License for console fonts

Robert Bonomi bonomi at
Tue May 10 01:53:04 UTC 2011

> From owner-freebsd-questions at  Mon May  9 18:04:36 2011
> Date: Mon, 9 May 2011 18:04:30 -0500
> From: Dan Nelson <dnelson at>
> To: Sean Hamilton <seanhamilton at>
> Cc: freebsd-questions at
> Subject: Re: License for console fonts
> In the last episode (May 09), Sean Hamilton said:
> > What is the license on the fonts in /usr/share/syscons/fonts, especially
> > swiss-8x8?  Who/what is their origin?  Would it be acceptable to include
> > these binaries with a GPL-licensed program?
> I submitted the "swiss" fonts back in 1997, and I have a file called
> "" on an old DOS directory dated 1995, so they're probably even
> older than that.  I seem to remember the 8x16 font was inspired by a sample
> font that came with the ancient DOS font editor "Font Mania", but for
> nostalgia's sake I goooled for it, started up DOSBox, and all of the sample
> fonts are fancy and not suitable for daily use.  I don't think I came up
> with the name "swiss" myself, so I probably used another VGA font as a
> template, but my guess is the original author isn't concerned about the
> copyright status...  You can consider them 2-clause BSD licensed like the
> rest of FreeBSD, until someone can find an older font that looks similar.

'Swiss' is a name _many_ people used for a free "Helvetica" look-alike font.

a substantial number were explicitly released into the public domain by being
prduced _without_ any copright notice -- This was *before* U.S. adpted the 
"Berne Convention' copyright rules, and publication "without copyright claim"
did, in _those_days_ (although *not* true today) did put it in the public

GNU, and GhostScript, had a Swiss font.

"Cassiday & Greene" (a type foundry company) had a Swiss in their catalogue.
(copyrighted, but -very- inexpensive to license.)

I think the X11 distribution has a real, licensed, Helvetica,

Thus, an 'authoritative' answer abuut the 'swiss' font in the FreeBSDo
distribution is going to depend on _which_ font named "swiss" that it 
actually is.   I would _not_ want to hazard a guess on that point -- among
other things, I'm *nt* a good enough typographer to tell the difference
between 'very simmilar' fonts.  <wry grin>

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