Distribution Using GPL fonts

Samuel Venable

Time Killer
More of a legality technical issue than a programming one, but an advanced topic I guess? It takes a real expert on legal matters to know the answer. But feel free to move the topic if it fits better elsewhere.

If I use a GPL font to cover most of the UTF-8 character set without having to pay for an expensive font license, I'd love to just borrow one from conveniently on my Linux OS by default. The only problem with this is, GameMaker is propriety and not free software, would it be against international laws concerning the GPL license version in use for the font? I was going to provide the source code as it was just going to be a cross-platform terminal (or rather, a game maker tutorial that demonstrates how to use my extension to create a cross-platform terminal) is providing the game maker project good enough? Or because the compiled form of the game that is built with game maker (the runner) is closed-source, would it just be a problem regardless?

Thank,
Samuella
 

kburkhart84

Firehammer Games
I'm no lawyer...but, you may be right in that GPL isn't fully compatible with Gamemaker. However, "source" needs to be clearly defined. Since the game engine code(even though it gets combined with your code) is technically separate, it may qualify for one of the exceptions. I'm not expert enough to know in this case.

I've also heard of the idea that in the case of fonts, the actual font is one thing, and a texture rendered using the font(for use in a game for example) is a different thing. So, if that is accurate, then it would be similar to Blender. The code for something can be GPL, but the actual output of that program does not have to be. So Blender can be GPL, but the models I make with do not have to buy. If this applies to fonts as well, then textures rendered from the font would be "output" but the font itself would not.

That said, if you can't get a good answer that you can fully trust, I would just recommend you go find you a free non-gpl font you can use. There are tons out there.
 

Samuel Venable

Time Killer
I think someone like Russell or one of the other YoYoGames staff might know since they develop GameMaker and need to know these sort of things for their work, but I don't exactly want to bother them when they have enough on their plate. Maybe I'll get lucky and they'll see this topic.
 

kburkhart84

Firehammer Games
I think someone like Russell or one of the other YoYoGames staff might know since they develop GameMaker and need to know these sort of things for their work, but I don't exactly want to bother them when they have enough on their plate. Maybe I'll get lucky and they'll see this topic.
In their specific case, it seems that they just access fonts that are on the system, they don't distribute any. And if you look at the list of 3rd party software they use, I didn't see any that were GPL, they seem to all be other licenses that don't require code distribution. I'm not saying that they wouldn't know about the license...rather I would say more likely that they DO know and specifically avoided it.
 

Samuel Venable

Time Killer
Very good point indeed. If worst comes to worse I can do what you said and hunt for a free but non GPL font. I haven't found many that look good for a terminal. It's kinda funny, I see a lot that are free which are very nice looking, but far too detailed to look good as a small res terminal. Just look at tangerine for example, that font is nice and all, but Its weird how the more basic fonts out there usually costs money, and a lot of it.
 

kburkhart84

Firehammer Games
I still think its worth investigating(hit up google) about if font renderings and if they "bypass" some of the rules, since they are possibly considered "output" as opposed to being the fonts themselves.
 

Yal

šŸ§ *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
Game Maker renders fonts to a texture rather than bundling the fonts themselves with the game specifically to avoid "illegal font distribution" issues, since... if I recall correctly, renditions of a text is covered under the fair use law for fonts? (Basically the thing Kburkhart brought up about fonts and textures rendered from them is correct, I'm not just 100% sure about the particulars)

This gets more complicated since the texture might qualify as a derivative work of the font, which GPL explicitly covers as having to inherit the original's license, though. This clause will not apply if national law specifically contradicts it, so you'd need to look into what exactly the font resource / rendering split means legally to tell for sure.
 

chamaeleon

Member
Game Maker renders fonts to a texture rather than bundling the fonts themselves with the game specifically to avoid "illegal font distribution" issues, since... if I recall correctly, renditions of a text is covered under the fair use law for fonts? (Basically the thing Kburkhart brought up about fonts and textures rendered from them is correct, I'm not just 100% sure about the particulars)

This gets more complicated since the texture might qualify as a derivative work of the font, which GPL explicitly covers as having to inherit the original's license, though. This clause will not apply if national law specifically contradicts it, so you'd need to look into what exactly the font resource / rendering split means legally to tell for sure.
There's some useful FAQs on this Microsoft Docs page about font distribution.
Below are some relevant examples, but it's worth reading the entire thing.

Can I include graphic files (eg. GIFs, PNGs or JPEGs) I create using the fonts in my game or apps, say for a logo or banner?
Yes, you can (provided you're using a product that is not specifically licensed for home, student or non-commercial use). The graphic file must be an image of a word, phrase or passage of text.

Can I embed the fonts into a game, application or device Iā€™m developing based on the document font embedding permissions?
No, document font embedding permissions relate to embedding fonts in documents only, not embedding fonts in games, apps and devices.

If I convert the font into a bitmap font can I include that in my game or app?
No, converting Windows fonts to other formats does not change the rules around embedding or redistribution, and format conversion itself is not allowed.
This might only be applicable to fonts distributed with Windows, but indicates that the fair use path using a bitmap rendering may not always be an option. Not a lawyer, so don't take my word for it. But it's definitely an indication that one need to research the particulars for any given font if one wants to play it safe.
 
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