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I'd like to know if it is legal to install the msttcorefonts package and also if installing Windows software using Wine is also legal? I currently live in Brazil and I don't know what specific rules apply over here, but would appreciate any feedback on this matter. Thanks in advance!

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Only a lawyer specialized in brazilian copyright can give you 100% certainty ;) –  Rinzwind May 9 '12 at 18:02
    
and in some countries it would be illegal for non-lawyers to give you legal advice... –  xubuntix May 10 '12 at 6:44
    
@xubuntix This is not legal advice for any country. But in most countries it would probably be illegal for non-lawyers to give you legal advice in the sense of counseling you in the law. So long as we are very clear that we're either not lawyers (like me, I'm not a lawyer) or that what we're saying isn't legal advice, most countries respect our right to express our opinions on political issues, like questions of how laws would be interpreted by courts. One must carefully navigate the line between one of the least protected forms of speech and one of the most, but the line is pretty bright. –  Eliah Kagan May 10 '12 at 13:49
    
Thanks for your comments. I understand the questions regarding law can vary based on where you are, so I guess asking a brazilian lawyer is a good advice for my particular case. Thanks! –  prubini87 May 10 '12 at 18:53
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

msttcorefonts is considered globally legal for installation because the license for the fonts allow them to be installed and by omission, installed on non-Windows operating systems, without a Windows license.

In short: It's not a case of copyright law because Microsoft allows the redistribution of the font installers and it allows users to install the fonts (regardless of OS).

It does not allow for redistribution of the TTF font files on their own, so, for example, it would not allow for a distribution like Ubuntu to include them by default.

Sidebar: The newer (Vista-era) fonts like Consolas, Segoe, Cambria, Candara have explicit "only for Windows" junk in their licenses, but these fonts aren't included in msttcorefonts so that doesn't matter.


Wine is less black and white.

  • From a copyright stance, great effort seems to go into making sure that all of the Wine code is completely original (eg people who have seen Windows code are not allowed to contribute) and that helps to keep the copyright side of things fairly clean.

  • But technology wise, it's aim is essentially to redevelop the core of Windows. I'd be surprised if there weren't more than a couple of Microsoft patents it trod on. Microsoft has been filing patents for every other line of code for 20 years and the USPTO has been more than willing to grant them all sorts of silly, super-obvious patents.

    Anyway, this shouldn't affect you directly (yet) because there hasn't been any legal action (AFAIK) and even if there were, it would be likely to happen in the US. I'm not a lawyer so I can't say how this would affect you either.

If you need a bullet-proof legal way to run a Windows application from within Ubuntu, virtualisation is probably the key. A real licensed copy of Windows running will do almost anything you want it to (with a performance hit).

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The unfortunate thing about software patents is that potentially any software could trod on them, and the more complex the software, the more likely this is to be the case. I don't think there's any strong reason to think that virtualization software (FOSS or proprietary) would be more free of patent violation than Wine, as companies that make virtualization software file for lots and lots of software patents. In any case, while this is not legal advice, I think that whether you use Wine or virtualize, you are probably not personally liable for a patent claim. –  Eliah Kagan May 10 '12 at 13:46
    
Thanks for the answer and for you comment @Eliah. This answer reinforces what I think is true about msttcorefonts, but I'll try to read the terms with extra care before I install it futurely - that is, in case I do. I own an Adobe Photoshop's license and I was wondering if I could run it under Linux, but besides the information you've provided about Wine, I'll try to contact Adobe regarding this matter. Thanks a lot! –  prubini87 May 10 '12 at 19:02
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@prubini87 Adobe probably does not support running Adobe Photoshop with Wine, but you should be able to do it. So long as it's properly licensed and not concurrently installed or running anywhere else (unless your license allows that), I doubt there would be any legal problem. appdb.winehq.org is a good resource to see what works with Wine and how to get stuff to work. –  Eliah Kagan May 10 '12 at 19:09
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I am not a lawyer, but generally speaking packages that are included in the official Ubuntu repositories are not encumbered by any copyright or patent restrictions that would make it a tort or crime to install. A number of useful packages are excluded from the official software sources because it would be unlawful for some users in some places to install them, due to such concerns. One example of such a package is libdvdcss2, which is provided in the unofficial Medibuntu repository. By enabling unofficial repositories and installing packages where you've been warned of possible copyright or patent issues, a user takes full responsibility for determining the legal status of their actions.

However, while msttcorefonts is provided in official Ubuntu software sources, is not free open source software. This package installs proprietary fonts copyrighted by Microsoft. When you install it, you are asked agree to Microsoft's terms of use for these fonts. You would probably incur civil liability if you installed this package and then engaged in acts covered by the copyright laws in your jurisdiction and prohibited by the terms of use.

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I only see a ttf-mscorefonts-installer package which does not provide any licensed files, but just downloads them. –  Lekensteyn May 9 '12 at 19:33
    
@Lekensteyn Good point. The packages that give Ubuntu users Microsoft-copyrighted fonts for use in Wine don't actually contain the fonts; rather they provide them to the user by downloading them during the installation process. It's the same kind of thing as the flashplugin-installer package for getting Adobe Flash. –  Eliah Kagan May 9 '12 at 19:39
    
Thanks for your answers, it clears out a few doubts I had. Thanks for the comments also - from what you said then, I can install both msttcorefonts and flashplugin-installer without infringing any copyright laws, but these packages can't come with Ubuntu by default, is that it @Eliah? –  prubini87 May 10 '12 at 19:04
    
@prubini87 Well, like I said, I'm not a lawyer and this isn't legal advice. But yes, the msttcorefonts/ttf-mscorefonts-installer and flashplugin-installer packages exist to enable you to obtain software that the Ubuntu project would be legally restricted from hosting and distributing in some jurisdictions...without anybody breaking the law. These packages don't package the proprietary content with which they are associated, but instead automatically download it from authorized download sites to your computer. So long as you read and abide by any license agreements, you should be OK. –  Eliah Kagan May 10 '12 at 19:12
    
Another way to install Flash, which is officially endorsed by Adobe, is through the partner repository. You can search for adobe-flashplugin in the Software Center. The necessary software source will be enabled automatically if you install it. But you shouldn't have both adobe-flashplugin and flashplugin-installer installed at the same time. –  Eliah Kagan May 10 '12 at 19:13
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