As the use of Linux and other open source software has exploded in recent years, especially in mobile and consumer electronics products, the need has arisen for a trusted, neutral, noncommercial compliance program that offers a comprehensive offering of compliance training, tools, and services. To address that complexity, the Linux Foundation has developed a set of open source tools, training curricula, and a new self-administered assessment checklist that will allow companies to ensure compliance in a cost-effective and efficient manner. The Open Compliance Program also includes a new data exchange standard so companies and their suppliers can easily report software information in a standard way.
It comes with a very impressive roster of support, including most of the top computing companies (well, OK, two are conspicuous by their absence). Crucially, it is backed by the two organizations that have done most in the area of compliance until now: the Software Freedom Law Center and Harald Welte's GPL-Violations.org.
There are several points to note about this move.
First, the fact that the announcement explicitly mentions companies in the world of mobile and consumer electronics. That's partly because the uptake of free software has been very strong in these areas, since its virtues of zero cost, modularity, customisability, stability, and security are all key in these areas. But it is also a reflection of the fact that most compliance cases have been in these fields.
Of course, that doesn't mean the moves are of no interest to other business sectors: One of the great things about open source is that developments in one field spill over into others, taking their benefits with them. So all of the "open source tools, training curricula and a new self-administered assessment checklist" that are promised could be usefully applied by any company thinking to use open source tools in any way that goes beyond simply installing stuff and running it -- for example, by modifying code, or distributing it.
As Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, writes in an accompanying blog post: "It will lower costs for every company who uses open source by giving training, a guidebook of best practices and access to resources to make it much simpler to comply with license obligations."