Open Source Software at the BBC

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 12 July 2005

Today the BBC launched bbc.co.uk/opensource, which collects together the Open Source software projects the BBC has founded into one place.

For the BBC, open source software development is an extension of our Public Service remit. Releasing open source software helps our audience get additional value from the work they've funded, and also get tools for free that they couldn't get any other way. It also allows people outside the BBC to extend projects in such a way that may in future be used in the BBC.

It's a great idea - and is really upfront with giving specific named individuals behind the projects who can be contacted via the site. Alongside backstage.bbc.co.uk and the Creative Archive Licence Group, new media initiatives like this are a start at transforming the way the BBC engages both with the wider industry and with the audience. Mind you, not everyone approves - some MPs think the BBC is missing out on a revenue stream with the Creative Archive, and if the BBC followed the model the classical music industry wishes it to, we'd never open source software as it would be "devaluing the perceived value" of software.

One thing of note in the FAQ of the Open Source site really shows the potential culture clash with the traditional role and positioning of the BBC. Could there be anything more Auntie-ish than this Q and A?

Q: Why do you keep switching between the British English spelling of licence and the American spelling, license?

A: The BBC is a British corporation and "licence" is the correct spelling in its native language. However, the name of the licences, written in most cases in America, feature the American spelling of the word, license. As part of the title of the official licencing document it was thought inappropriate to alter the spelling.

In British English, license is the verb, licence is the noun and licensee is the person who is granted a Licence.

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