Open Source Publishing – Graphic Design Caravan

Bitstream Charter

Type · February 12th, 2006 ·

To my surprise Bitstream Charter, one of the few usable Open Source fonts around I know of, is currently published on myfonts.com with the following licence: http://www.myfonts.com/viewlicense?id=315

no modifications

Florian Cramer explains what is really going on:

“That’s true, but the license change refers to a newer version of Bitstream Charter. A copyright owner of a work is free to change the licensing terms any time, either rendering a formely free work proprietary or vice versa. But a license change can never be retroactive, i.e. it can’t affect the licensing terms of a previously released version of the same work. (Same happened to SSH for example: The original SSH continues to be developed as proprietary software, whereas OpenSSH – included among others in Mac OS X and Linux – was developed on the basis of an older, free version of the original SSH package.)

An older version of Bitstream Charter was donated to the X Window system and continues to be available under the extremely liberal MIT/X11 license. In Debian and Ubuntu, the font is part of the package “xfonts-scalable” which is in the fully free standard distribution.


The “Gentium” font is another interesting typeface that just has switched to a free license. However, the license is still under review by Debian. It’s a classicist font that looks more conservative than Charter, but it offers a greater number of international glyphs.”

Tags: · ,


  • 1. Benct Philip Jonsson

    Dec 21, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    So what *is* the deal? The version of Bitstream Charter found at TUG and bundled with X11 can (still) be used as the basis for derivative works provided the copyright notice is included and the derivative work is made public under a different name? Does this apply regardless of which country the maker of the derivative work resides in/is a citizen of?

  • 2. OSP

    Dec 28, 2009 at 1:42 am

    “You are hereby granted permission under all Bitstream propriety rights to use, copy, modify, sublicense, sell, and redistribute the 4 Bitstream Charter (r) Type 1 outline fonts and the 4 Courier Type 1 outline fonts for any purpose and without restriction; provided, that this notice is left intact on all copies of such fonts and that Bitstream’s trademark is acknowledged as shown below on all unmodified copies of the 4 Charter Type 1 fonts.”

    So, I guess the answer is: yes!