Font issues -Akruti Baraha and Nudi

As Sathyanarayana has detailed in his write-up, the glyphs from Akruti fonts were used in the first version of Baraha, which was then used in the first version of Nudi. 

 

As per my knowledge CVSS got this conversion of font encodings done by someone here at Bangalore itself. 

 

The fonts were not made from scratch at Koppa. This is clear violation of intellectual property rights.

 

Font issues -Akruti, Baraha and Nudi

 

by U B Pavanaja

 

I had put up Kannada’s first web-site called Vishva Kannada during Dec. 1996 with the support of S K Anand of Cyberscape. Dynamic font technology was not being used by Vishva Kannada at that time. Akruti fonts were given for download at the web-site. Users have to download the font, install it in their PC and then they could read the Vishva Kannada web-site in Kannada. Sometimes in the first half of 1997, I got an email from Sheshadri Vasu who was at USA. In that mail he appreciated Vishva Kannada. He added that it takes a long time to copy characters through CharMap (an utility present in Windows to copy a glyph of a font into any application) and make a Kannada sentence. I explained him how to type in Kannada using the keyboard driver which has to be bought from Cyberscape. I gave the contact details of S K Anand and the approximate price of the software also. Then there was no mail from Vasu for some time. One day I got an email from Vasu saying that he has made a software called Baraha that can be used as an editor for Kannada. He wrote that he wanted to give this software free to everyone. The version sent to me was a beta version. He had actually written an editor for the font he downloaded from the web. I asked him about the copyright of the font. He had not thought anything about that. I explained to him the he need to take the permission of S K anand of Cyberscape to use Akruti fonts in his software. Later on he changed the ASCII values of Akruti font and released the Baraha package officially. His idea was that just by changing the ASCII values of the glyphs, his font becomes different from Akruti font. But morally, ethically and legally, this amounts to violation of intellectual property rights. After a long gap of six years, recently (2004), Vasu admitted that he used the glyphs from Akruti fonts.  

 

Now let me discuss the about the fonts bundled with Nudi. Nudi was initially thought as a testing software. This was made into a package later on. Myself and Harsha (the programmer who did the coding for Nudi) were opposing the release of Nudi without our own professional fonts. Making a font is an elaborate process. Artists have to draw each character (glyph) on paper, they have to be scanned, digitized, hinted, etc. It takes months for each font. CVSS told me that he got the font made from someone before submitting the final package to GoK. In one of the executive committee meeting S K Anand and myself questioned CVSS about who made the fonts, how much was paid to him, etc. GNNM gave a reply that someone at Koppa made the fonts. I mentioned that KGP should have the complete record of making of the fonts like original drawings by the artist, first raw digitized data, the final font, etc. GNNM promised to get all these from Koppa and show to us in the next meeting. He never bothered to do that.

 

I came to know about the entire story about fonts much much later. Initially I used to believe the statements of CVSS about the fonts. But it took almost 2 years for me to accidentally discover the truth. While experimenting with opentype font creation, I was studying the glyphs of all Kannada fonts. When I opened Baraha, Akruti and Nudi fonts in a font editing software, I found that they all have the same glyph sets, even though their ASCII values are different. As Sathyanarayana has detailed in his write-up, the glyphs from Akruti fonts were used in the first version of Baraha, which was then used in the first version of Nudi. As per my knowledge CVSS got this conversion of font encodings done by someone here at Bangalore itself. The fonts were not made from scratch at Koppa. This is clear violation of intellectual property rights. I had a strong and heated argument with CVSS and GNNM about one or two months before the elections to the executive committee of KGP. I blasted CVSS for misleading me and telling lies to me that the fonts were developed at Koppa. CVSS and GNNM have told lies to me and cheated GoK by supplying them with pirated fonts. Definitely my position became very awkward that I being the mentor and the person in charge of Nudi in the initial stages was not informed of these backdoor activities by CVSS. I fired both CVSS and GNNM left and right. At that time GNNM even challenged me to prove these in the court along with S K Anand who had already threatened to sue KGP for violation of intellectual property rights.

 

With this background let me discuss a bit of what Vasu has written in a document and widely circulated in mailing lists. This document is also present in his Baraha discussion group (groups.msn.com/baraha). Let me quote from this document-

 

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USA courts have long back decided that fonts can’t be copyrighted AT ALL!  Here, the digital outline can never be protected. According to them there can’t be any original font style, because, every font is created by slightly modifying some other font, and there aren’t really “new” font designs! See the following excerpts from the law…

“The Copyright Office has decided that digitized representations of typeface designs are not registerable under the Copyright Act because they do not constitute original works of authorship. The digitized representations of typefaces are neither original computer programs (as defined in 17 U.S.C. 101), nor original databases, nor any other original work of authorship.”

So, in a font, the name, any programming code not describing the font design are all that can be copyrighted. This leaves the door open in the USA to have anyone pay for the output of each character from a typesetter and re-digitize it or extract the design from a font program (and rename it), easily duplicating the design. Most foundries have very similar fonts derived from work largely designed by others. More information about font/copyright can be found at http://ssifonts.com/Myths.htm

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Vasu has very cleverly and conveniently quoting from a web-site put up in the year 1997 and has not been updated afterwards. There is a reason for this site not being updated afterwards. This refers to the classic legal battle between Adobe and SSI. Souther Software Inc. (SSI) used to copy and rename fonts from Adobe and others. They thought they were safe from prosecution because, though they had directly copied the points that define the shapes from Adobe's fonts, they had moved all the points just slightly so they were not technically identical. Nevertheless, in his 1998 judgment, the judge determined that the computer code had been copied:

 

The evidence presented shows that there is some creativity in designing the font software programs. While the glyph dictates to a certain extent what points the editor must choose, it does not dictate every point that must be chosen. Adobe has shown that font editors make creative choices as to what points to select based on the image in front of them on the computer screen. The code is determined directly from the selection of the points. Thus, any copying of the points is copying of literal expression, that is, in essence, copying of the computer code itself.

 

SSI lost the legal battle at the courts. Judgment was in favor of Adobe. Hence SSI did not update their web-site. Vasu is conveniently quoting from this web-site. One can read in detail about this case in the following web-sites-

 

http://scripts.sil.org/cms/scripts/page.php?site_id=nrsi&item_id=UNESCO_Font_Lic

http://directory.serifmagazine.com/Ethics_and_Law/Copyright/judgement.php4

http://www.ipcounselors.com/19980309.htm

 

When we conducted a opentype font workshop at Bangalore during March 2003, there was a talk on IPR issues related to fonts by Lawrence Liang, who is an expert on cyber laws. He had discussed this Adobe vs SSI case.

 

I have written everything that I know about the font issues pertaining to Akruti, Baraha and Nudi. My intention is to bring out the truth, however bitter it is. I have no personal animosity with anyone whose name appears in this write-up. Please read this objectively and subjectively. That is, do a vasthunistha reading rather than a vyakthinishta reading.

 

Thanks for your patience and time.