Subject: Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software
From: Russell Nelson <>
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 10:24:06 -0400 (EDT)

Stephen J. Turnbull writes:
 > But I really want to know where those "users' rights" come from, if
 > they're not written by the vendor into the license contract.

You're right, they don't exist.  There is no right to demand that an
author provide you source code, just as there is no right to demand
that a doctor provide you health care.  In general, a "right to"
doesn't exist, only a "right not to".  A right not to be censored, a
right not to have your religion prohibited, a right not to have your
gun taken away, a right not to have soldiers quartered in your house,
a right not to be required to incriminate yourself.

And a right not to be stopped from redistributing code?

Fortunately, there *is* no user's right to source code, otherwise free
software businesses would have no business model.  "Gain an advantage
by giving away source code?  Why??  Everybody has to respect a user's
right to source code."  As a free software businessman, I can
cheerfully say that.  When I wear my economist's hat, I condemn it for
protecting the interests of a single party -- establishing a user's
right not to be stopped from redistributing code might be an
all-around benefit to society.  It's not the source code that's
interesting -- anybody can reverse-engineer source.  It's the
restrictions imposed on redistribution that are a problem.

-russ nelson <>
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