The Free Software Foundation has announced that they are working on an update to the GNU General Public License. The proposed revisions aren't available for review yet (and won't be until early 2006) but they're already talking about a few of the changes, and one change in particular is provoking a lot of worry and speculation. The FSF is trying to downplay the extent of the changes, but at the same time they come across as just a little bit defensive when it comes to defending their right to update the license.
One particular change is causing some concern both within and outside of the free software community, and only time will tell if this change is going to go into the actual revision, or be abandoned as part of the FSF's own "practice movie." If it does get included, however, it suggests that the FSF is narrowing its focus. Some of its ideals aren't co-existing very well, so one of them is getting downgraded from "core belief" to "looks nice on paper."
Ideological triage: the unfortunate result of a successful revolution.
What does a schoolyard bully practicing spin control at its most fundamental level have to do with the rest of this article? It illustrates what is becoming standard operating procedure in much of the computer industry: if someone writes something you don't like, threaten to beat them up. And to cover your bases, put that threat in writing as part of your product's license agreement.
There are plenty of companies that do this, and not just in the computer industry... but to start us out I'm going to pick on Microsoft.
Why pick on them, you ask? Because it's Microsoft. What a silly question.
Perhaps our greatest achievement to date has been our ability to convince people to spend enormous sums of money to purchase software that they do not, in fact, own. The idea of product licensing has so thoroughly saturated the computer industry that no piece of software exists without one -- the government even created a license to cover unlicensed programs, which it calls "public domain."