way that does not make it possible for the recipient of said file to recover the original .ttf) is permitted by many fonts. Adobe even states:

http://www.adobe.com/type/embedding.html

All fonts produced by Adobe Systems can be embedded in Adobe® Portable Document Format (PDF) files, as well as other types of files.

However, this does not cover the "file inclusion" sort of embedding ePub supports.

But despite this small nitpick about your choice of words, doubtless you are right. Do people mostly use free (as in both gratis and libre) fonts to get around this?

- Ahi

Nate the great
08-05-2009, 04:45 PM
There is no way to embed fonts in an ePub file in the usual technical sense of the word. If there were, it would make things simpler, as embedding (as one would embed into a PDF file, in a way that does not make it possible for the recipient of said file to recover the original .ttf) is permitted by many fonts. Adobe even states:


There is, actually, but I think it only works with Adobe DRM.

Abecedary
08-05-2009, 04:47 PM
Some foundries (thankfully very few) go so far as to forbid embedding their fonts in PDFs. But no, ahi, there aren't really any tools to check what the license/permissions are for a given font. The best you can do is check the font's properties to find out who the foundry is, then check on the foundry's website to see what their terms for that particular font are.

The only good/high quality fonts that I'm aware of that can be freely redistributed are the ones that were specially made for distribution with Linux distros (Libertine, Droid, etc), and a small handful of ones that were blessed with open licenses (Fontin, Charis, Gentium).

And like wallcraft said, even the "core fonts for the web" were licensed/commissioned by Microsoft, and only they have the ability to distribute them (or allow others to redistribute according to their terms).

Abecedary
08-05-2009, 04:50 PM
As Nate said, Abode does have a method that encrypts fonts for inclusion with Adobe ePub files, but I don't know very much about it (beyond the fact that it exists).

kovidgoyal
08-05-2009, 05:49 PM
Adobe has a scheme to "encrypt" the fonts embedded in an EPUB file (this is independent of DRM). Their encryption is not really encryption (it just involves XOR the first kilobyte of the font files and is trivially reversible (5 lines of code). It has to be, to allow reading software to use the embedded fonts.

But I believe, they think this makes the fonts "non recoverable" at least legally.

IIRC, the IDPF even adopted a (trivially modified) version of this scheme.

pdurrant
08-05-2009, 06:26 PM
If it's enough to get font foundries to allow ePubs to contain fonts without asking ludicrous licensing fees, I'm all for it.


Adobe has a scheme to "encrypt" the fonts embedded in an EPUB file (this is independent of DRM). Their encryption is not really encryption (it just involves XOR the first kilobyte of the font files and is trivially reversible (5 lines of code). It has to be, to allow reading software to use the embedded fonts.

But I believe, they think this makes the fonts "non recoverable" at least legally.

IIRC, the IDPF even adopted a (trivially modified) version of this scheme.

Abecedary
08-05-2009, 06:38 PM
If it's enough to get font foundries to allow ePubs to contain fonts without asking ludicrous licensing fees, I'm all for it.

You'd still need to have a license to include the font in the epub, and the fee would likely be based on sales figures. But pseudo-encryption is more likely to make the foundries a bit more at-ease with the idea of epub font embedding.

kovidgoyal
08-05-2009, 06:51 PM
Whatever works :)

Peter Sorotokin
08-05-2009, 07:47 PM
Are ePub creators limited in their choice of fonts due to font vendors' forbidding of third-party distribution of their commercial fonts? And are there reliable software-based methods to check a given font's permission settings?

- Ahi

Font-related legal issues are extremely complicated and opinions differ widely; also laws are different in different countries. Also not being a lawyer, I cannot give you any legal advice, but here is some food for thought.

Fonts that are used in your document can be made available to the reader in several ways. You can rely on reader already having appropriate fonts, you can pass them along with the document or you can embed them in the document. Most commercial fonts EULAs prohibits pass-along (redistribution), but for many fonts embedding for printing and viewing (but not editing) is allowed. The problem is that the term "embedding" is often not well-defined. If you simply zip the original font together with the rest of your document (even after the result is renamed to have .epub extension) you could argue that this constitutes redistribution, not embedding. Embedding implies that the font is an integral part of the document and cannot be extracted from the document without considerable effort. One way to do that is to subset the font to only include glyphs which are used in the document. The other is to scramble the font bytes, so simply unzipping it would not make it usable. Adobe defined a mechanism for that which is implemented in Adobe EPUB readers and InDesign. Recently IDPF came up with its own algorithm for that, but it is not widely implemented yet.

References:
http://www.idpf.org/doc_library/informationaldocs/FontManglingSpec.html
http://www.adobe.com/devnet/digitalpublishing/pdfs/content_protection.pdf
http://blogs.adobe.com/digitaleditions/2009/05/epub_generation_library_writte.html

Peter Sorotokin
08-05-2009, 07:55 PM
You'd still need to have a license to include the font in the epub, and the fee would likely be based on sales figures. But pseudo-encryption is more likely to make the foundries a bit more at-ease with the idea of epub font embedding.

If you subset and scamble it, it is the same thing as including it in PDF which is mostly allowed. The problem is that if you sell that EPUB (or PDF for that matter), you may need some additional license (e.g. see language on this page: http://www.itcfonts.com/About/Embedding.htm). Licenses are not technology or format-based, but usage-based.

chips42
08-17-2009, 10:50 AM
Hi, I am not a programmer, but has anyone checked out the freetype 2 project. It can be licensed as both gpl or bsd... I do not know how it would be used...It also has a patent info page.

radius
08-19-2009, 02:56 PM
Hi, I am not a programmer, but has anyone checked out the freetype 2 project. It can be licensed as both gpl or bsd... I do not know how it would be used...It also has a patent info page.

Hi chips,

The freetype project isn't really relevant in this case. What freetype does is take a font and convert it into shapes suitable for viewing. That is, if you imagine a font file as describing letter shapes, freetype follows those descriptions to draw letters for you.

In fact, if you look at the Sony PRS "About" page, I believe it lists credit for freetype.


Drawing the fonts is a different issue from whether you are allowed to include a copy of a particular font inside an epub for public distribution.

just_jeepin
08-21-2009, 09:50 AM
What about GNU Freefont (http://www.gnu.org/software/freefont/)?