Fonts are hard work, can be beautiful and deserve to be protected. It's just a shame that fonts are always priced with professionals in mind. I would very much love to be able to just go font shopping as a mere consumer. I cannot pay $100 (or more) for one font weight, though. Some sort of iTunes store for fonts where you pay $10 (or so) for a basic package (normal, italic, bold, bold italic) would be great. You could limit that to non-professional use. I guess there only aren't enough people like me out there to make that feasible.
It's not as clear cut as you make out - if you personally redraw the font then you're fine, AFAICT, at least wrt the standard lettering.
The OFL link above says that it was considered that the standard alphabet couldn't be copyright. That means that any font use that includes anything beyond the standard alphabet would be copyrightable.
http://nwalsh.com/comp.fonts/FAQ/cf_13.htm is a bit more certain: If you copy a font file for use online, say, the typeface is PD (only in the US) but the other parts are still subject to copyright and the actual digital font file is itself copyright.
The big problem with fonts for me at the moment is the uncertainty and fragmentation in web licensing.
There is much out there (no doubt, some great cheap or even free stuff), but the stuff that makes me giddy is generally too expensive for me.
Unfortunately with webfonts they don't have to go checking someone's flyers against a reference font they can automate the finding of infringers and sending of C&D and probably make it profitable to be a font troll.
Treat the font file as a program. Slightly modifying it so, say, the points on the curve are a 1/1000th off doesn't get you off the hook. On printouts - I'm saying on paper, not PDF - the program is obviously missing, along with information on kerning & whatnot.
I've recreated a font from print, & the legal research I did made me comfortable with openly sharing the results.
They are still distinguishable and agreed upon to be different.
Ignorance of the law is [supposedly] not a valid legal defence.
Yes I know there are facile answers to that one but it's still the more interesting question - with subjective morality I think it is a problem. We punish people for doing bad things don't we, not for why they do them? I know, I know...
Font software can be copyrighted, which includes some formats of fonts that can contain bytecode. But if the end product does not contain this code -- for example, hard copy or text reduced to curves -- it is not covered by the font file's copyright.
The page also states that decorative typefaces can be registered in the U.S. for a design patent, and typefaces in general can be a "Registered Graphic Design" in the E.U. Presumably this is what the Hadopi guys have fallen afoul of.