Is it lawful for me to edit existing fonts?

J. BridgesJ. Bridges Posts: 74
edited September 6 in Technique and Theory
Is it lawful for me to edit existing fonts. I do it all the time but I do not publish these alterations to printers or third parties. I make edits to a lot of fonts where I dont like how super crappy they were drawn. It that lawful?

Comments

  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,882
    It depends on the license agreement that governs your use of the font. Read the EULA.
  • Does it have to be an open source font?
  • Every font have license. Just (find and) read.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,485
    Further to what James and Olexa said:

    Some font foundry licenses permit modifications to fonts, and some do not. There is no general rule, and since you may obtain and use fonts under multiple licenses, you have to check the license for each of the fonts that you want to modify.

    Unless a font is published under an open source or libre license, you can expect that any modifications that are permitted will not be allowed to be distributed (but might be permitted to be embedded in a PDF going to a service bureau or printer). A license that permits modifications is likely to have requirements about modifying the name of the font, to avoid caching issues.

    [Our own license permits modifications, but has a requirement that you send us the modified font, and we have the right to incorporate the modifications in future versions of the font if we think they will be useful to other people.]
  • K PeaseK Pease Posts: 175
    A confusion that trips up many people is the bounds of what altering a font is. These conditions and admonitions are typically against changing the font itself, which amounts to making another font, derived from the original font, in danger of being distributed. Even if it is never distributed, if you do something like publish a whole book with it, the original work is misrepresented.
    But some people think this means they're being told they can't do what they want to an image they've made by using the font. Converting a word to curves and changing the shapes to design a logotype is not a modification of the font; it is normal use, and very few font creators would be mad enough to think they should stop you from doing that.
  • There are all kinds of discussions to have around this topic, but they are best begun with some awareness of the license. So please read your license first.

    Many open source fonts (and nearly all in Google Fonts, correct me if I’m wrong) require a modified font to be renamed. Technically true even if it’s never redistributed. There are other restrictions about legal metadata in the font(s), too.

    Sorry, I am just repeating what others have said. My main point is that it’s better to ask your question in the context of some specific license — e.g. “My EULA says <this>. Am I allowed to modify it <like this>?” Ideally you should be able to answer your own question by carefully reading the EULA, but you’ll find people around here are happy to help when you run up against some legal language that isn’t so helpful.

    One tip: Modification is often described as a “derivative version” — meaning a font that has been derived from the original font. “Modification” isn’t always mentioned explicitly.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,485
    Many open source fonts (and nearly all in Google Fonts, correct me if I’m wrong) require a modified font to be renamed.
    The Open Font License does have a provision for a ‘reserved name’, but I think Google Fonts’ policy is not to require that and, as I recall, prefer to publish fonts that do not use the reserved name. When they were negotiating adding the STIX Two fonts, they asked STI Pub to remove the reserved name terms under which the fonts had previously been published.
  • Yes, I’ve heard they recommend designers exclude a reserved font name (good!). Maybe I shouldn’t have said “nearly all,” but I would wager that the majority still have it, though.

    Still, I am speculating. Another good reason to read the license.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,367
    edited September 7
    The current guidance for new font submissions to Google Fonts is that any submitted font must be under the Open Font License v1.1, and it should not have any Reserved Font Names.
    https://googlefonts.github.io/gf-guide/onboarding.html#new-fonts
    https://github.com/simoncozens/silson/issues/1

    That said, yes there are some existing Google Fonts which use a Reserved Font Name. They are a minority, but they certainly exist.
  • Depending on your jurisdiction, you might enjoy some rights that allow you to modify fonts (without redistribution) regardless of what the EULA states, especially when fixing broken or incompatible files. But I am no expert on that topic, so best consult someone familiar with the matter, if needed.
  • I'm puzzled as to why anyone would want to publish fonts under OFL but _without_ using a reserved name? If multiple variants of a design start getting circulated — with different glyph metrics, say — then the layout and appearance of documents becomes susceptible to which variant of a font is used. It just seems prone to greater confusion and brittleness. What am I missing?
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,367
    edited September 9
    @Peter Constable
    I think the problem with OFL Reserved Font Names (RFN) for web fonts is this:
    https://scripts.sil.org/cms/scripts/page.php?site_id=nrsi&id=OFL-FAQ_web#c2f18d38
    It starts getting really interesting around 2.4 and 2.6.

    There are plenty of other optimizations that would be very problematic for RFN, but no subsetting is a real killer.

    It can be worked around by signing a separate agreement allowing a given web font service (Google, Adobe, whoever) to modify the fonts while keeping the RFN. But it is still a real pain, and one might want downstream people to be able to subset their copies, etcetera, in which case… just should not have RFN.

    (Interestingly, not a problem for embedding in PDF, from the guidance in the FAQ. Subsetting with RFN is OK in that case.)
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,485
    edited September 9
    Addressing Peter’s question:

    The concept of a reserved font full name to protect against the kind of multiple identically named versions of a font that you describe would make sense, but that’s not what the OFL RFN terms specify. The RFN terms are something more like trademark protection, in that modified fonts are not allowed to include any part of the RFN in font names. So, e.g. if I were to modify a font with the reserved name ‘FooBar’, I wouldn’t be able to call the modified version e.g. ‘FooBar Hudson’, even though this would avoid the kind of issue you describe.

    Further, while RFN protects against the original font name being used for multiple fonts, there is nothing in it to prevent different downstream forks ending up with the same name.
  • If multiple variants of a design start getting circulated — with different glyph metrics, say — then the layout and appearance of documents becomes susceptible to which variant of a font is used. 
    Most foundries do this as they release updates to their fonts, except for major updates where they also change the family name. 

    The RFN doesn't help this situation. 

    What we really need is something better than the current name table for linking documents to fonts, so that versioning and font ID can be handled better.

  • What we really need is something better than the current name table for linking documents to fonts, so that versioning and font ID can be handled better.
    sounds like ideas suitable for the 'meta' table.
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