At Novell's Brainshare conference this week, Bruce Perens said something we have long suspected. (The picture, by Aaron Toponce, is from Perens' appearance. I cropped it a little.)
This is not a big deal to, say, Linus Torvalds. He's fine with Version 2 of the GPL. Version 3 is under the command of the Free Software Foundation, whose work Perens supports. The FSF in turn is a creation of Richard Stallman, whose decades-long crusade for Free Open Source Software predates Linux by nearly a decade.
At the heart of Stallman's crusade is a firm stand against software patents. Such patents were created by courts, not Congress. The key decision on general patentability of software, State Street Bank & Trust v. Signature Financial Group, was issued in 1998.
We are not talking here about Constitutional principle, but a court interpretation that can be overidden by Congress. Or a higher court.
That's what Stallman wants Microsoft to support, and GPL V.3 is his leverage in that effort. Microsoft has just been hit by an immense judgement for its use of MP3, a software algorithm. While Microsoft today is very much in favor of software patents, this has not always been the case.
It's not Stallman you should be dumping on for inconsistency, or Stallman whose mind you should be looking to change. It's Steve Ballmer's. He's changed it once. He can change it again.