January 14, 2010 -- In the spirit of transparency and community, the Library of Congress has established an internal process to create open source software (external link). This will make it easier for software developers and sponsors within the Library to produce software that can be freely redistributed to users worldwide.
"The overall effect will be to clarify and streamline the process for releasing software as open source," said Michelle Springer, a digital initiatives project manager at the Library, "allowing the Library and its partners to more fully participate in the open source development community."
The Library has been especially active in developing tools that support digital preservation processes, including the secure transfer of digital files. This includes the release of a full suite of digital content transfer tools that support the Bagit specification.
These tools marked the first release of Library-authored open source software to a public repository. The tools were first registered on SourceForge (external link) in December 2008 and are available at http://sourceforge.net/projects/loc-xferutils/ (external link). While Sourceforge was the first external repository to host Library code, other repositories may be used in the future.
Source code originating from the Library may only be distributed as open source if developed by Library staff or under a contract granting the Library the necessary distribution rights. Additionally, the code cannot be based or dependent on any proprietary software and must be releasable without restrictions or cost.
Works created by Library of Congress staff will be designated in the code comments as a work within the public domain. The addition of the public domain notation in the code comments serves the function of letting developers know that section of the code is free for reuse even if the Library's code is incorporated into a software project with a more restrictive license.
Not all software repositories offer the option of a public domain designation. Under those circumstances the Library will apply the most permissive license possible. BSD-style licenses (external link) are being used by multiple National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program partners.