Is there any truth in ...

Alessandro Rubini rubini at
Sat Mar 2 08:25:16 UTC 2002

> Hello, I've been given this URL, and I don't quite believe that
> but I thought somebody here may know better. Is it right?

To my understanding, it's mostly right.

>                             Software user's rights
>    In the United States, once you own a copy of a program, you can back
>    it up, compile it, run it, and even modify it as necessary, without
>    permission from the copyright holder. See [2]17 USC 117.

That's true. As long as you don't signed away your rights but
accepting non-copyright-enforced clauses in your license contract. But
when you get a program without being bound to sign a contract
beforehand, you have those rights.  If you remember the "Free World
License", that only allowed use of the software on Libre OS's, you'll
remember the license had to be accepted before downloading the
>    For example, after purchasing a copy of Microsoft Windows NT 4.0
>    Workstation---which is a poorly tuned version of NT 4.0 Server, minus
>    a few utilities---you can back it up, apply a small patch that fixes
>    the tuning, and run the result.

It depends on the contract. I doubt it, but I also expect DJB to know
what he writes in public. He's not naive, AFAIK.

>    [...]
>    The problem with Microsoft's license is that it's unenforceable.

Probably he's right here too. But whether something is enforced or not
depends mostly on the strenght of the lawyers and the depth of the
pockets. Do you remember the "internet mobile toolkit" license by ms?
"can't be on the same media as potentially viral software, can't be
compiled with potentially viral toolsets".  Ms is not shy of spreading
unenforceable contracts, probably DJB is right about this one as well,
modulo pockets and lawyers. And naivity of the courts.

>    [...]

> Patches
>    [...]
>    Note that, since it's not copyright infringement for you to apply a
>    patch, it's also not copyright infringement for someone to give you a
>    patch.

Looks good to me.

> Free software
>    What does all this mean for the free software world? Once you've
>    legally downloaded a program, you can compile it. You can run it. You
>    can modify it. You can distribute your patches for other people to
>    use. If you think you need a license from the copyright holder, you've
>    been bamboozled by Microsoft. As long as you're not distributing the
>    software, you have nothing to worry about.

Same. As long as you didn't sign away your rights.

Xavi, what's strange in this document?


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