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Managing software legal compliance

Network World (US) | Feb. 23, 2010
In the age of open source and large-scale outsourcing, ascertaining the legal compliance of software is just as important as assuring the quality before pressing it into production.

Any "fixes" necessary to make the software legally compliant can be complex. Some software components may have to be replaced entirely due to IP infringement. This can be expensive, as new software components have to be found and the overall software needs to be re-tested. In other cases, it may be sufficient to formalize the assumption of obligations as demanded by license or copyrights, and ensure consistent compliance going forward. In all cases, the earlier legal compliance is addressed, the less costly it is for the company should issues arise.

Managing software legal compliance

Legal compliance goes beyond the development process and needs to be dealt with at conception. The critical elements of effective software IP management in an organization are:

* Existence of an IP policy for each project undertaken and a process to disseminate and apply it. Corporate intellectual property policies must be based on the organization's business goals and they should be clear and enforceable.

* Processes and tools for ascertaining the legal obligations and managing the intellectual property of software created and/or acquired in the organization.

* Software Bill of Materials (BoM) that fully record the components in the product, their provenance and the licensing obligations they entail. An adequate BoM is instrumental in determining the legal compliance of the software.

* Assurance and support for customers concerning the quality and IP cleanliness of software provided.

These elements provide a basis for meeting legal compliance for safe software use.

With respect to performing audits, managing software and assembling a BoM, modern software IP management applications simplify and enable safe open source adoption, giving enterprises the freedom to select the best solutions in accordance with corporate intellectual property policy. These tools can support pedigree analysis and intellectual property policy violation detection automatically -- on demand, on schedule or even in real time within the development process. They can also provide a BoM on demand. Taken together, these intellectual property management features deliver higher value and provide customer assurances.

As companies continue to leverage third-party code, legal compliance issues become increasingly integral to business priorities. Consciously implementing measures for legal compliance in the development process itself, as well as incorporating aspects of effective software intellectual property management into the organization, are now crucial for any entity concerned with software.


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