The National Archives
Search The National Archives
Advanced search

5 Software and open source

5.1 Software and licensing

The public sector produces software or source code amongst other types of content, for example: documents and data.  Often, new software is built on elements taken from existing software.  As such software development is heavily dependent on re-use.  Software is protected by copyright, and this makes licensing considerations important.

5.2 Open source

Many software developers release their work under open source  licences (for further information see the Open Source Initiative).  Open source licences allow software to be re-used freely, and free of charge.  This provides a growing pool of software components from which other software developers may draw.  Such software developers also benefit in other ways, for example: from peer review of their work, and access to communities of potential collaborators.

5.3 Policy on the licensing of software

In order to enable software developers in the public sector to utilise and contribute to open source software a flexible approach to licensing is needed.  Furthermore, public sector software developers are encouraged to release their software for re-use.  This will assist developers both elsewhere in the public sector and across wider society. 

Where software is made available for re-use the UKGLF directs central government departments and agencies, strongly encourages Information Fair Trader Scheme members and invites wider public sector bodies to adopt the following licensing policy:

  • Software which is the original work of public sector employees should use a default licence.  The default licence recommended is the Open Government Licence.
  • Software developed by public sector employees from open source software may be released under a licence consistent with the open source software.