Understand the GPL, know what you can and can’t do and get answers to your business-related questions. (If you were to instruct a lawyer to provide this information, you’d be charged an arm, a leg and then some.)
The GPL is fundamental to many things we do with WordPress and its themes and plugins. Large sections of the WordPress community expect one another, as well as theme and plugin shops, to comply with its requirements. Matt Mullenweg, the leading WordPress co-founder, has described the GPL as a bill of rights for WordPress.
But how many WordPress users and businesses truly understand the GPL and its practical implications? Many understand its key concepts but the rubber hits the road when we come to apply it in practice to myriad different scenarios.
Until now, there has been no single source of information on the practical implications of WordPress and the GPL in all their guises.
What people are saying
Chris Lema, San Diego
About the author
So who’s this guy writing about WordPress and the GPL?
Hi, I’m Richard Best, a dual qualified lawyer who began practising law in 1996. I’ve worked in three countries, in large law firms, as in-house counsel and now as a sole practitioner. I’m also a member of Best + Hancock | Sole Practitioners (a consortium of sole practitioners) and Interwoven Law (an alliance of niche practices). Since late 2006 my primary focus has been on IP/IT/technology law and public law. I love WordPress, I’ve been using it since around 2005 and have spent more time pouring over the GPL and considering its practical implications for WordPressers than I care to admit. My goal is to help you fully understand the GPL, know what you can and can’t do and provide answers to your business-related questions.
What you’ll find in the book
A Practical Guide to WordPress and the GPL spans 86 pages and covers a wide range of topics across 10 chapters. Here’s a taster of what each chapter covers:
1. Introduction: conception, birth and forking
In this introductory chapter, you’ll learn about WordPress’s conception and forking, why the GPL applies, and who said this: “You type something and hit ‘blog this’ and in the next second it’s on your page(s).”
2. Understanding the GPL licensing of WordPress
Chapter 2 helps you to understand the GPL in a nutshell. It includes one page summary of the GPL under the headings of copying and distribution, fees, modifications/derivative works, distributing non-source forms, termination and downstream licensing.
3. Common GPL-related questions answered
This chapter explores a range of practical issues that can arise when people come to apply the GPL in the real world. It focuses solely on WordPress-related issues. Many of the questions it addresses are business-related.
4. Themes, the GPL and the conundrum of derivative works
Many parts of the GPL are clear but some are more complicated. The most vexed question is whether commercial themes are derivative works of pre-existing GPL’d code and need to be GPL-licensed. Chapter 4 discusses this difficult question in detail. It’s also relevant to commercial plugins.
5. The GPL and assumptions of automatic inheritance
Chapter 5 addresses the assumption, held by many, that a derivate work automatically inherits the GPL without any further action by the author or creator of the derivative work. That’s not correct and this chapter explains why.
6. Theme reviews, CC0, model releases and GPL-compatibility
This chapter addresses questions on the above topics. It discusses GPL-compatibility, describes CC0, explains why CC0 is GPL-compatible, discusses using CC0’d images with identifiable models, and comments on using CC-BY and CC-BY-SA images.
7. Selling ThemeForest themes outside of ThemeForest
Chapter 7 addresses issues that arose from reader questions on selling ThemeForest themes. It discusses 4 scenarios where ThemeForest theme authors or customers decide to the sell themes, that are sold or purchased on ThemeForest, outside of ThemeForest.
8. Reselling others’ commercial plugins
This chapter discusses reselling commercial plugins. It assesses this question by reference to GPL freedoms and other laws, the weaknesses of such a business model and the views of some leading theme and plugin shops on this issue. It also discusses protecting a plugin developer’s commercial position.
9. The GPL’s freedoms and trademarks
Chapter 9 looks at the distinction between the GPL’s copyright permissions and the rights a trademark owner may have in the name or brand by which the GPL’d software is known. It provides a real life example from Germany and discusses selling others’ plugins in which trademarks exist.
Choose a package
Choose from three different packages. If you’re in a WordPress-related business, I suggest the business package is for you. If not, you’ll want to opt for the ebook and audio book package or the ebook package. If you’ve any questions, please ask. And don’t forget about the 30% discount on all packages below. All pricing is in US dollars.
The business package $175
If you’re into the business of developing WordPress themes or plugins (or both), this package is for you. You’ll get:
- the ebook (PDF) of A Practical Guide to WordPress and the GPL;
- a professionally narrated audio book, enabling you to listen to the book when you’re on the go (narrated by Steve Chase); and
A little bit of small print