An Ethical Question: Is it Kosher to look at OpenType feature code of existing fonts?

dezcom's picture

An Ethical Question: Is it Kosher to look at OpenType feature code of existing fonts?
In my effort to learn to code assorted Opentype features, I come to the conclusion that I could learn more quickly if I were able to look at feature codes from OTF fonts. I have seen nothing in the EULAs about it and I don’t plan to copy and paste it into my own fonts. I just want to see what it looks like. This sort of thing was common in HTML code borrowing several years back as well.
Above all, I don’t want to be guilty of stealing other peoples work so I am asking.

ChrisL

Mark Simonson's picture

Adobe has made some of their OT feature coding available for developers to look at. Thomas (I think) posted a link to the feature source for Bickham Script Pro on Typophile a while back, but the page seems to have gone missing.

It's okay with me if you want to peek at the OT feature code in Proxima Nova (which I know you have). Keep in mind, though, that FontLab does not have access to the source code. The code that is put into the fonts is compiled, so it must decompile it when it opens the font. Because of this, classes will have generic, numbered names and the feature coding will not necessarily make a lot of sense to human eyes. It also may not recompile.

dezcom's picture

Mark,
Thanks! I will take a peek under the hood of Proxima Nova :-)
It doesn't matter about the class names. I am mostly looking for correct syntax, when to use ' vs ", when to place lookup, space or no space, class swapping--an extension of the OT sessions you, Nick, Thomas, and Adam gave in New York.
I am having a battle with denom/nom and am trying to figure out how to have my font generate fractions other than the usual few. I figure it would be easier for me to look under the hood of other types than keep pestering everyone here online with "how do I do this" every week.

ChrisL

paul d hunt's picture

OT_How-To
The links to the Adobe Code samples should be in there.

oh and FLS5 makes recompiled coding a lot easier to read than previous versions.

and here's adobe's released fraction feature code:
follow this link

hrant's picture

I'm picturing Dennis Hopper in "Blue Velvet":
"Don't look at me! DON'T YOU LOOK AT ME, BITCH!!!"

Chris, really now.
You're starting to sound like Tiffany.

hhp

dezcom's picture

"Chris, really now.
You’re starting to sound like Tiffany."

But I like Tiffany. She does have actual hair though:-)

I didn't see the Hopper movie.

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

Paul,
THANKS! I'll have to get into this Wikki thing. It never occurs to me to look there :-<

ChrisL

hrant's picture

I like Tiffany too! I just think she's really way too
martyr-like when it comes to font houses. If a EULA
contains "don't look at me!" I would feel free to smile
and ignore. Ridiculous demands can be made when giving
gifts, but not when the other person is paying for something.
Life is a two-way street, no matter how pervasively certain
governments are more on your side the bigger you are.

Blue Velvet: must, must see. Nothing else like it.

hhp

Miss Tiffany's picture

Ok. Well, Tiffany has her own opinion. =^>

Can she speak for herself?

Even if the EULA states otherwise, it never hurts to ask the foundry. They might actually allow it. However, yes, I do believe that if the EULA states that you cannot look, you shouldn't.

=^P

Si_Daniels's picture

This sounds like a straw man being set up to bash on Tiffany. The issue of a graphic designer trying to respect a font makers wishes (regardless of how silly the restrictions might be) and that of a type designer wanting to learn from another designers work by opening their font in FontLab seem totally different.

And as pointed out the ethical question is largely pointless as 90% of the interesting OpenType code has either been posted publicly or is available on request.

Si

dezcom's picture

The last thing I want to do is bash Tiffany. She has spent many tireless hours without a dime's payment on the behalf of other type and graphic designers. I applaud her integrity, her selflessness, and her sense of humor.

ChrisL

Miss Tiffany's picture

Sheesh. Don't do that Dez. :^[ I don't feel like you were bashing me. I don't feel like Hrant was either. I just feel that where it is possible for us to do what is right it is important that we do it.

hrant's picture

Chris, Simon must have been talking about me.

