The TrueType fonts, once available on this Microsoft web page, were apparently pulled on Aug. 12, the first day of the LinuxWorld show here. It was unclear which Linux distributions would be affected by Microsoft's decision, although a representative of the Debian GNU/Linux organization said it had withdrawn a TrueType font package from its distribution.
In a statement, a spokesman for Microsoft said that the company withdrew the free fonts for several reasons. "Most users who wanted the fonts have downloaded them already," a company spokesman wrote in an email to ExtremeTech. "They ship with recent OS's - Windows XP and Mac OS (via Internet Explorer). Microsoft has also found that the downloads were being abused - repackaged, modified and shipped with commercial products in violation of the EULA [licensing agreement]."
The spokesman did not name any companies or individuals in its statement, nor indicate that any lawsuits would be forthcoming. Microsoft representatives were unavailable for followup questions at press time.
The removal of the fonts was first reported by OSNews.com, a software news site.
In the email, the Microsoft spokesman said that earlier versions of Windows, such as Windows 98 through Windows 2000, included "most" of the TrueType fonts, with the exception of the Trebuchet MS, Andale Mono and Georgia fonts. A printed version of a "TrueType" font is designed to look exactly the same as when it is displayed on a computer screen.
"The fonts are pretty widely distributed," the Microsoft spokesman wrote. "It's safe to say that anyone that wanted them would have downloaded them already. Web sites that specify them will not break. Windows 95 or Windows 3.1 users that don't have the fonts will see the page designer's fallback font choices, and these will provide adequate results."
Some LinuxWorld attendees were upset by the move, already agitated by Microsoft's presence at a show some consider an "anti-Microsoft" event. "What, you were surprised?" said an engineer for Collabnet, manning the OpenOffice.org booth.
The Collabnet engineer said the organization does not distribute any fonts itself, but includes a guide for downloading them. All of the attendees interviewed at LinuxWorld declined to be quoted on the record for legal reasons.
The timing of Microsoft's decision was made independent of the trade show, the Microsoft spokesman said. "First off, the timing is in no way related to Linux World. Although the EULA did not restrict the fonts to just Windows and Mac OS they were only ever available as Windows .exe's and Mac archive files. Having said that we acknowledge that the fonts have been used by members of the open source community, and this move will mean that they will have to find different sources for updated fonts. Although there is no significant open-source font development effort currently underway there are various freeware and commercial alternatives to our Web fonts."
The FreeType Project was designed as a free high-quality font engine, free from the possible patent issues which could arise from "hinting" patents owned by Apple Computer. Microsoft lists other sources of fonts on a related web page.
Although some Linux distributions apparently packaged TrueType fonts, it was not clear how many were affected. Debian withdrew a TrueType fonts package, said an engineer working for the Debian community, part of Software In the Public Interest Inc. (SPI).
"Yes, we had to pull that package," he said. "The answer is that there are plenty of fonts still in there, but they aren't TrueType."
An engineer for the K Desktop Environment (KDE) said that the distribution does not bundle any TrueType fonts into KDE itself or the related KOffice application. "There are two kinds of free," he said, referring to the popular definitions in the open-source community. "We weren't prohibited from downloading them from Microsoft as an individual user. But personally, I'd be embarrassed to use them."