Author: Richard Best

FreeBeer

Theme and plugin shops – Discouraging public redistribution – User poll

Context Last week I sent an email to subscribers on my email list. I hadn’t proposed to publish the content of that email but, given some questions I’ve received in response, I thought it might help to publish it. I also thought it would be helpful and interesting to take a quick poll of people’s views on the reselling of commercial themes and plugins because people’s views on this issue are relevant to the inclusion of the contractual mechanism in theme/plugin shop terms of use that I discuss below. I’ll set out the email then take the poll. (Please retweet as the more that take this super quick poll the better.) So, the email This is what I said: “I’m in the process of finalising my 10 chapter ebook called A Practical Guide to WordPress and the GPL. The ebook will be offered in a range of packages, from just the ebook through to a package that will offer the ebook, an audio book and a terms of use builder for WordPress theme and plugin …

CookieFeatured

Automattic, WordPress.com, Jetpack, European cookie laws and transparency

Setting the scene In Legal checks when building a content-driven WordPress website, I discussed cookies — not the edible variety but the small text files that are stored on your computer or mobile device when you visit or undertake certain activity on certain websites (for further information about cookies, see http://www.allaboutcookies.org.) I observed that, whilst many countries don’t have laws that require disclosure of cookies, in Europe there are specific (and controversial) cookie laws. Website owners in European Member States are required to: provide clear and comprehensive information about the cookies they are using; and obtain consent to store a cookie on a user or subscriber’s device. There are some narrow exceptions but I don’t think I need to mention them again. Questions The questions I want to explore in this post are these: What are the implications of the European cookie laws for European users of WordPress.com and Jetpack? Are users of WordPress.com and Jetpack able to obtain sufficient information as to the cookies that these services set? If not, do the cookie laws …

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Theme and plugin shop terms of use versus GPL freedoms

Introduction For a while now I’ve wanted to address an issue that niggles away at me every time I see it. I touched on the subject slightly at the end of Readers ask: About reselling commercial plugins (updated) but I wanted to explore it a bit more in its own post. There are so many theme and plugin shops out there now that you probably couldn’t count them all with even 20 hands. Perhaps not surprisingly, this multiplicity of WordPress businesses has resulted in a wide range of terms of use and licensing statements in relation to the themes and plugins they sell. Of course, what these businesses say in their terms is constrained – or should be constrained – by the requirements of the GPL, at least in situations where they’ve created derivative works of WordPress or other GPL’d code or where they’ve otherwise chosen to apply the GPL to their themes or plugins. In this post, I’m going to focus on theme and plugin shops that have expressly applied – or purport to …

Thesis-image

Pearson v Automattic: Did Automattic succeed by the skin of its teeth?

Focus of this post As many in the WordPress community will know by now thanks to Jeff Chandler’s helpful post on the case, recently Chris Pearson was unsuccessful in his complaint against Automattic regarding its purchase of the thesis.com domain name. Pearson had sought to have the domain transferred to him. I want to say a few things about this case but I’m not going to get emotional about it nor will I publish any comments that come across as hostile, abusive or potentially defamatory. My interest is to point out a few things that do not seem prominent in the discussions I’ve seen to date and to do so from a hopefully dispassionate legal perspective. Facts The key facts seem to be these: Many years ago, Chris Pearson developed a theme for WordPress called Thesis. When released, Pearson did not license Thesis under the GPL. In due course, there was heated if not acrimonious debate between Matt Mullenweg and Pearson as to the licensing of Thesis. Mullenweg argued that Thesis should be licensed under …

Camera-for-Hoffmann-post

How not to source images for your client’s websites

If you’re a designer who source images for a client’s website, do you ensure you and your client have the right to use them? An interesting wee tale A UK case from 2012 provides a number of important reminders for those who design and own websites, including public sector agencies (Hoffman v Drug Abuse Resistance Education (UK) Ltd [2012] EWPCC 2 (19 January 2012)). It’s an interesting tale about a website owner who copied photos from another website in the mistaken belief that they were Crown copyright photos that could be re-used without permission when, in fact, they could not. There’s a photographer, a charity, a web developer, a government-sponsored website, the photos and … a copyright infringement claim. This isn’t a WordPress-specific story, but one that may be of interest to some WordPress users. Briefly, the main facts appearing from the judgment are these: Mr Hoffman was the copyright owner of a range of photos of drugs; the defendant charity published copies of those photos on its website; the defendant had used a web …