Recently Tiffany was surprised that people thought they should only abide by the EULA they purchased a font under, and not a stricter EULA that was implemented afterwards... I think that's extreme - as extreme as a person completely ignoring a EULA. That's all. Tiffany is a great person - but Chris seems to be inheriting one of her very few flaws! :-)

> it never hurts to ask the foundry.

When it's a gray area, I totally agree. When you want to get permission for something that the EULA forbids (and expect to pay $ for it) likewise. But to check that the font house doesn't actually mean something in the EULA? That seems dumb.

The key concept here is Reasonability. I feel that's what's required most in human relationships. Making more money is not a Core Value to me. So let me ask: is it reasonable to expect a type designer (especially one doing a faithful revival for example) to pay out amounts to his sources of inspiration?* Likewise, anybody who expects to be able to place unreasonable clauses in a business agreement and get away with it is either nuts or needs to accept that what goes around comes around. Behavior is contagious. Humans are heuristic, while formalism (i.e. a EULA) is not - with the mismatch forcing us to choose between reasonable behavior versus parasitism.

* Never forgetting that creativity never happens in a vacuum.

Neither the vagaries of commerce nor the inspirational convenience of death remove an individual's responsability to treat his fellow man reasonably. Not selfishly.

hhp

Miss Tiffany's picture

Hrant, you misunderstood my post. I assume you are alluding to my question to the ATypI list. I posted that question specifically to see how foundries would respond. I already knew the answer. To say I was surprise is wrong. I was basically just double-checking myself. I am not a lawyer. I have no hopes of becoming a lawyer. And, I don't mind asking what could be considered stupid questions in order to get a clear answer.

Until recently, as it happens, there was a rather large foundry who's EULA did have a clause like that. I need to track down an old copy of it. But, they no longer do that.

I have more flaws that that, Hrant. In fact, if that is a flaw I welcome it. As my other flaws are real flaws and need my attention more urgently.

If anything in a EULA is unreasonable, then a person who might license the type has two choices. Don't license the type or call the foundry and see if there isn't another license they can purchase which would allow them to do what they need to do.

On the other hand. If anything in a EULA is unreasonable, then a person who has already licensed the type has two choices. Use a different typeface or call the foundry and see if there isn't another license they can purchase which would allow them to do what they need to do.

If someone enters into a business deal signing the contract thinking they might make changes to what they think is unreasonable I think they probably deserve whatever happens. If they choose not to enter into conversation before signing and work toward a more reasonable contract then I don't see why they deserve something more reasonable after the fact.

Yes. THAT is me being hard-nosed. But, I firmly believe in conversation with the foundries before and after the fact.

hrant's picture

> I assume you are alluding to my question to the ATypI list.

No, mostly I meant the Linotype/MyFonts thing, on Typophile.
Although on the ATypI list there was in fact a mini version of the
same situation (the one where Adam and Lawrence countered you).

> a person who might license the type has two choices.

Formally, yes. Humanly, the choices are infinite. And a business who ignores the fact that its customers are human is bound to fail, and cause misery along the way. It's quite simple: unreasonable demands hurt you.

> they probably deserve whatever happens.

1) Same with the font house.
2) Nothing will happen to the user. It's the font house that suffers more.

But really, I avoid using "deserve". I'm more interested in making
as many people as happy as possible through simple good decisions.

> I firmly believe in conversation with the foundries

Which is what I'm doing too.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

Here's something for nut fractions:

feature frac {

sub @FIGURES' slash by @sups2;
sub slash' @FIGURES @FIGURES by nut2;
sub @FIGURES @sups2' nut2 by @sups;
sub slash by nut;
sub [nut2 nut] @FIGURES' by @sinf;
sub @sups2' nut by @sups;
sub @FIGURES' @sups2 by @sups;
sub @sinf @FIGURES' by @sinf;
sub @sups @sups2' by @sups;

} frac

***

It uses scientific inferiors and superiors, rather than the larger numerators and denominators.

