A month or so ago, Microsoft changed the licensing agreement for Windows Media Player without notice in a way that would allow Microsoft to arbitrarily disable software on your computer, in the name of Digital Rights Management compliance. This change was piggybacked on a patch that fixed a security hole in the Player. Unwilling to give an external company this kind of control over my computer, I uninstalled Windows Media Player. The only other choice was to use an older version of the Player with known security holes in it.
Now, Microsoft has implemented a licensing agreement change in security patches for Windows 2000 and Windows XP that allows Microsoft to automatically install software on your computer without your knowledge or explicit consent. While Digital Rights Management facilities are not explicitly mentioned, this is obviously covered by "upgrades," especially given the Media Player incident. I can live without Media Player. Uninstalling Windows is a much bigger ordeal.
I used to consider Microsoft's free critical patch service a morally and socially responsible thing for the company to do, especially considering the severe lack of accountability software companies have for selling faulty merchandise (thanks to licensing agreements that overwhelmingly favor the software vendor). The service makes up for the sad realities of software quality by providing to me the functional, secure product which I paid for in the first place, and should therefore be delivered to me under the license I agreed to when I purchased the software. Holding security fixes hostage with a ransom of signing over my rights to privacy is appallingly immoral, and ought to be illegal.
Software licensing is a complex issue, of course, and "ought to be illegal" is easy enough to say without proposing an actual working legal philosophy for the software industry. I want to explore some of these issues here, but for now, just remember that the way it appears-- that you "agreed" to a "use as is" license, that software is not owned, that bug fixes or simply license to use a software product are an on-going "service" provided by the vendor, and that the vendor can require agreement to license changes at any time during continued use of the service-- is the way software vendors want it to be and want you to believe it is, not the way it actually is or ought to be.
In the meantime, there's not much I can do but be outraged and look for alternatives. Time to get a Mac? Time to make Linux my primary OS? I can't leave an unpatched Windows machine connected to the Internet, and I can't agree to a "license" that gives Microsoft undue control over my computer (including the ability to limit my control of my computer). It doesn't matter that I'm not violating a sensible notion of a DRM policy, I don't trust Microsoft to set that policy, I don't trust Microsoft to install a software installation pipe to my hard drive open to the Internet, and I won't sign any contract that allows another party to control or limit my computer without my explicit, knowledgeable consent. Even if click-thru software licensing agreements are not legally binding, this license change is effectively notice that Microsoft will be attempting to deploy such methods, and I cannot allow that kind of software on my computer.