Tag Archives: GPL

The GPL Doesn’t Apply to Premium Themes or Plugins

Mike Wasylik of Perpetual Beta has an interesting argument in the legendary GPL debate surrounding premium WordPress themes and plugins. He thinks that themes and plugins shouldn’t be required to be licensed under the GPL for the simple reason that they’re not derivative. U.S. copyright law defines a derivative work as one that physically includes a portion of the copyrighted work, which plugins and themes do not.

…even a theme or plugin that entirely dependens on WordPress to run at all, or simply improves WordPress in some way, would not be a derivative work and the GPL would not apply. For the vast majority of themes I’ve seen, the GPL would not apply because the theme is not, in my opinion, a derivative work. (In fact, if any one thing “incorporates” another, it’s most likely WordPress incorporating the theme, by use of the PHP include() call, rather than the other way around.)

According to the article, the copy of the GPL included in every download of WordPress even states that a derivative work is “a work containing the Program or a portion of it, either verbatim or with modifications.” I’ve been making a similar argument for awhile now. I have yet to see a theme or plugin that actually incorporates WordPress into the plugin code itself, rather than being included by WordPress. It sounds to me like WordPress, if anyone, is the one doing the deriving…

Most WordPress themes and plugins are unique code for the most part, with a few hooks or function calls. I must have missed the memo that utilizing a third-party API makes your application a subset of the other software. (That would mean any desktop application would be a derivative of the operating system.)

A follow-up article from the same author makes the additional case that, whether the GPL applies or not, the Fair Use Doctrine can protect developers from the licensing terms of the original creator. The same laws that ensure you can quote part of an article without having to pay whatever licensing fee the publisher can cook up apply to software. As little, if any, WordPress code is used in a theme, it would likely be considered fair use.

I like some of the ideology behind the GPL, and quite a few software packages licensed under it. However, it seems that in this case one party is misusing (or misinterpreting) it to prevent small developers from earning a living while further enriching the WordPress community. For what reason, good intentioned or no, I cannot guess.

WP Plugins: The WordPress App Store

WP Plugins: The WordPress App StoreCollis Ta’eed, of Envato fame, posted an interesting link to Twitter recently. A new website called WP Plugins that is trying to be “The WordPress App Store.”

What exactly are they doing? They’ve set up a site reminiscent of the WordPress.org plugin repository, but for commercial plugins. As a customer, you can browse potentially useful plugins, and pay a flat fee (which the author chooses) to download the files. You can also opt to pay a subscription fee to gain access to an exclusive support forum, and instant access to upgrades to the plugin. (Those who pay the one-time fee instead of subscribing have to pay for the upgrades.) The plugins are all GPL, as WP Plugins requires it of all submissions.

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Would You Pay For Support?

Suppose a major WordPress plugin, such as WP Super Cache, All in One SEO pack or insert-name-of-your-favorite-plugin, decided to go the paid support route, would you pay? If they offered the plugin for free, but sold an optional package with some extras as well access to one-on-one tech support, would you go for the paid option? How much would you be willing to pay? (Obviously it would depend on the plugin…)

Theme developers have already started to establish businesses doing this, and I don’t think plugin developers are far behind. I’ve been considering this strategy a bit lately, and I know Joost de Valk has been as well. The question is: How profitable would such a move be?

Commercial WordPress Theme Directory? What About Plugins?

Joost de Valk thinks WordPress.org should have a section for commercial GPL-compliant plugins, like the new one for the themes. I couldn’t agree more.

Of course, we plugin authors get to host our own plugins on wordpress.org, and we can get links back to our site etc. But where’s the page for commercially supported GPL WordPress PLUGINS Matt? Don’t you think it’s time you started treating the plugin authors the same way as the theme authors? Or do we have to start a theme war for that first?

On the GPL, Themes, Plugins & Free [Yoast]

Theme developers seem to get more attention than plugin developers, and have for a long time. It’s sad. There are a lot of amazing plugins out there (including mine, of course…), but their developers are by and large not as well-off financially as the theme developers. You have giants like WooThemes selling $80 themes, that are now GPL compliant, but the plugin developers are pretty much just collecting a few donations here and there.

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Blogsessive on WordPress Themes and the GPL

I recently read an interesting post over at Blogsessive on the big controversy over the GPL and WordPress. It covers the other perspective, that of the smaller theme developers trying to earn a living, from a somewhat neutral standpoint of someone who on one hand likes the GPL, but on the other hand doesn’t want to put stifle the creativity of the authors who can’t necessarily devote time to something that will have little return.

The discussion around this always seems to evolve into “open source” versus “author protection”. As Alex King pointed out in one of his posts, theme authors should be aware of what the GPL license exposes them too, while it provides freedom for basically everyone else.

I’m not by any means against freedom and open source. I’ve been preaching about the power of WordPress and the wonder that it is, but what I love more is to see a protection system for those authors that make a living out of releasing quality themes and plugins for WordPress. Somewhere along the way, in our quest for “freedom” we forgot how hard it is to earn our living, how hard it is to learn the things we now use to feed our families.

I have a similar position. I like the GPL as much as anyone who contributes to the WordPress community, and I appreciate it’s provisions for paid software, but as nice as that sounds in print, it doesn’t always work out that well in real life.

My Take on the WordPress Themes & the GPL License [Blogsessive]

Why They’re Wrong: WordPress Plugins Shouldn’t Have to be GPL

In the past year or so there has been a lot of talk about “premium” WordPress themes and plugins, and the GPL. There have been many arguments over whether or not plugins and themes should be able to be licensed under other, non-GPL, licenses. The short answer is yes, they can.

When Joost de Valk, a notable plugin developer, tweeted recently, this issue was brought to my attention again.

I’m getting tired of the discussions. Plugins for WordPress are GPL because WordPress IS GPL, there’s no question about it being otherwise.

Actually, if you look at the plugin repository guidelines, they only require that a plugin be “GPL-compatible.” The page links to a list of alternate licenses, many of which are compatible with the GPL. And that’s just to get into the repository….

Things really get interesting if you look at the GPL license in the WordPress Codex:

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