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This article analyzes the legitimacy of the software license as a institution of governance for computer programs. The question of the open source license is used as a starting point. Having conducted a broader inquiry into the several possible bases for the legitimacy of software licensing in general, the article argues that none of the grounds on which software licensing in general rests are sound. With respect to open source software in particular, the article concludes that achieving a legitimate institutional form for the goals that open source proponents have set for themselves may require looking beyond licensing as such.