Public statement by Rachana Institute of Typography on the copyright/credit issue of SMC and RIT fonts
A public statement issued by KH Hussain, CV Radhakrishnan, PK Ashok Kumar and KV Rajeesh.
We — KH Hussain, CV Radhakrishnan, PK Ashok Kumar and KV Rajeesh
— are the copyright holders of
A copyright/‘credit’ issue
Immediately after the font
“@rajeeshknambiar there are lot (sic) of contributions from me, Kavya in the build scripts, tests, and feature files in https://gitlab.com/rit-fonts/tnjoy/ Consider giving credit”.
On 14-Oct-2019, Santhosh followed up again.
“@rajeeshknambiar did not reply to my request for giving credits in their font.”
“Ask hussain sir to give credits for font testing and building framework. Crediting anivar alone is not enough.”
To which Rajeesh responded on 19-Oct-2019, to discuss with all
the copyright holders of
“Noted. I will try to take it up for discussion and let you know.”
On 29-Oct-2019, Santhosh again followed up:
“അങ്ങനെ എഴുതുകയും ചെയ്യുകയും ചെയ്ത ഫോണ്ടിന്റെ കാര്യങ്ങൾക്ക് ക്രെഡിറ്റ് കിട്ടിയില്ലെന്നാണ് പറയുന്നത് അനിവർ:) sundar, and janayugam fonts. ഇതിൽ രാജാജിയുടെ ഹെൽപ്പൊന്നും വേണ്ട. even @rajeeshknambiar can just fix it”
During the first week of Nov-2019 for the summit organized by
Kerala Media Academy, all the copyright holders of
As free software developers and users, it was not our intention to violate copyright or appropriate credit of another free software developer’s work at all. Not only in intention, but we strived to achieve that in all our projects by acts. So, this accusation came as a surprise to us and we decided to take a deeper look at how this issue originated and what the root cause is, to address it properly.
We did a detailed analysis and documented the following details.
- A Malayalam Unicode font has two essential parts — the
Glyphs (അക്ഷരരൂപങ്ങൾ) and the OpenType shaping lookup rules.
Unlike Latin fonts, both of these are necessary for proper
shaping. The final
TTF/OTF/WOFF2contains both Glyphs and OpenType shaping rules to make a Malayalam Unicode font usable software. Without either, such a software is not usable.
- The Malayalam opentype features
GSUBand GPOS‘lookup rules’) used in font ‘ TN Joy’ developed by Rachana Institute of Typography ( RIT) are adapted from that of font ‘Sundar’ which in turn are adapted from feature file of ‘Rachana’.
- To develop the feature file of Rachana over the years, many have contributed including the original author Hussain KH , Suresh P, Santhosh Thottingal, Rajeesh KV, Kavya Manohar et al. .
- Hussain KH invented and implemented the glyph naming
conventions (‘k1’ for ‘
ക’, ‘xx’ for ‘
്’ etc. instead
of names like ‘uni0D15’ etc.), which made font featuring highly
comprehensible for programming and much easier to maintain. This
naming scheme is followed by all fonts maintained by Swathanthra
Malayalam Computing (
SMC) and RIT. This was also the naming scheme in fonts developed by ATPSand when it was pointed out that those fonts were derived from SMC’s, the immediate change made was renaming the glyphs and lookup rules [2, 3, 4].
- Rajeesh is the original author of lookup rules of
SMC’s fonts for revised ‘mlm2’ OpenType specification for Malayalam, and made it possible to support both ‘mlym’ and ‘mlm2’ specification in a single font. This resulted in making a single font work well with Windows XP, Pango/Qt4 era applications and Uniscribe, HarfBuzz era applications .
- In 2015, Santhosh split the comprehensive lookup rules from
SFDfile of Rachana into a separate feature file, but the copyright statements were not preserved . It is our opinion that removing copyright statements is violation of copyright act (hence a crime) and immoral in the free software world. This is also the root cause for missing copyright in the OpenType lookup rules and build script, of the fonts in question.
- The same lookup rules in 2, 4 and 5 are used and adapted by
subsequent fonts developed by
SMCand RIT, such as Chilanka, Manjari, Sundar, Gayathri, TN Joy etc. Rajeesh did not claim for credit or copyright when Manjari or Gayathri was released.
With this background,
- Fonts developed, maintained and distributed by both
SMCand RIT, specifically its OpenType lookup rules fontforge based build tool test cases are at the heart of this issue. This is caused by the change introduced by Santhosh in .
- The copyright holders of
TN Joy font were made aware of such ‘credit’ issue — the definition of which Santhosh has not clarified and in RIT’s understanding is sufficient and limited to ‘copyright’. Thanks for bringing light into such a potential legal and moral risk that affects the users and organizations using these fonts.
