I want to use some of the code from manfnt.mf. Perhaps my situation is best summarized by this (draft) commit message (slightly edited to look okay when processed as markdown):

New file dbend.mf

Copy of http://mirrors.ctan.org/systems/knuth/dist/lib/manfnt.mf, which has a modification date of "1989-08-11 11:39:25" listed.

http://ctan.org/tex-archive/systems/knuth/dist/lib says that this is under the Knuth License (http://ctan.org/license/knuth):

This software is copyright and you are explicitly granted a
license which gives you, the “user” of the software, legal
permission to copy, distribute and/or modify the software, so long as if you modify the software then it carry a different name from the original software.

I have already renamed it preparatory to modifying it. (I was going to do this regardless of the license because I plan to strip out everything but the "dangerous bend" symbol.)

I'm wondering:

  1. Why don't /usr/share/doc/texlive-base/copyright or /usr/share/doc/texlive-base/Licenses.gz give a license for this file? All I could find was this in the latter:

  2. How does CTAN "know" that this license applies? I didn't see anything about this in-tree, either on CTAN or on ftp.cs.stanford.edu ...

    Oh, huh, in checking that I had the right domain just now, I noticed ftp://ftp.cs.stanford.edu/pub/tex/README.KNUTH, which seems to say something at least similar. (manfnt.mf is in ftp://ftp.cs.stanford.edu/pub/tex/dist/lib/.)

  3. What should I put in the license blurb for my modified file, if I want to (say) CC0 my contributions?

  • Where is “this (draft) commit message” from? Please link, if possible, or add info about this.
    – Speravir
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 1:44
  • @Speravir: my *magit-edit-log* buffer in Emacs. I didn't commit anything yet, but I'm all set to commit a renamed copy of manfnt.mf.
    – SamB
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 1:48
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    @Speravir: I'm afraid I don't understand your last comment :-(
    – SamB
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 14:32
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    @Speravir: It looks to me as if the OP is providing a draft of a commit message. What other interpretation are you seeing? Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 14:45
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    I'm guessing there's an oversight here which should be reported. In TL 2011 and 2012, I have texmf-dist/fonts/source/public/misc/manfnt.mf. Only in TL 2013 does texmf-dist/fonts/source/public/knuth-lib/manfnt.mf appear. My guess is that the information has not been updated. This means that, strictly speaking, we have the file with no licence in the TL 2013 distribution... This may be a distro packaging error, though, since I'm not sure licences are in the same location in TL from upstream...
    – cfr
    Commented Mar 30, 2014 at 4:36

1 Answer 1


i've done some research into the history of the "license" and the file manfnt.mf.

this file (current version from 1989) long predates both the creative commons (2001) and most of the discussion regarding "free" software licenses (although the free software foundation was formed in 1985).

knuth's original files for fonts do not incorporate license statements; that information is covered by a separate file. (explicit license statements have been added to the derivative files, e.g. type 1, that were produced later, by other developers.) however, because of knuth's standing, and his many public statements concerning his intentions with regard to all tex-related software (namely that it can be used freely, modified to suit one's needs, but -- if changed -- given a new name), this material has been accepted for inclusion in tex live. (after all, without tex itself, there would be no purpose for tex live to exist.) the reason for the name change request/requirement is practical -- to avoid the confusion that would ensue if a "different" file were used instead of the intended one. (there is already more than enough confusion when using a different version of a legitimately updated package.)

i passed the question to karl berry, who has considerable experience in this area. hw suggests the following:

% This file, dbend.mf, is derived from manfnt.mf, which was
% created by Donald Knuth and released under his usual license:
% http://www.ctan.org/license/knuth.
% Modifications by xxx to dbend.mf are released to the public domain.

if you choose instead to use CC0, then the CC0 faq on the creative commons site gives the recommended text (or go directly to the specific url ).

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    In case you aren't aware, the CC0 is basically the public domain + a plan B in case that doesn't work in a relevant jurisdiction.
    – SamB
    Commented Apr 18, 2014 at 4:18

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