The "nut" glyph is a horizontal bar for single-digit denominators.
the "nut2" glyph is a horizontal bar for double-digit denominators
@sups2 is an alternate set of scientific superiors with extra sidebearing width, to sit centred on top of double-digit denominators.

The trick is negative sidebearings on the nuts. You can quote me on that.

This works for fractions from 0/0 to 99/99.
It won't do "fractions" where the numerator is larger than the denominator, but those aren't fractions, are they? (although such larger values are used in ratios).
More complex nut fractions may still be made with this feature in InD, doing them as two separate fractions back-kerned together.

Si_Daniels's picture

Font EULAs are not written for people like Chris, or Hrant or me. They're written for people like Tiffany - people who want to just get on and do their job, set text, embed fonts in PDFs, work from home or the road and in rare cases modify a font.

So the EULAs won't adequately deal with the type of research that Chris would like to do. Asking the designer is the most ethical answer. But opening fonts in FontLab in the privacy of your own home and not bragging about it publicly is the most common.

Type Designers aren't generally stupid, they know that FontLab and other tools reveal the inner-workings of their fonts, so you can't, with a straight face, claim these routines as a trade secret. No EULA is going to stop people from learning techniques in published fonts. Increasingly I think designers and foundries realize this and have become more open about sharing their ideas - this forum is a testament to that.

That's not to say a unique approach or piece of OT code isn't protectable. If you don't publish the fonts just the results (the new PLINC project might fall into this bucket) then your trade secrets could be kept secret. Likewise, say if House felt that the Ed Interlock code was novel they could try for patent protection. But I just don't think putting a "don't look" clause in a EULA is helpful.

Miss Tiffany's picture

... and what I'm doing too.

Yes, ok. I wasn't as informed at that point. I'm still feeling my way through all of this. I am human after all.

Right, there are infinite possibilities. But what is morally or ethically responsible limits you a little, doesn't it? Or maybe I'm just being naive again assuming people try to do what they want done to them.

Right. The foundry does suffer the most. Unless the company is stupid enough to include a font on a collateral CD for all of its franchises without properly licensing the typeface ... or something else insanely stupid like that.

I can't decide if we are on the same side of the fence just standing far apart or not.

hrant's picture

> Font EULAs are not written for people like Chris, or Hrant or me.

Exactly.

> They’re written for people like Tiffany

No, Tiffany is an exteme case.

I think font EULAs are generally intended to cover as many people as possible. My contention is that they can only ever really work for other companies, not [most] individuals. A big chunk of font customers are ill-served by the entire concept of a EULA.

We need a parallel document.

> No EULA is going to stop people from learning techniques in published fonts.

I agree.
But Tiffany points out that there was one that tried.

> I wasn’t as informed at that point.

Wait, I meant just via discussion lists.
Public laundry being the most... pressing.

> what is morally or ethically responsible limits you a little, doesn’t it?

Indeed. But this is unrelated to Law, or any formalism such as a EULA.

BTW, I don't see a fence, but a large open field with
hills and valleys. And everything is shades of gray.

hhp

ebensorkin's picture

EULAs aside for just a mo'

> keep pestering everyone here online with “how do I do this” every week.

I say keep asking! Your questions could end up helping lots of other folks.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Right! Ask, ask, ask, and ask again.

Randy's picture

Tiffany: I would just take the *extreme* lable and run with it. No bungie jump or purple mohawk required. Why yes, I am extreme (dude).

Dez: I figure it would be easier for me to look under the hood of other types than keep pestering everyone here online with “how do I do this” every week.

NO WAY MAN. Easier for you, but not better for everyone. Recording these steps in public dialogue is so much better. Once the community has hashed out the best way, post it up in the Wiki. Each section a walk through of basic OT features. standard ligs, small caps, fractions, Alternate Spacing for caps etc.

