Call for feedback: Indigenous Language license agreement

We (Tiro) have drafted a new kind of license agreement that ties permitted use of a font to specific language content. As far as I know, it's the first license of its kind, but if you know of any others, I'd love to know we're not alone. We're looking for feedback from the intended user communities via GitHub issue tracking, but thought I'd post something about it here too, to get some separate discussion started with colleagues in the type business.

https://github.com/TiroTypeworks/ILLA

Comments

  • I'm sure that this will be considered a praiseworthy act.
    There are two distinguishable use cases for a licensing agreement of that sort, as opposed to simply making a free font that includes support for indigenous languages in the form of the appropriate glyphs.
    One is simply to provide additional incentive or encouragement to actively use an indigenous language.
    Another is if the typeface in question has commercial value, which it is intended to monetize from most ordinary users of the font in question, while donating its use to indigenous language communities.
    In the first case, there is a question of whether going to the length of making such a license condition really serves a purpose.
    In the second case, there's an obvious purpose, and now the issue is that distribution for licensed use now facilitates unlicensed use, limiting the ability to realize the value it is intended to preserve.
    I think this explains why such a license condition is a novel approach that hasn't previously been considered worth doing, even though many type designers have made efforts to support indigenous languages.
  • edited February 20
    I think that an issue you run into with this license is that it might not be clear enough to be properly enforceable. But I am not a lawyer. Of course with an issue such as this absolute black-and-white clarity is hard to come by.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,853
    The bit that gives me most pause is the 'Métis exception' for non-indigenous language use. That might need to be removed, to restrict the license completely to indigenous language use per se. The issue is that while the Métis in Canada constitute a distinct community and culture, a) the term is used in Quebec to refer to anyone of mixed ethnic heritage with First Nations, regardless of whether they belong to a distinct community and culture, and b) elsewhere in the Americas intermarriage was so widespread that very large portions of the population would meet the criteria for the exception, and the line between settler culture and mestizo culture isn't at all clear.
  • Is it possible to have a special build (renamed distinctively) that is subset to only the indigenous language(s) and then tie the license to it?   Otherwise I think it will be very unlikely that end users will be aware when they are violating and you will be accused of having set them up to fail.  One of the reasons I say this are that a) most Indigenous language speakers also speak (and read) the imperial language b)  a common use cause is going to be along side other languages in signage and books.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,853
    Yes. As noted in the preamble, the fonts available under the indigenous languages license will be distinct packages on the web store, and the fonts will have an IL suffix in the name to identify them. Some of them will be subsets of other fonts, and some may be extensions.
  • Sorry!  I didn't have time to read license.  I will do it in the next day or so.  
  • And then further, consider that many indigenous activists want to spread a message in English/French, because it is important that it be understood by people who are not indigenous. See for example the recent protests in Canada, during which I saw many indigenous activists spread messages directed at the francophone and anglophone non-indigenous public. Surely this kind of work is also very important?
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 595
    edited March 2
    And then further, consider that many indigenous activists want to spread a message in English/French, because it is important that it be understood by people who are not indigenous. See for example the recent protests in Canada, during which I saw many indigenous activists spread messages directed at the francophone and anglophone non-indigenous public. Surely this kind of work is also very important?
    It certainly is true that indigenous people have things to say to the rest of us, and people who are supportive of indigenous people in general would be supportive of that too.
    However, it isn't clear to me that this can really be the basis of a criticism of the proposed Indigenous Language license agreement.
    For one thing, promoting or facilitating one activity but not others contributes to goals which include that activity.
    For another, it's easier to determine objectively that a text is in, or about, an indigenous language than if it serves the interests of Indigenous people.
    And there is also the fact that there is no dearth of fonts, including free fonts, that support majority languages, so making some fonts available under an Indigenous Language license can hardly be seen as muzzling the voice of Indigenous people.

    On the other hand, there is at least one way in which a potential problem is created. If one has a computer and a printer, and a collection of fonts, and some of those fonts have special restrictive licenses, it's one more thing to keep track of. People with limited resources may not have separate computers for every function.
    It may be that Windows allows fonts to be installed only for the use of a particular user, which would make it easy enough to deal with the issue, if one were sufficiently computer savvy. Unlike with software installations, though, I'm not aware of that option being presented during font installation.

  • edited March 2
    I understand the intention to support the conservation and reanimation of "indigenous" writing systems, but I don't understand the ambiguous definition of the restriction.

    Is the use e. g. as a webfont for a multi-lingual dictionary free? Or for e. g. Wikipedia or Wiktionary in the versions with another main language? If not the license hurts the intention. E. g. I run a multilingual dictionary as a non-profit project (zero revenues, EUR 200 p. m. expenses, no ads, no donations) where Inuktitut (ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ) in Canadian Aboriginal syllabics is one of the hundreds languages. For many of the writing systems with small populations or extinct ones, often only one font exists.

    When I publish software (does juridically compare to fonts) under a free license my decision criteria are:

    - is it generally useful 
    - give it free unrestricted, e. g. a library module as contribution to the community, if it's a by-product of my work
    - restrict it to non-commercial
    - don't give it free and don't publish if it potentially can generate income.
    - don't give away the gems for free

    My definition of non-commercial is very restrictive. A scientist having a good income at an university isn't  non-commercial in my point of view. It depends if I get something back in exchange, or they contribute to the community in a comparable quality.

    As an example I got an inquiry from a high funded research organisation if they can have one of my dictionaries (3 Mio. records) for free. I offered USD 0.01 per record after calculating my work hours spent on the dataset.

    I wouldn't invest much time in a special indigenous license. I would take the usual licenses and think more about a basic, free version for non-commercial, non-reselling use and other payed, full versions.


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