Author: Richard Best

learn-how-to-license-my-themes-and-plugins-with-the-gpl

How to apply the GPL to your themes and plugins (and avoid getting in the shi*)

Introduction “I wish this stuff could be easier!” Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking this or otherwise cursing the ins and outs of applying the GPL to your themes or plugins? Have you ever been worried that, perhaps, you’re not doing what the GPL requires or that you’ve overlooked a WordPress.org requirement? From a wide range of stories and comments I’ve seen around the web, I think Jamie’s story is one that rings true for many. So, if you’ve answered yes to one of these questions, you’re far from being alone and this post is for you. “How do I apply and comply with the GPL correctly?” If you feel this way, it’s not surprising. Indeed, if you’re only just getting into open source or releasing your first theme or plugin, I’d say it’s to be expected. I say that because not only do you need to understand a legally-oriented copyright licence but, if you wish to make your products available on WordPress.org, you also need to get to grips with the WordPress.org theme and plugin guidelines. And …

clarity

“I’d rather see [an] attorney’s attention spent … on clarity and brevity”

WordPress, Wix and the GPL The Wix controversy, if I can call it that, has stirred up quite a bit of emotion in the WordPress and wider tech and open source communities. I’ve given my thoughts on what I see as the main issues in my previous post “Some thoughts on the Wix mobile app story (updated)”. In reading a wide range of comments on the various news and blog articles on this story, it strikes me that many people don’t understand the GPL, either due to its complexity at the margins (and I assure you that, at the margins, it can bamboozle lawyers too) or, in some cases, because they haven’t read it. Then, in reading further through various comments, one comment on the WP Tavern story stood out to me. Lisa League wrote: “Spending time, money, and attention on court diverts it to attorneys instead of that valuable time money, and attention spent on software. … … this is where I’d rather see attorney’s attention spent – on clarity and brevity where possible in …

deer-for-wix-post

Some thoughts on the Wix mobile app story (updated)

The story Perhaps not surprisingly, Matt’s recent post “The Wix Mobile App, a WordPress Joint” caught my eye. Indeed, it caught both eyes. I’ve read through his post and I’ve read the Wix CEO Avishai Abrahami’s prompt reply, “Dear Matt Mullenweg: an open letter from Wix.com’s CEO Avishai Abrahami” as well as a Wix engineer’s reply in “How I Found Myself Accused of Stealing Code from WordPress”. The key points, it seems to me, are these: Matt has said that “Wix copied WordPress without attribution, credit, or following the license. The custom icons, the class names, even the bugs. You can see the forked repositories on GitHub complete with original commits from Alex and Maxime, two developers on Automattic’s mobile team.” Matt has also said: “This explicitly contravenes the GPL, which requires attribution and a corresponding GPL license on whatever you release publicly built on top of GPL code. The GPL is what has allowed WordPress to flourish, and that let us create this code. Your app’s editor is built with stolen code, so your …

website-optimized

Commercial theme suppliers selling themselves short…

The backstory This isn’t a legal article. It’s more about marketing. Let me tell the backstory. I’ve been looking around for a particular type of WordPress theme for a specific purpose. It’s a niche kind of site and there aren’t many solid contenders. I’ve found one contender on ThemeForest and another on a commercial theme supplier’s own website. I’ve found it difficult to choose between them, despite their significant difference in price, because they both have their pros and cons. But the main reason I’ve not chosen one over the other yet is because neither supplier is doing a sufficient job of marketing their product. I can see how your themes look and try out your demos, sure, and one of you has some moderately good documentation that’s accessible without purchasing the theme, but neither of you show enough detail as to what’s under the hood. In particular, you’re not showing potential customers the level of customisation available through the customizer or other theme options. Unlike some of your competitors who (in my view) have …

Scraping

Content scraper plugins, contract and copyright

The story I thought I’d introduce this post by telling a story. It’s a story about Jim, an everyday guy who has a website for which he wants more content. Jim already works hard on his site, adding new posts frequently, but he wants more content to drive more traffic to his site and to help monetise his site. He can’t do it all alone. Jim finds a bunch of sites with interesting and relevant content that he thinks would be perfect for his own site. These sites don’t generate web feeds of any flavour so Jim does a trawl of WordPress plugins and finds a commercially available plugin in a well-known plugins marketplace that does exactly what he wants. All he has to do is: install the plugin; create a post or page in his site and click a new icon in the editor which opens a pop-up window that asks for a URL and a CSS selector; get the URL of the page on another site that has the content he wants and …

