The Classic Software Preservation Project (CLASP) was founded by the Internet Archive in January 2004 to help permanently archive classic, obsolete retail software from the late 1970s through the early 1990s.
There are tens of thousands of videogames, utilities, and other programs which are in danger of being lost forever, because they're stored on fragile magnetic media, which has a life of anywhere between 10 and 30 years. Therefore, the Archive is working to acquire copies of original consumer software of that era, then, with the help of our technical partners, making perfect digital copies of these rapidly decaying floppy discs. We will then lock the data away in our vaults for safekeeping, until either the copyright expires on the titles in question, or the companies who own the rights to the software make the titles freely available.
In order to allow us to do this important work, the Internet Archive successfully lobbied the Copyright Office in October 2003 to allow an exemption to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, allowing access circumvention for the specific purpose of archiving obsolete software.
Please note that we are not making any of this software available unless the rights holder has specifically allowed us to do so. Obsolete software still has rigorous copyright standards applied to it. But by the time copyright does expire, these important digital artefacts won't exist anywhere in their original form, which is why we're privately archiving now and making public where possible.
However, we have constructed a public database (including basic information, box and disc scans) of each piece of successfully archived software, so progress/metadata can be well-documented.
The Internet Archive's technical partners on the CLASP Software Preservation effort are the Classic Amiga Preservation Society, an amazing technical collective who have started off by making an effort to archive the Commodore Amiga's classic software collection, and are now moving on to look at other formats. The Internet Archive is working closely with this independent body in order to institute universal standards for software archiving, both with regard to XML metadata and actual disc image formats.
The Classic Amiga technical developers are creating tools that can read a disk at a very "low level". In fact, they can literally pick the bits off the disk surface. This is not usually possible, because what you read through the floppy disc controller is not what is actually stored on the disk surface. This IPF technology technology took over two years to develop, and is adaptable over multiple formats and media.
We've will shortly be posting a technical introduction CLASP's Software Preservation, for those interested in learning more about the complex details of preserving software properly.