The FOSSology project started out as an internal development effort at Hewlett Packard Company (HP). As part of HP's own internal IT governance process, we needed a tool that would quickly and accurately describe how a given open source project was licensed. Rather than simply collecting a project's advertised license (as given at their website or in their documentation), this tool needed to analyze all of the source code for a given project and intelligently report all of the licenses being used, based on the license declarations and tell-tale phrases that identify software licensing.
Thus was born FOSSology -- "The study of FOSS." The name shows our grandiose vision that open source license detection was only one application of what could become a valuable general-purpose software data mining framework. Today we have also added copyright detection, buckets (user organized reports), and added package (RPM and Debian) headers to the database.
HP understands the broad value of these tools for helping IT organizations to confidently adopt open source software, as well as to uncover what open source software is being used within their environments. Furthermore, we believe this tool will be helpful for open source developers and distributors to build a thorough licensing picture of the projects and packages they produce. Thus it is being provided to the broader FOSS community with the intent of building a vibrant, open community of users and contributors who will help make the framework and the agents as valuable as possible.
Over time we hope to develop additional Agents that can be used to perform all sorts of useful analysis on software of all kinds.