For those of you who have not yet seen it, Stormy Peters has a very informative post (as always) on the OpenLogic blog on some of the resources available to help companies in the preparation of open source policies. I particularly like Stormy’s comment about sharing “real, live” open source policies between companies. I often get the same question from clients and potential clients looking for a starting point for their own policies. In addition to not having many clients who are comfortable sharing their open source policies with others (even in a generic form), I have not found it to be very productive — and in some cases have even found it to be counterproductive.
An open source policy, like any company policy, should be tailored to the company. Certainly this means that the policy should be designed to work within and leverage the existing organization and structure of the company. It also means taking into account the business, competitive and regulatory environments in which the company operates. Perhaps more importantly, any open source policy should also be drafted to fit the unique culture of the company. If the company is one heavily oriented around policies and procedures, then the open source policy can follow suit and include greater levels of detail. However, if the corporate culture is not one to adopt and follow rigorous policies in other areas, the open source policy should not try to break this mold. The idea is to prepare a policy that fits the corporate culture in which it will be implemented — and this idea is often the key to the successful adoption of the policy.
Perhaps surprisingly, preparing a policy that fits the culture of your company is not inconsistent with the goal of having a complete and thorough policy. The resources Stormy points to in her post are very helpful in that they really work to help enable the creation of a thorough policy that is also a fit for your company. As an aside, not many know that Stormy and I met when she audited the Copyright Law course I taught at the University of Colorado School of Law. While I cannot take credit for her all of her copyright knowledge (let’s just say I ended up learning a thing or two from her that semester as well), I can certainly vouch for it. I encourage you to take advantage of the resources she highlights in her post.