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The Open Compliance Programme announced by the Linux Foundation on Tuesday is a response to the surging growth in the use of open source technologies within enterprises, and by makers of consumer electronic and mobile devices, analysts say.

Much of the programme appears to be directed at addressing what many analysts said is a continuing confusion among makers of embedded devices about open source licensing requirements. But enterprises can benefit from the programme as well, they added.

The Linux Foundation, a non-profit group that is focused on fostering Linux growth, announced a set of open source tools, training materials and a self-assessment checklist, designed to help companies comply with open source licence requirements.

The program is supported by several large vendors, including Google, Novell, IBM, HP and Intel. Also supporting the effort are organisations such as the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), which provides free legal representation for developers of open source software, and gpl-violations.org which is focused on raising awareness of open source licence violations.

The impetus for the initiative comes from the skyrocketing use of Linux as an embedded operating system in mobile, consumer electronic and numerous other products, said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the foundation.

The goal is to help companies fulfill their licence obligations in as straightforward and low-cost a manner as possible, Zemlin said in a conversation with Computerworld. "Market adoption of open source software has reached a scale that is unprecedented," Zemlin said. Companies ranging from embedded systems manufactures, to those with large supercomputer clusters are all using open source software these days because of the cost and technology benefits, Zemlin said.

Many though appear not to understand or be fully-informed about their obligations to share their source code with the broad community as they are required to, he said.

"The Linux kernel alone has a $10 billion value, and that value comes from the fact that people are sharing it," he said. The compliance programme will ensure that all of the technical and cost benefits that companies are deriving from open source software "is matched by their ability to comply with the legal requirements of open source licences," Zemlin said.

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