In the article I wrote for the On The Docket column in the March 2007 issue of Linux Magazine, I discussed various legal issues that are impeding the adoption of Linux on the desktop. One of those issues is the ubiquity of the proprietary Microsoft fonts – Times New Roman®, Arial® and Courier New®. Use of these proprietary fonts presents a barrier to truly open documents in that Microsoft will not license others to redistribute these fonts. In that same article, I also suggested that this problem was solvable by the development of a set of fonts that are the metric equivalents of the Microsoft fonts, i.e., the fonts assume the identical horizontal spacing as the Microsoft fonts such that, when substituted for the Microsoft fonts, a line of text is identically displayed. To date the Linux desktop has not had access to such metrically equivalent fonts under an open source license. Today, that changes.

To address this issue and to take a key step toward liberating desktops, Red Hat contracted with Ascender Corp., one of the leading commercial developers of fonts, to develop a set of fonts that are metrically equivalent to the key Microsoft fonts. Under the terms of that development agreement, Ascender retains rights in the fonts and can provide them under a traditional proprietary license to those who require such a license, e.g. printers that have fonts embedded in their firmware, but Red Hat receives a license that permits us to sublicense the fonts at no cost under the GPL+font exception. The fonts are being developed in two stages. The first release is a set of fully usable fonts, but they will lack the fully hinting capability (hinting adjusts font pixelization so that the fonts render with high quality at large and small sizes) provided by TrueType/FreeType technology. That release is now ready. The second release will provide full hinting of the fonts, and that release will be available by the end of the calendar year.

Today Red Hat announced the public release of these fonts under the trademark LIBERATION at the Red Hat Summit. There are three sets, Sans (a substitute for Arial, Albany, Helvetica, Nimbus Sans L, and Bitstream Vera Sans), Serif (a substitute for Times New Roman, Thorndale, Nimbus Roman, and Bitstream Vera Serif) and Mono (a substitute for Courier New, Cumberland, Courier, Nimbus Mono L, and Bitstream Vera Sans Mono). In the meantime, the fonts are now available for you to install.

For those running Red Hat Enterprise Linux and/or Fedora systems and wanting the fonts in RPM format to install, you can get them through your RHN service.

You are free to use these fonts on any system you would like. You are free to redistribute them under the GPL+exception license found in the download. Using these fonts does not subject your documents to the GPL, it liberates them from any proprietary claim. Once you have installed these fonts, I encourage you to make them your default in Thunderbird, FireFox, and Open Office. Heck, for that matter make them your default in Microsoft Office, in Microsoft Windows, in Apple OSX, in anything your would like. In many applications you can set Times New Roman, Arial and Courier New to convert to these fonts.

This is just one way for Red Hat to say thank you to all our friends in the open source community for all you have done to make us successful.