Programmers: license for SignWriting symbols (ISWA)

Steve Slevinski slevin at SIGNPUDDLE.NET
Mon May 28 15:52:16 UTC 2007

Hi Val,

Valerie Sutton wrote:
> When they say font, they do not mean TrueType specifically, but 
> instead it is a more general term for font, and so our ISWA could be 
> licensed under the OFL, whether it is PNG or SVG or whatever 
> format...Have I understood that correctly?
Yes.  That is my understanding as well.

> But your concern at the end of your message also concerns me...If we 
> cannot license with a second license, does that mean if we have new 
> software that uses the ISWA, and that software has another kind of 
> license too, can the OFL be used inside that second license?;-))
Don't worry about this.  The OFL is only concerned with the font.  
Software that uses the font can be under any license. 

> I was thinking I could draft a Free SignWriting License, where I 
> explain in detail what SignWriting is, and specify what people can and 
> cannot do...which will be open, I assure you ;-))
It would probably be a good idea.

> The Free SignWriting License could encompass free use of SignWriting 
> graphics, PNGs, SVGs, the Sutton Fonts, SignWriter DOS and Java source 
> code, writing by hand, free downloading of photos and documents on the 
> SignWriting-related web sites, and permission to publish using 
> SignWriting.
Yes and no.  I think the Free SignWriting License should only include 
the SignWriting ideas and the SignWriting alphabet.  Adding specifics 
for fonts, software, images, and everything else will just complicate 
matters.  Besides, a license is different than what is released under 
the license.
> I could write a first draft of this Free SignWriting License, and post 
> it to the SW List for feedback...
Great idea, except that means more for you to do.  I think releasing the 
current fonts under the OFL would suffice for now. 
> If the OFL allowed us to use both, then the SignWriting symbols could 
> be under both the OFL and the "SignWriting Free License"...
The PNGs and SVGs can be released under different licenses.  The 
SignWriting symbols are a different matter. 

I think the Free SignWriting License should encompass 3 distinct matters. 

The SignWriting name
How are people allowed to use the name SignWriting?  Maybe you could 
come up with a seal of approval to let people know that what people are 
using or teaching is valid SignWriting.  I think it is important that 
people use the term SignWriting, but I also think it is important that 
people don't use the term incorrectly.

The SignWriting ideas
Can you copyright a writing system?  Does this infringe on freedom of 

The SignWriting alphabet
Your specific symbol sets are different than the specific fonts.  Your 
alphabets are derived from the SignWriting ideas. 

So in regards to Sandy's program, it will not be concerned with the 
fonts or the OFL.  Will his program be allowed to use the SignWriting 
name?  From everything I've read, it should meet the qualifications for 
the SignWriting seal of approval.  His program will be based on the 
SignWriting ideas and alphabet.  He can copyright his program under any 
license that he wants, but his writing system will be a derived work.

Which brings us to the complicated issue of derived works.  Under the 
OFL, people can create new fonts based on existing fonts.  These new 
fonts must be issued under the OFL, and these new fonts can not use the 
name of the base font.

But what of your writing system.  Can people make a derived writing 
system based on SignWriting?

This is all very confusing.  I'd be interested in reading your initial 
draft of the Free SignWriting License.


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