MIT Media Lab Changes Software Default to FLOSS*

By Joi Ito (@Joi)

Conceptual Map of the FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software). Source: VARGUX via

The MIT Media Lab is part of an academic ecosystem committed to liberal sharing of knowledge. In that spirit, I’m proud to announce that we are changing our internal procedures to encourage more free and open-source software.

Previously, software releases using free and open source licenses were approved by an internal committee. But since we’ve always allowed our developers to open-source their work, we’re eliminating the unnecessary hurdle: from now on any open source request will be viewed as the default and automatically approved. We respect the autonomy of our community members and will continue to let them choose whether to release their software as proprietary or open. But removing the open source approval step will level the playing field.

This change is a reflection of preferences within our community, as well as an acknowledgement of our position in an increasingly interconnected world. Encouraging free and open source software realigns our policies with our mission. As an academic institution, we believe that in many cases we can achieve greater impact by sharing our work.

*FLOSS (or FOSS) stands for free/libre/open-source software. “Free” in the sense of liberty, not price. It means that anyone is allowed to use, copy, and change the software, and that the source code is openly shared. This is in contrast to proprietary software, where the software is under restrictive copyright and the source code is usually hidden from the users.

Joi Ito is director of the Media Lab.