District-Court-California

WordPress Foundation v Yablon and PC-VIP, Inc

Introduction As many will know, the WordPress Foundation has commenced court proceedings against Mr Yablon and PC-VIP, Inc in relation to the use of “WordPress” in “The WordPress Helpers” website and multiple domain names: thewordpresshelpers.com, thewordpresshelpdesk.com, thewordpresstrainers.com, thewordpressteachers.com, thewordpressdoctors.com, wordpresstraffic.com and thewordpresstutors.com. Attempts to resolve the matter without resorting to court proceedings have, it seems, been unsuccessful. The WordPress Foundation’s complaint against Mr Yablon and PC-VIP, Inc, filed with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, contains five claims for relief. It also seeks a jury trial. The complaint is available online if you’d like to read it. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread I don’t propose to express an opinion on whether and if so how many of the claims may succeed. Not only is it more appropriate to leave that to US trademark and cybersquatting attorneys but we are yet to see a statement of defence from the defendants and we are probably not fully aware of the full range of facts (other than the obvious ones) …

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Using stock imagery in your or a client’s WordPress site – beware of the terms of use

Introduction A designer friend once let me in on a secret, a secret she described as “the designer’s little secret”. She was referring to istockphoto.com as a preferred source of reasonably priced images for commercial and other use. That was many years ago now. Since that time istockphoto has become a part of Getty Images (and is now known as iStock) and we’ve seen a proliferation of competing stock imagery sites such as shutterstock.com, graphicriver.net, mychillybin.co.nz, dollarphotoclub.com, dreamstime.com, bigstockphoto.com and fotolia.com among many others. Stock images are everywhere these days, including on the pages of WordPress-driven websites the world over. I’ve used them, for both myself and clients, and I’ve reviewed the terms of use of multiple stock imagery sites that clients have been thinking of using, with a view to alerting them to risks of which they may need to be aware. Now here’s the thing: not all stock imagery websites are made equal. I’m not talking about the range, quality or cost of their images, but of the terms of use that govern …

CreativeCommonsMonsters

Using Creative Commons licensed images on your site with confidence

Introduction As many readers will know, when sourcing images for your blog or website, you can’t just do a Google images search, find an image you like, copy it and insert it in your post editor. Well, you can, physically, but legally this is a recipe for copyright infringement. If you don’t have your own images, two common alternatives are to: purchase a licence to images from the likes of iStock, Shutterstock and Bigstock; or find and use images that have been either licensed under a Creative Commons licence or released into the public domain under CC0 (pronounced CC zero). In this post, I’m going to focus on the latter: Creative Commons. Whilst some people are familiar with Creative Commons licensing, many people are not, particularly if they’ve had no need to use Creative Commons-licensed material in the past or to release material under a Creative Commons licence. For this reason, I’m going to: introduce Creative Commons and its licences; and explain how to comply with the attribution requirements that are common to all of …

ChangingTerms

When changing your terms of use, do you respect your customers?

Recently I received an email from a WordPress-related business telling me its terms of use had been updated. The email didn’t specify what had changed so, for some strange reason (a lawyer’s idle curiosity perhaps), I clicked through to see the latest terms, half hoping to see a change log or a blog post summarising what had changed. Did I find any such thing? No. The terms themselves only had a “Last modified on X date” entry. No change log. No explanatory blog post. And the site contained no archive of previous versions that would enable me to do an automated comparison, assuming I’d be motivated enough to do that. (I suppose one could try the Wayback Machine but a paying customer shouldn’t need to resort to that.) These terms were over 4,500 words long. I’m not sure how any user is supposed to understand what has changed in these circumstances. In many if not most countries, users will bound by the changes, thanks to what’s called a unilateral variation clause (a clause that allows …

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Click to accept processes: a closer look at Gravity Perks

Context As you might have gathered from some of my earlier posts, I’m a big fan of Gravity Forms, a fantastic plugin that just gets better and better with the passage of time. I’ve used Gravity Forms in the past to create ‘click to accept’ mechanisms but, at least as I’ve deployed them, they required inclusion of a link to terms of use which would then open up in a new window or tab (for anyone who bothered to read them). With this approach the terms themselves weren’t visible on the same page as the click to accept box. Legally this wasn’t a problem but perhaps it wasn’t the most user-friendly approach. In Legal checks when building a content-driven WordPress website I mentioned that you could go one step further by purchasing and installing the Gravity Perks plugin which includes a GP Terms of Service Perk. I noticed that this add-on for Gravity Forms helpfully adds a Terms of Service field to the available Advanced Fields and can produce something like this: At that point …