I assume you've looked at freefontpro (at the fontlab website). Might be just the ticket. That would make all this chatter moot.

Randy

Randy's picture

My crosspost above with Eben and Tiff settles it.
Ask in public or be kicked off the island!

R

dezcom's picture

"Ask in public or be kicked off the island!"

LOL!

ChrisL

PS: I didn't know "freefontpro" was that sophisticated! Thanks!

John Hudson's picture

Ridiculous demands can be made when giving gifts, but not when the other person is paying for something.

You have this completely backwards. A gift is something freely given and shouldn't have any conditions attached. When something is purchased, a contractual relationship exists, and it is precisely within such a relationship that conditions and demands may apply. In the case of fonts, it is precisely the license terms that are being purchased. They are, in fact, what is being bought: not the bits and bytes that make up the font but the terms under which it may be used.

Why is it ridiculous for a EULA to say that using the font does not extend to decompiling it and examining the contents? Simply because tools happen to exist that enable this? Or simply because Hrant Papazian has decided that he thinks it is ridiculous?

I don't have such a clause in any of my EULAs, but if I wanted to have one it would be my right to include it and your right to decline to purchase such terms of use. You have no right at all to purchase precise contractual terms and then just go ahead and take more for yourself. When what is being sold are usage rights, taking additional rights that you have not purchased is as much theft as using an unlicensed copy of a font. Digital media seems to have confused a lot of people about the nature of usage rights, but the model is really identical to that used for photography and traditional illustration. You are buying rights, not a thing that you can use however the heck you feel like using it. Tiffany's attitude is simply a normal professional one, and is not at all 'extreme'.

dezcom's picture

Nick,
Thanks for your nutty post!
Until I read further down, I thought you were joking with me! This is a bad habit of mine, I look for jokes in everything. The first guy to name that glyph a "nut" was probably having a little fun of his own :-)

Seriously though, I will be sure to give that code a spin and thanks for posting it!

ChrisL

Si_Daniels's picture

> The first guy to name that glyph a “nut” was probably having a little fun of his own :-)

I think he/she was being serious - hard to tell 'em' and 'en' apart in a noisy press room.

paul d hunt's picture

this was on the type quiz at TypeCon a bit of trivia:

en : nut :: em : mutton

no joke!

dez, there's no way i could answer your questions for you if i hadn't already asked them myself! :^P

dezcom's picture

The only thing extreme about Tiffany is that she is extremely helpful to have around. We Bears-in-the-woods here are the ones who gain from her efforts. "You Go Girl!!!"

ChrisL

Mark Simonson's picture

Where'd you guys go to school? I learned about "nut" and "mutton" in 8th grade. I thought everybody knew that.

Si_Daniels's picture

School has changed - now it's classes in PowerPoint and Intelligent Design.

dezcom's picture

Mark,
I am almost 62 years old. When I went to school a nut was the kid who wore arguile socks with sneakers and mutton was the lousy stew they made in the cafeteria :-)

That's what I get for going to an inner-city public school. In eighth grade, I did learn how to hot-wire a car though :-)

ChrisL

hrant's picture

> You have this completely backwards.

It's probably a terminological thing with "gift".

> When something is purchased, a contractual relationship exists

As does a human relationship, money or no.

> Why is it ridiculous for a EULA to say that using the font
> does not extend to decompiling it and examining the contents?

Because it goes against human nature, and in a non-productive way.
Of course this is -necessarily- just my opinion.

> my right to include it and your right to decline

I personally am more concerned with fairness than formal rights.

> Tiffany’s attitude is simply a normal professional one

Professionalism is a fringe human activity. Tiffany's attitude is super (especially for a font house) but basing a EULA on her behavior is too... romantic.

--

I just realized how ironic this is: you have a font user who is strongly pro-foundry, and then a font maker who is stronly pro-user... Maybe because both of us have a greater desire for fairness than riches.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Professionalism is a fringe human activity.

