It’s been brewing for a while, but a fissure in the world of open-source software may be about to widen dramatically.

At issue: digital rights management (DRM), the technology that allows copyright holders to restrict how you use the media they publish.

On the line: the latest version of the General Public License (GPL), the legal framework that establishes the ground rules for developing, using and distributing open-source software. The GPL is undergoing its first revision in more than a decade, and the current draft prohibits restrictions on changing the underlying code of open-source software.

Also on the line: Linux, the open-source operating system. The man behind Linux, Linus Torvalds, wants to leave options open for open-source developers to introduce DRM to their software.

The positions in a nutshell, as reported by ZDNet:

The foundation believes that free software–that is, software that can be freely studied, copied, modified, reused, redistributed and shared by its users–is the only ethically satisfactory form of software development, as free and open scientific research is the only ethically satisfactory context for the conduct of mathematics, physics or biology. – Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen, Free Software Foundation (architects of the GPL)

I also don’t necessarily like DRM myself, but I still ended up feeling the same: I’m an “Oppenheimer”, and I refuse to play politics with Linux, and I think you can use Linux for whatever you want to – which very much includes things I don’t necessarily personally approve of. – Linus Torvalds

(Thanks to Russell McOrmond.)