What is Open Source?
Open Source is a generic term that describes an approach that has been taken by a worldwide community of developers under which those developers are happy to share their developments with others. In the ordinary course, these developers will release their developments (eg. software) under an Open Source licence so that others can access and use those developments under the terms of that Open Source licence.
There are generally few restrictions placed on the user as the overarching principle of Open Source is to ensure that access to the source code and any code derived from it is maintained.
Key features of an Open Source licence often include the creator retaining ownership of the copyright in the source code and recognition as the author/s of the source code. In addition, there may be other requirements placed on the user such as a requirement to share any modifications or improvements to the source code with the general public on the same terms.
You can read more about Open Source and Open Source licences at the Open Source Initiative website.
Why Open Source?
Open Source licensing offers the following benefits for software developed at the University:
- greater opportunities for fast and simple collaboration with other researchers
- enhancement of the software by drawing on the expertise of a wide community of users
- exposing the source code to public scrutiny to increase the software’s reliability
Therefore, it applies to both: your use of Open Source licensed materials in your work; and the release of your work under an Open Source licence.
As a result, your use of Open Source licensed materials in your work could affect how that work is subsequently released. This could also impact on your work and the commitments made by the University if you are working as part of a joint development team or with an industry partner.
When to use Open Source?
There are a number of factors that need to be considered when deciding whether to use Open Source licensed materials or to release your work under an Open Source licence.
Whether or not Open Source is appropriate will depend on the circumstances. For instance, if the software is created as a result of sponsored research, is jointly owned or incorporates existing third-party software, the use of Open Source licensed materials in the development may not be appropriate, and the University may decide not to use Open Source licensing to distribute the developed software.