But we're talking about licensing of professional tools. This entire discussion is about a fringe human activity.

All you are expressing is the self-interest of the licensee who wants as much as possible for as little as possible, to which you've added your stated intent to take whatever rights you think are reasonable even if you have not paid for them.

The seller of font licenses wants to get as much money as possible and to maintain the ability to make more money, hence limitations on the rights granted by the license.

Obviously the self interest of the licensee and the self interest of the licenser need to be negotiated and to meet somewhere in the middle. But the place where they meet is the point of commerce. That is the only fair place to determine what is acceptable to both parties: the point at which one person says 'I am willing to pay the price asked for this collection of usage rights' or 'I am not willing to pay the price asked for this collection of usage rights'. And if you decide that you are not willing to pay the price asked, don't buy the license. Assuming rights that are not yours is as much theft as taking anything else that belongs to someone else.

hrant's picture

> I don’t have such a clause in any of my EULAs

So let me ask you: What would you consider to be sensible reasons
for having a no-mod clause in a EULA? And what about a no convert-to-outlines-and-submit-an-EPS-to-a-service-bureau clause?
And lastly, a don't-look-at-my-code clause?

I'm not asking you to second-guess font houses that have such clauses,
I'd simply like [other people] to hear what you think, as a person.

hhp

hrant's picture

> All you are expressing is the self-interest of the licensee

Not at all. That would imply ignoring a EULA outright, or reading it only to evaluate the legal risks (which is what a corporation would do* - and that's why I say a EULA only makes sense in the corporate sphere) in violating [parts of] it.

* As opposed to an individual.

What I'm expressing is a need for a reasonable balance.

> The seller of font licenses wants to get as much money as possible

Which is exactly the attitude that results in discord.
There must be more.

> That is the only fair place to determine what is acceptable to both parties

Which I think can never be really fair; the human sphere can only be such.

> Assuming rights that are not yours

You keep ignoring the core of my argument.
Not that you MUST agree, but still.

> belongs to someone else.

Nothing ever belongs wholly to one person.
Certainly not something like a Garamond revival.

hhp

hrant's picture

I forgot:
> This entire discussion is about a fringe human activity.

No, I think buying stuff and making money from their use is normal; but the idea of "professionalism" over-riding more mainstream human behavior (like looking at something that's right in front of you) is not.

--

Just to clarify (not least to myself), I am arguing for two things:

1) A reduction in clauses which end up hurting most everybody. I might even come to think the no-mod clause is a necessary evil* (if only because of an alleviation from #2 below); but not the other two I mention above.
2) The implementation of a document parallel to the EULA, something
that would simply communicate the true, human expectations of the font house. This would be a non-binding, non-threatening frank letter of sorts, which helps non-nasties feel comfortable, hence more likely to be amicable... and buy stuff!

* Which is not say everybody should always respect it.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

> This is a bad habit of mine,

Life is too important to be taken seriously -- Wilde

John Hudson's picture

Hrant, we're talking about ownership of rights to a particular product and the licensing of those rights to other parties. You comment about the Garamond revival is completely irrelevant and, worse, a red herring. The question of ownership of design is not being discussed. What is being discussed is ownership of rights to something that has been made and is being licensed. Whether those rights include design rights at all is irrelevant. If I make a digital font, I have certain rights associated with that product irrespective of whether the design is a revival or original, and I can choose to license some or all of these rights, exclusively or non-exclusively, to another party. And those rights definitely do include the right to determine whether or not this product may be decompiled or derivative products made from it. The maker is under no obligation to give you any rights at all beyond those identified in law as fair use, and he can determine what rights he will license to you and at what price. You determine whether or not you are willing to pay that price.

