In the years since the last GPL (General Public License) revision, intellectual property has gone from being, at most, an afterthought to most programmers, to being an issue of major concern.
Mind you, the vast majority of developers never wanted to give a hoot about patents and copyrights, but todays legal and business world has rendered that impossible.
Fortunately, Richard M. Stallman and the FSF (Free Software Foundation) have made it as easy as possible for developers to wrap their minds around the GPL open-source license, and theyve continued to do so with this major new release.
Better still, if you still have trouble working out whats what in this new draft, the FSF is offering a rationale document, which doubles as a FAQ for the new license.
As I read the new license, here are the highlights. First, the GPL 3.0 is not coming out strongly against software patents. While the authors do say, "This worldwide shift in patent law has brought about immense harm and injustice," they say they dont feel that a software license is the right place to directly challenge patents.
Therefore, while "the only real solution to the problem of software patents is to abolish them," the GPL addresses patents by making it explicit that "any patent must be licensed for everyones free use or not licensed at all."
In short, software underneath the GPL 3 cant be encumbered with patent royalties or obligations.
At the same time, it doesnt include broad forms of patent retaliation. There were early reports that the new GPL would contain such language, but they proved to be false.