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06.29.07

The Ill Effects of Software Patents on Font Rendering

Posted in Debian, Novell, Patents, Ubuntu at 9:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We recently spoke about proprietary and/or patent-encumbered software, including fonts and their rendering. We discussed a particular controversy and later pointed out that proprietary software may be included in out-of-the-box Opensuse.

Because there was a lot of unwanted noise over Truetype and Novell at at the time, perhaps it is worth quoting part of a new interview with a Freetype developer.

[Q:] If the patent owner of hinting gives the Freetype project a free license, would you accept it?

David Turner [of Freetype]: It really depends on the terms of this “free license”. Basically if it means the patent can not be freely re-licensed to other people, I really don’t see why I would find that useful. If you absolutely need the bytecode interpreter, you can be patient and wait for October 9, 2009, when the patents expire.

[...]

There is no clear answer as to what is best. Personally, I can’t stand native TrueType hinted fonts anymore, they look too distorted to me, even if their contrast is better. My favorite Linux distribution is Ubuntu at the moment, and the first thing I do after installing it is to wipe the version of FreeType provided with it to get rid of the bytecode interpreter :o)

Also, I still don’t understand why Debian and Ubuntu keep distributing patent-infringing code in FreeType, while they keep MP3 and DVD playback out of their normal installs. I’m not even sure it’s DFSG compliant…

Is anybody else getting the feeling that a patent reform or overhaul is desperately needed?

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3 Comments

  1. Anonymous said,

    June 30, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    Gravatar

    > later pointed out that proprietary software may be included in out-of-the-box Opensuse.

    You’re such great disclosure journalists. NOT!

    Breaking news: the boxed openSUSE contains and has for long proprietary software. Same for the openSUSE download DVD (eg Flash, RealPlayer, Opera).

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 30, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    Gravatar

    I was under the impression that SUSE (maybe I got confused here with SLES/SLED) had some proprietary bits because there was a discussion about this in Ted Haeger’s blog last year. It revolved around some people’s desire for a more Fedora-like set of applications. Also see:

    http://boycottnovell.com/2007/06/10/opensuse-survey-commercial/

    Either way, thanks for pointing that out.

  3. This is all ridiculous! said,

    January 14, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    Gravatar

    Oh c’mon!
    You said in the article that UBUNTU DISTRIBUTES TRUETYPE TOO!
    The site says BOYCOTT NOVELL, NOT BOYCOTT UBUNTU!

    Also, although they failed miserably, Novell was trying to do something good for the linux community when they “signed the treaty”. Note that Microsoft is now targeting Novell SUSE linux explicitly in their attack-ads. I don’t think that the decision Novell made was right, but Novell has done a lot for the linux community. Proprietary Software on Linux is a bad thing, but right now it is somewhat needed because if the average WinDo$e user found out about Linux and it DIDNT support their favourite flash sites, java, fonts, etc they would laugh and call us linux users n00bs and keep on funding Bill Gates’s retirement. Novell is trying to make linux more comfortable for Microsoft users.

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