August 30, 2010

Open Contact with Open Compliance Officers

There’s nothing quite like having an urgent issue to pursue with a company – a real thorn in your side – and lacking a name or phone number to contact for follow-up.   (Once upon a time, I reserved a domain name, customerfeedbackplace.com, intending to aggregate all the world’s corporate customer feedback sites in one place for consumer convenience.  But that’s a story for another day.)

What do you do if you’re an open source developer – a copyright holder – and you have concerns about the open source compliance of a product that uses your code?  And you can’t find a contact in that company to communicate your concerns?

Here’s what you do:  You let us know at The Linux Foundation and we’ll use our extensive network of relationships to provide you a point of contact in the company for open source compliance.  Just use the web form at Open Compliance Directory - Request for Contact Information | The Linux Foundation to submit your inquiry.  Fill in the product name and the business unit that’s selling the product, if you can, to help us narrow the search.  (But we like a good detective challenge, so we’ll take whatever information you provide.)

Now on the other side of the coin, what if you’re with a company that responds faithfully to any inquiries about its software?  The Linux Foundation encourages all companies to provide us their corporate contacts for open source compliance, so we can help people with inquiries resolve their concerns as quickly and easily as possible.  For the sake of our industry, we want to put to bed potential conflicts before they escalate to public notice.  Anyone, from any company, can enter their compliance contact info in our database. The more compliance contacts we have in our database, the more we can help in responding to inquiries. Don’t worry about duplicate entries; we’ll sort them out.  Use the web form at Open Compliance Directory - Add Organization Request | The Linux Foundation.  We’ll use the information discreetly to make connections when the need arises. 

Here’s a little anecdote – sample size of one.  In responding to our first compliance inquiry, we reached out to two contacts in the subject company.  The senior executive took a week to respond.  The technology guy, a strong contributor to the Linux community, responded within an hour!  (BTW, they both identified the same corporate contact.)  My take is that the open source enthusiasts in a company will be the ones most committed to license compliance fundamentals and our best source of contact information.  If you’re one of those people, do everyone a favor and help populate the Linux Foundation’s compliance directory!

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