The Linux Foundation to Launch New Tooling Project to Improve Open Source Compliance
December 06, 2018

The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, announced the formation of the new Automated Compliance Tooling (ACT) project.

Using open source code comes with a responsibility to comply with the terms of that code's license, which can sometimes be challenging for users and organizations to manage. The goal of ACT is to consolidate investment in, and increase interoperability and usability of, open source compliance tooling, which helps organizations manage compliance obligations.

ACT also welcomes two new projects to be hosted at The Linux Foundation as part of the initiative, in addition to two existing Linux Foundation projects that will become part of the new project. The new projects are complementary to existing Linux Foundation compliance projects such as OpenChain, which identifies key recommended processes to make open source license compliance simpler and more consistent, and the Open Compliance Program, which educates and helps developers and companies understand their license requirements and how to build efficient, frictionless and often automated processes to support compliance.

"License compliance is an important hygiene factor in the open source ecosystem. With QMSTR, we started to create a toolchain that focuses on fact finding and accurate, complete and up-to-date compliance documentation for every software build. Endocode is extremely happy to contribute QMSTR to ACT and to take it to the next level together with The Linux Foundation and the other project partners," said Mirko Boehm, CEO of Endocode and the initiator of the QMSTR project.

Nisha Kumar, Open Source Engineer, VMware Open Source Technology Center, said: "Since releasing Tern in June 2017, the project has grown in community and features continuing with the most recent release version 0.2.0--which adds features to make the project more accessible to users and contributors. Moving the project under ACT is a great next step in encouraging wider collaboration from folks who are looking to meet their OSS compliance obligations as part of their container strategy. I look forward to working with the greater community towards this goal."

"As a long-term contributor to SPDX and open source license compliance tools, I am excited to see the formation of ACT and the inclusion of the SPDX tools in the project," said Gary O'Neall, CEO, Source Auditor, Inc. "The SPDX tools are a result of many years of collaboration and contributions from the SPDX community. The SPDX tools provide users the ability to view, verify and translate SPDX documents while the libraries provide developers tools to integrate with SPDX licenses and documents. These capabilities will form a nice complement to the other ACT tools."

The four projects that will be part of ACT are:

- FOSSology: An open source license compliance software system and toolkit allowing users to run license, copyright and export control scans from the command line. As a system, a database and web UI are provided to provide a compliance workflow. License, copyright and export scanners are tools available to help with compliance activities. FOSSology is an existing Linux Foundation project that will move under ACT.

- QMSTR: Also known as Quartermaster, this tool creates an integrated open source toolchain that implements industry best practices of license compliance management. QMSTR integrates into the build systems to learn about the software products, their sources and dependencies. Developers can run QMSTR locally to verify outcomes, review problems and produce compliance reports. By integrating into DevOps CI/CD cycles, license compliance can become a quality metric for software development. The project is being contributed to ACT by Endocode.

- SPDX Tools: Software Package Data Exchange (SPDX) is an open standard for communicating software bill of material information including components, licenses, copyrights and security references. The main SPDX specification will remain separate from, yet complementary to, ACT, while the SPDX tools that meet the spec and help users and producers of SPDX documents will become part of ACT. SPDX is an existing Linux Foundation project.

- Tern: Tern is an inspection tool to find the metadata of the packages installed in a container image. It provides a deeper understanding of a container's bill of materials so better decisions can be made about container based infrastructure, integration and deployment strategies. Tern was created by VMware, who are contributing the project to ACT, to help developers meet open source compliance requirements for containers.

"There are numerous open source compliance tooling projects but the majority are unfunded and have limited scope to build out robust usability or advanced features," said Kate Stewart, Senior Director of Strategic Programs at The Linux Foundation. "We have also heard from many organizations that the tools that do exist do not meet their current needs. Forming a neutral body under The Linux Foundation to work on these issues will allow us to increase funding and support for the compliance tooling development community."

ACT is seeking new members, community partners and additional tooling projects.

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