Pen-on-book-optimised2

Selling themes yourself and on ThemeForest but with inconsistent licensing

With apologies for the radio silence for the last 5-6 months (for a while there life was just too hectic), I’m finally getting around to revving up WP and Legal Stuff again. This post will be pretty brief but addresses a phenomenon I’ve seen from time to time across the WordPress theme shop community. Here’s the scenario: you find a WordPress theme you really like on a theme shop’s website but, when you look at the licensing for the theme, it either limits what you can do with the theme or it’s a confusing conglomeration of terms that appear to have been plucked from an array of different sites and mashed together in the hope it’ll fly. Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I’ve deliberately not bought themes from theme shops like this because the lack of attention to clear licensing doesn’t give me much confidence in the overall soundness of the business,  its attention to detail and its customer centricity (or lack of it). But lo and behold, later you discover that this very …

Coding2

Discouraging public redistribution of commercial themes and plugins – poll results

Background Back on 4 August of this year, I published a post called Theme and plugin shops – Discouraging public redistribution – User poll.  The poll that was included in the post sought people’s views on the reselling of commercial themes and plugins. It did this because people’s views on this issue are relevant to the inclusion of a contractual mechanism I’d proposed for theme/plugin shop terms of use. The contractual mechanism I’d proposed would seek to discourage purchasers of a commercial theme or plugin from making the theme or plugin available on a website for download by others (whether for free or a charge), even when the theme or plugin is 100% GPL-licensed. The proposed term would say that, if a customer decides to make your commercial theme or plugin available on a website for download by others, you may exercise a right to deactivate their access keys (if that’s how you’ve set things up) and to terminate their access to support and updates. I explained why, in my view, this sort of clause …

Dog

Step-by-step guide to attributing Creative Commons-licensed images

BobWP reader seeks step-by-step guide A while back I wrote a piece that first appeared on BobWP called Using Creative Commons images on your site with confidence (I republished it here too). Recently a reader of BobWP asked a question about the detailed mechanics of finding a Creative Commons-licensed image and applying an attribution statement to one’s use of it. He was trying to use images found through Google image and Flickr searches but wasn’t sure exactly how to go about attributing the image and was looking for a step-by-step guide. In response, I wrote a brief step-by-step guide in the comments on Bob’s site. Because that guide might come in useful for others, I thought I’d post it here on WP and Legal Stuff too. Key steps 1. Search an image repository that has Creative Commons-licensed images Find an image and ensure it is licensed under a Creative Commons licence. Flickr is a good source and I’ll use that as an example from now on. Do an initial search for the topic or subject …

A-Practical-Guide-to-WordPress-and-the-GPL

A Practical Guide to WordPress and the GPL – now available – 30% introductory discount

Finally… I’m pleased to be able to say that A Practical Guide to WordPress and the GPL is now out in the wild. You can find it right here. Outline Here’s a quick outline of the chapters: 1. Introduction: conception, birth and forking 2. Understanding the GPL licensing of WordPress 3. Common GPL-related questions 4. WordPress themes, the GPL and the conundrum of derivative works 5. The GPL and assumptions of automatic inheritance 6. Theme reviews, CC0, model releases and GPL-compatibility 7. Selling ThemeForest themes outside of ThemeForest 8. Reselling commercial plugins 9. The GPL and trademarks 10. Theme and plugin shop terms of use versus GPL freedoms Packages Three different packages, or editions, are on offer: 1. The business package If you’re into the business of developing WordPress themes or plugins (or both), you might want this package. 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 …

First-aid-kit-and-key

A human readable summary of the GPL?

In my ebook (A Practical Guide to WordPress and the GPL) which will be out within the next 6-8 hours, I’ve included a one page summary of the GPL which I hope will make it easy for people to understand the core concepts of the GPL. That summary outlines the position in relation to copying and distribution, fees, modifications/derivative works, distributing non-source forms, termination, and downstream licensing: This particular summary follows the flow of the clauses in the GPL and that’s why it flows through the subject headings I’ve just mentioned. One consequence of this common approach to summarising legal documents is that the discussion of a single topic may contain a summary of both a person’s rights and a person’s obligations. For example, the discussion of modifications / derivative works says: “You may modify the Program or any part of it and distribute the modifications or new work as long as modified files contain notices regarding the existence and date of changes and any work that you distribute or publish that contains or is …