Kannada font issues
Posted by egovindia on August 7, 2006
Subject: font issues
Date: 7/29/2004 12:18:00 PM Pacific Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)
I have attached the promised document on the font issues. Hope I can
sleep peacefully now (it is 00:45 hrs in the night) 🙂
Dr. U.B. Pavanaja
CEO, Vishva Kannada Softech
Think Globally, Act locally
Font issues -Akruti, Baraha and Nudi
by U B Pavanaja
Birth of Baraha
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. (Recently, during his visit to India in June 2004, Vasu wrote an article for Vijaya Karnataka, wherein he mentioned the discussions he had with me about the relation between font and keyboard driver). 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. He included the Kan Ballal font which was given to read Udayavani web-site with the first release of Baraha, which was given to some select friends only. Later on he changed the ASCII values of the glyphs 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, in a mail to S K Anand.
Fonts used in Nudi
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. C V Srinatha Sasthry (CVSS), Chief Secretary, Kannada Ganaka Parishat (KGP), 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. G N Narsimha Murthy (GNNM), Secretary, KGP, 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.
Vasu’s justification and the realities
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-
—————– Begin ———————————
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
———————- End —————————-
Vasu is 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. Southern 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:-
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.
Vasu’s interview to Deccan Herald and my comments
Vasu gave an interview to Deccan Herald during his visit to Bangalore in June 2004. Here are some excerpts and my comments on them:-
> “Then, I, along with Ganaka Parishad and the State Government worked to bring Kannada software for official use”, he (Vasu) said.
I don’t remember any of such efforts by Sheshadri Vasu. In fact Vasu was very reluctant to implement the GoK standard for font and keyboard. There was a heated argument between Dr Panditharadhya and K T Chandrashekharan, father of Vasu, in this connection. All along the time Shasthry, Narasimha Murthy and Panditharadhya were advocating that Baraha killed Kannada while Nudi saved it! Vasu did implement the keyboard and font standards after repeated appeals by Shrinatha Shasthry and Narasimha Murthy.
> Baraha 4.0 was the first software that was implemented in Government offices with font styles.
I don’t think this statement of Sheshadri Vasu is true. There were many Kannada software being used in state govt much much before KGP, Nudi or Baraha came into existence.
> But the Ganaka Parishad and the State Government have introduced Nudi software as a benchmark system.
If Vasu were to introduce the GoK standards much earlier than the release of Kalitha (Nudi), Nudi would not have come into existence.
> Unfortunately for me, the government is insisting the use of Nudi software.
Why should be unfortunate to him? He is not selling Baraha.
> While Baraha has fulfilled the terms and conditions put forth by the Government, including stipulations such as keyboard and transliteration, I wonder why they are forcing departments to use only Nudi”, he said. One of Baraha’s many advantages, according to Vasu, is that it allows a person who knows Kannada to type it in English fonts. He felt preference of software (Baraha or Nudi) should be left to end user.
Why the choice should be only between Nudi and Baraha, both of them are obsolete in the current and future time where Unicode is the world standard? Actually the choice should be between Windows XP/2003, Mac, Linux, Solaris, Java Desktop, Unix, etc. all are having Unicode compliance.
Meeting with Vasu in June 2004
Vasu was felicitated by Upasana in Bangalore during his visit in June 2004. I met him during that function. I discussed many things in general like Unicode features, facility needed in Baraha to convert RTF and HTML documents into Unicode, etc. Casually I asked him where from he is getting the fonts for his Baraha package. As per his answer, there is an artist in Bangalore who draws the shapes on paper and sends them to him. He (Vasu) scans, digitizes and makes them into fonts. I did not discuss anything about the Akruti font issue.
Conclusion and request
Baraha has copied and used one font from Akruti software. This font is one of the many fonts bundled with current version of Nudi.
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 (objective) reading rather than a vyakthinishta (subjective) reading.
Thanks for your patience and time.