On 11/29/2017 04:34 PM, Artur Iwicki wrote:
I'm currently trying to package some games for Fedora; since all of them come from
one author, they share a lot of their dependencies. One of the dependencies if the
"Perfect DOS VGA 437" font. While there's no licence explicitly stated, I
wrote an e-mail to the author and he responded that "the font is free to use for any
purpose. No crediting needed either. Feel free to use it."
However, there's a different issue I want to ask about. The 2003 blog post where the
author describes the process behind creating the font says:
> So I fired up QuickBasic (!), created a quick program to display
> all 255 characters directly on screen, and captured the screen
> using Screen Thief, a classic DOS image grabbing software that
> accompanied me for ages (it was mainly created to capture game
> screens on DOS, but it did capture text screens on graphic format).
As such, I wonder - could this font be seen as infringing copyright, and thus, not
suitable for inclusion in Fedora?
Unless overruled by Richard Fontana (or someone else from Red Hat
Legal), I say that this font is not infringing copyright in the US.
[[[ As always, IANAL, this is not legal advice. ]]]
Lots and lots and lots and LOTS of things are derived from Code Page
437, which originated on the IBM PC in 1981. In 1988, the US Copyright
Office considered the issue of whether digitized typefaces were
copyrightable and said "The Committee does not regard the design of
typeface, as thus defined, to be a copyrightable "pictorial, graphic, or
sculptural work" within the meaning of this bill and the application of
the dividing line in section 101 [H.R. Reg. No. 1476, 94th Cong., 2nd
Sess 5 (1976)]." They would have been well aware of Code Page 437 (due
to the wild success of the IBM PC and later offspring) by that point,
and did not consider it copyrightable. When the US Copyright Office
revisited this decision in 1992, they determined that the latest digital
outline fonts in fact had elements that could be protected as software,
and started accepting registration of copyright, but only for digital
vector fonts (Type 1, TrueType, OpenType), which Code Page 437 as
represented by the IBM PC, was not.
I suppose it might be possible that IBM held a design patent on Code
Page 437, but if so, it has long expired (and I am unaware of any).
Last, but not least, I can find no evidence of IBM claiming or
attempting to enforce copyright on Code Page 437 as implemented by the
IBM PC. Should they ever do so, we would consider it to be copyrighted,
and revise our stance on Perfect DOS VGA 437. This alone would not be
grounds for inclusion in Fedora (you do not need to enforce copyright to
hold/protect it), but in this case, it reinforces my opinion that IBM
does not consider Code Page 437 to be copyrighted.
Had this been done to a modern, copyrightable font, the result would
probably be considered infringement, so please, future reader, do not
attempt to apply this opinion to anything other than Code Page 437.