Discussion between licensers and licensees are a really good idea, and this can and does lead to mutually beneficial, negotiated agreements or special arrangements (individualised EULAs). But it all comes back to the point of commerce at some stage: will you pay the asking price for the rights being offered. If you pay the asking price while planning to take more rights than are being offered, you are a swindler. Tiffany isn't extremist or even more than usually professional, she's just honest: she knows what she is purchasing and that she doesn't have a right to more than she is purchasing. Does that make her a freak and her actions contrary to what you have decided is 'human nature'?

timotheus's picture

I almost hate to jump in on this, but I will. I can't recall ever seeing a "don't-look" clause in a font EULA, but I might have seen a "don't-reverse-engineer" clause, which is much more likely to be in any kind of software EULA (such as a font). Then it's a matter of interpretation as to whether opening an OT font in FontLab and checking out the OT code constitutes reverse engineering.

That's why lawyers have jobs. Personally, I would like to say that it does not constitute reverse engineering as long as you are not trying to re-create the particular font with all of its OT behavior. But a lawyer's take may be very different.

Regards,
tim

Miss Tiffany's picture

Some EULAs do actually say:

" You agree not to modify, adapt, translate, reverse engineer, decompile, disassemble, alter, redigitize, convert or otherwise attempt to discover the source code of the Font Software."

Quick count from the EULAs I have on my machine, not hunting, which use that phrase or something similar: 15

hrant's picture

You freak. ;-P

hhp

dezcom's picture

I would not be trying to reproduce any font that was not of my own design. It doesn't even matter what the font looks like or if I even like it. I was only interested in the correct coding methodology and syntax to learn from in the font. I can't even see myself doing a revival (I would probably change everything too much to be scholarly so I will leave that to others).
I think, with the information I gained on this thread and elsewhere (and with perhaps a few more "asking in public" questions, I can accomplish what I need to. When I am done (in chunks), I will post my OTF feature code here online either for experts to pick apart and tell me where I have erred or for novices to download and use themselves no-strings-attached.

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

"otherwise attempt to discover the source code"

That seems clear to me.

ChrisL

Dan Weaver's picture

Chris if this was a photoshop question you would have Linda.com with a course on source coding and the CD's for training would cost you only…

People will try to make a profit from information, I hope the typophile community will be above this. I think a Typowiki on this subject is in order for you who design type. I use type and purchase licences and don't care whats under the hood.

Si_Daniels's picture

"You agree not to modify, adapt, translate, reverse engineer, decompile, disassemble, alter, redigitize, convert or otherwise attempt to discover the source code of the Font Software."

This is standard boilerplate language from traditional software licenses. The simple act of opening InDesign, typing in notepad, or printing to a PCL printer would cause you to be in breach on one or more of the prohibitions in this clause.

ebensorkin's picture

Unfortunately ( or fortunately depending) the code used in open type features could be considered intellectual property - but I wonder if it is even possible to write something in the feature code that isn't documented already since it NEEDS to be documented in order to work in apps. And if it doesn't work in Apps then game over - no? Maybe I am oversimplifying.

dezcom's picture

I guess I am likening it to the rules of grammer. If I can see under the hood of "MacBeth" and learn the rules of grammar but not use it to write a play like Shakespeare's, am I taking intelectual propertry?

ChrisL

Nick Shinn's picture

> I wonder if it is even possible to write something in the feature code that isn’t documented already

Nuts: see above.

Dan Weaver's picture

Nick, but doesn't it need to be cataloged at one source and not spread around the web?

ebensorkin's picture

But do you think that it is 'software'? Do you think you could have ( before you showed us) claimed it as intellectual property? Or are you just using the code in documeneted ways? Or some third path?

So far all the opentype features I have written have been minor extensions/applications of logic using the tools offered. I guess what I am wondering is, where original creation begins in OT feature code.

Anyway, regardless of where that line may exist I hope we keep sharing code. I don't think there will be/can be special value in it. Special value will come from the application of astute judgement of the eye.

But I guess if the code libraries get bigger that could change in time.

What do you think Nick?

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