Software is at the heart of our digital society and embodies a growing part of our scientific, technical and organizational knowledge. As a consequence, software source code is now a growing part of our cultural heritage and a valuable asset for education, research, and industry.
The core mission of Software Heritage is to ensure that this precious body of knowledge will be preserved over time and made available to all, by collecting, preserving, and sharing all available software in source code form. Together with its complete development history. Forever.
We do this for multiple reasons. To preserve the scientific and technological knowledge embedded in software source code, that is a significant part of our heritage. To allow better software development and reuse for society and industry, by building the largest and open software knowledge database, enabling the development of a broad range of value-added applications. To foster better science, by assembling the largest curated archive for software research, and building the infrastructure for preserving and sharing research software.
We do this now, because we are at a turning point: on one side, the founding fathers of computer technology are still around, and willing to contribute their knowledge, but only for a limited time. On the other, we seem to be at increasing risk of massive loss of source code developed collaboratively, because of hosting sites that shut down when their popularity decreases, and the lack of a structured effort to archive software artefacts.
We recognize that building a long-term common infrastructure is a challenging undertaking.
To maximize the chances of success in the long term.
we have established Software Heritage as a non-profit, multi-stakeholder initiative open to a variety of partners from civil society, academia, industry, and governments;
we will develop and release all the software components needed to operate its services under a Free and Open Source Software license, welcoming contributions to it;
we will build replication and diversification in the system at all levels, fostering the emergence of a geographically distributed network of mirrors, that may be implemented using a variety of storage technologies, in various administrative domains, controlled by different institutions, and located in different jurisdictions.
Mirrors play an important role and are entrusted with significant power: they receive a full copy of the contents of the Software Heritage archive, they work closely with Software Heritage to create and maintain their mirror, they have the possibility of developing and experimenting technologies alternative to those made available by Software Heritage, and their voice may be heard in the Software Heritage governance.
But with power comes responsibility, and this Ethical Charter highlights the principles that Mirrors commit to respect. This Ethical Charter may evolve over time, and changes will be announced on the Software Heritage website.
The source code collected in the Software Heritage archive enables a broad range of analysis and applications, in many areas of research. Well-intended actions, including those that are accomplished for purely research purpose, may lead to harm. When researchers request access to the full dataset, Mirrors will ask them to refrain from redistributing the dataset, and to declare any potential ethical issue arising from their use of the data. Mirrors will also ask researchers to commit to the Code of Conduct made available by Software Heritage before accessing significant parts of the archive.
Protect Personal Data
Ensure fair and non discriminatory access
The long-term success of Software Heritage depends on creating a community that shares the project mission and contributes to it. Particularly welcome contributions include the development of policies, technologies, and infrastructure needed to maintain and expand both the archive and the Mirror network. Mirrors will maintain a fluid communication with Software Heritage and the Mirror network, sharing all propositions, issues and concerns with the community, striving to find solutions collaboratively. Mirrors will contribute back to Software Heritage all improvements to its software and encourage collaboration. Mirrors are free to develop and experiment technologies alternative to those made available by Software Heritage, provided they maintain full compatibility with Software Heritage; they are encouraged to share their findings with the community.