In March 2009 I contacted Adobe about the self-contradictory nature of the license for the Adobe Glyph List For New Fonts (AGLFN) data. I did so because one of the upstreams I am involved in (fonttools) embeds a copy of aglfn.txt and I noticed the license was a bit strange. An Adobe employee by the name of David Lemon replied to say that the license would become less free than it was. I then asked him to consider using a free software license for both the Adobe CMap and AGLFN data. We discussed the benefits and drawbacks of doing this for both Adobe and the free software community. David was initially skeptical about the balance between benefits and drawbacks for Adobe and I was feeling pessimistic about the situation. The conversation ended and several months passed, with me sending the occasional ping and David being busy. Then in June he told me a new license was coming in a month. So I sent another ping on September 20th to find out what the status of that was. A couple of days later I received a mail saying that the Adobe CMap data has now been released under the BSD license and that the Adobe AGLFN data will soon follow! Please note that while this means that modifications are technically allowed, they are still strongly discouraged for compatibility reasons. Adobe has assigned an emailable maintainer (currently Ken Lunde) for these files so there is no reason that modifications should not be done upstream. You can also edit the wiki to document things or post in the forum. If you happen to meet David, Ken or Dave McAllister (who manages the Open@Adobe program) somewhere, please thank them and offer beverages.

So, what does this mean for free software projects? Debian CJK users will be able to read many more PDFs with CJK characters without using any non-free packages once the new CMap files reach main. I will need to package the new AGLFN data for Debian. I will need to remove the embedded AGLFN from fonttools upstream and adapt it to use the packaged one if available or suggest the user download it if not. GNU Classpath and the other software projects using AGLFN data might like to do the same. I may consider writing a library for loading the AGLFN data, mainly as an exercise in learning how to write a good library though.

Oh, and perhaps I can convince 武藤 健志 (Kenshi MUTO) my minimal level of involvement in this is worth a beer if I ever meet him :D