RITwould like to acknowledge the copyright of Santhosh Thottingal and Kavya Manohar for the development of ‘Sundar’ and ‘ TN Joy’ in the areas of lookup rules, the ‘build script’ and comprehensive ‘test file’. RITis willing to add the missing copyright notice to these files;
and RIT asked Santhosh to consider:
- Preserve the copyright of the original authors of the ‘lookup rules’ and Naming convention (notation for Glyphs) in all these fonts. The copyright and license statement should read:
“Copyright: Digitized data copyright (c) 2004–2005
Rachana Akshara Vedi (Chitrajakumar R, Hussain KH, Gangadharan N,
Vijayakumaran Nair, Subash Kuraiakose), (c) 2006–2016 Hussain KH,
Suresh P, Santhosh Thottingal, Rajeesh K Nambiar, Swathanthra
This file is licensed under
- The Fontforge
based ‘build script’ added by Santhosh used to generate
TTF/OTF/WOFF/WOFF2 files is adapted from that of Amiri font by Khaled Hosny  without preserving copyright or attribution. RITrequests to credit the original author[s] of this tool. It is of our opinion that removing copyright statements from a free software program code is illegal and immoral. It is also hypocritical when a person who asserts one’s own credit does this crime to other well-known and respected free software developer[s].
- Test cases in the ‘test file’
are contributed by various contributors,
RITrequest to add the attribution of such contributors to the extent possible (Kavya Manohar, Santhosh Thottingal, Rajeesh KV). Santhosh has responded to this request as “test cases were mainly prepared by Kavya and no need to have attribution”, but RITfirmly believes the copyright statements of the contributors must be added.
- The original author of ‘mlym.sty’ file
 to typeset Unicode Malayalam using
is Suresh P, which was enhanced by
Rajeesh KV with inputs from Hussain KH. Due to frequent requests on
how to typeset Malayalam using Unicode, in 2013 Rajeesh wrote a
with basic details, which was later
extended by other developers with instructions to install and
packages. This wiki article was
later extended by Santhosh by adding matter from Wikipedia. This
article was then copied and published in Santhosh’s blog
without attributing the authors, and
is frequently provided by Santhosh as the first
response to general public asking for documentation on how to
typeset Malayalam using XeTEX.
It is shockingly hypocritical that plagiarism is practised by a well known free software developer who asserts one’s own credit without any respect to others copyright or credit.
RITwould like Santhosh to either: (a) redact  and redirect to  instead, or (b) credit the original authors in .
RIThas added proper copyright statements to all the software used in building its fonts, viz. ‘Sundar’ and ‘ TN Joy’ [11,12].
RITbelieves that our primary responsibility is towards the individual and institutional users of our fonts and developers depending on our tools; and they should be able to use our fonts and tools without any legal risk or moral ambiguity. RIT, to the best of its knowledge, has fulfilled that responsibility and strive to do so.
RITalso understands that as with any issue in the free software world, the community would be divided, and it is a painful thing. RITrequest the community to carefully consider all the facts before making a choice.
This will be the final public statement of
- KH Hussain
- CV Radhakrishnan
- PK Ashok Kumar
- KV Rajeesh
- Rachana font commit history,
- Kathir font licensing issue (1), 2014,
- Kathir font licensing issue (2), 2014,
ATPSfonts licensing issue, 2015, URLhttps://groups.google.com/...
- Introducing and integrating ‘mlm2’ OpenType shaping rules, 2013,
- Split Glyphs
and OpenType shaping rules, 2015,
- Amiri font build tool,
Malayalam style file for ‘Logbook of an Observer’, 2012,
- Typesetting Malayalam using XeTEX,
SMCWiki page history, 2013, URLhttps://wiki.smc.org.in/...
- 2014, https://thottingal.in/blog/...
- Sundar font, reinstate copyright and license statements, 2019,
TN Joy font, reinstate copyright and license statements, 2019, URLhttps://gitlab.com/rit-fonts/...
Profile of the signatories
- KH Hussain
- Library and information scientist by
training and profession, font designer and developer of several
fonts including, Rachana, Meera, Meera Inimai,
TN Joy, RSugathan, Janayugom, Keraleeyam, Uroob, etc., free software activist, released all fonts under Open Font License. Played an important role in the migration of Janayugom dail to free software based production technologies.
- CV Radhakrishnan
- Free software activist and
programmer, one of the founders
of the Free Software Foundation of India and Indian
Users Group. Organized two annual meetings of the
TEX Users Group in Trivandrum in 2002
and 2011. Wrote several packages (libraries) in
and released under free license
LPPL) at Comprehensive TEX Archive Network ( CTAN).
- PK Ashok Kumar
- Typesetter by profession and training,
has four decades of extensive experience in typesetting right
from the age of metal typefaces through digitized typesetting
Free content activist
and principal tester for fonts developed by
RIT, played a major role in the migration of production of Janayugom daily using free software.
- KV Rajeesh
- Free software developer and user. Fedora
project developer since 2008 and
KDEdeveloper since 2011. Font maintainer and language computing contributor to Swathanthra Malayalam Computing since 2008. Member of Indic testing team for HarfBuzz. Google Summer of Code mentor. Contributes to various free software projects including Qt, GNOME, VLC, Odoo, Fontforge, SILE, ConTEXt, Okular, etc.