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Open source licence compliance made easy

A company that creates software to check for open source licence compliance claims that version 4 of its product is set to give it a competitive edge in the market.

Protecode, whose product is called Protecode System 4, is based in Ontario, Canada.

Chief executive Mahshad Koohgoli (pic below) said the market that Protecode was operating in was an emerging one as open source permeated into more and sectors of the economy.

The software manages open source licences depending on the policies set by an organisation. Third-party code can be detected and the system can be set up to be used by anything from five to 20,000 developers.

Protecode System 4 works in conjunction with an IP signatures database that has an index of 450,000 public software projects. The database is updated as new projects come on-line.

The system analyser looks at existing source code and reports details of licence obligations.

The developer assistant tracks code input by developers and evaluates licence obligations while the library auditor analyses all code uploaded to an organisation's source control management library. IP attributes are checked against established IP policies.
Mahshad Koohgoli
Finally, there is build analyser that checks files actually used for a build to ensure compliance with an organisation's licensing policy.

Competitors to Protecode include OpenLogic, Palamida and Black Duck Software.

Koohgoli acknowledged that it was somewhat ironic that a product which checks for open source licence compliance should itself be proprietary. But he defended it by saying that it was the one competitive advantage that his company had.

"For the first time we have a rounded product in which all the tools are in place to provide complete advice on open source adoption," he said.

Protecode System 4 has no module to deal with patent issues; it can handle only copyright issues.

The company has branches in the US, South Korea, Japan, India, Israel, France, Ireland and Sweden. Koohgoli said the next targets for corporate setups would be Brazil and China.

"Of our market, 75 percent is international - by which I mean outside North America," he said. "We are getting good traction in South Africa right now."

Protecode is a private company owned by a few institutional investors and some venture capital firms. It has around 30 full-time staff and a number of contractors on its rolls; the latter handle the legal and licensing aspects and database management.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.