Author: Richard Best

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 …

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 …

Quarterly round-up: Legal info, tips and templates for WordPressers

WP and Legal Stuff has been live for three months. For this reason I thought I’d have a crack at writing a “quarterly round-up”, for people new to the blog, that provides an overview of all posts to date. I pondered whether to post the round-up here or somewhere else. I’ve never posted to Medium before so I thought I’d post it there. (Having done so, I have to say (dare I say?), that Medium has a pretty gorgeous posting interface. Anyway, I digress… .) Here’s a link to the post: WP and Legal Stuff: Legal info, tips, tricks and templates for WordPressers (Featured image courtesy of William Iven who released it on Unsplash.com under CC0. Thanks William!)

Template terms and policies for WordPress multisite businesses

Introduction As many if not most readers will know, with WordPress’ multisite feature, you can set up your own network of sites, whether for yourself, friends, clients or customers. The WordPress Codex puts it in these terms: “As of WordPress 3.0, you have the ability to create a network of sites by using the multisite feature. … A multisite network can be very similar to your own personal version of WordPress.com. End users of your network can create their own sites on demand, just like end users of WordPress.com can create blogs on demand. If you do not have any need to allow end users to create their own sites on demand, you can create a multisite network in which only you, the administrator, can add new sites. A multisite network is a collection of sites that all share the same WordPress installation. They can also share plugins and themes. The individual sites in the network are virtual sites in the sense that they do not have their own directories on your server, although they …

Protecting WordPress consultancies with terms of business

Let’s take a look at WordPress consultancies As readers will know, the WordPress marketplace comprises a wide range of business types, including: development and design agencies; theme and plugin shops; website generation platforms; app platforms; and consultancy businesses. For this post I want to focus on the last of these: WordPress consultancy businesses. These are the sorts of businesses that provide the likes of: commercial advice and coaching in relation to WordPress-related businesses (think Chris Lema); advice and training materials on how to “become an exceptional WordPress consultant” (WP Elevation) or on how to “kickstart your WordPress business” (Matt Report Pro); and WordPress workshop and on-site training services (like BobWP). These kinds of businesses do not necessarily provide any development or design services (they may do as separate services but that’s not my focus here). Rather, their services are more commercial, strategic or educational in nature. If you own or work for such a WordPress consultancy, you may have asked yourself about the kind of contractual terms you should be putting in place with your …

Readers ask: About reselling commercial plugins (updated)

The questions Following the posts on WordPress themes, the GPL and the conundrum of derivative works and A reader asks: Selling ThemeForest themes outside of ThemeForest, two people from countries far apart have asked me similar questions (albeit possibly from opposite perspectives) regarding the reselling of GPL’d plugins. The first person asked this (I’m paraphrasing): ‘If someone purchases a plugin (or theme) from a commercial plugin (or theme) provider, and then translates it, changes the code and puts it in a marketplace to sell, would that be permissible under the GPL? I’ve seen outfits doing this and I’m not sure how they can do it.’ The second person asked this: ‘As a plugin developer, how can I protect my plugins to prevent people from reselling them, bearing in mind that many plugins are largely PHP/HTML/javascript code with minimal CSS and graphical elements or, in any event, with CSS and graphical elements that might easily be replaced. In these circumstances, a ThemeForest-style split licence might not have much effect. In these circumstances, how can a plugin …

Fake reviewer goes down for defamation

In Negative SEO and legal remedies I noted that one form of negative SEO is “where an unscrupulous person posts fake and negative reviews about a competitor’s goods or services with a view to lowering the competitor’s average popularity ranking and therefore reducing its page rank, e.g., in particular commercial services, for popularity-based searches.” When discussing various potential remedies for negative SEO, I noted that one potential remedy for fake reviews is a civil action for defamation. On 6 March 2015, the English High Court delivered its judgment in a case involving a fake review where the action that was successfully pursued against the wrongdoer was indeed defamation:  The Bussey Law Firm PC & Anor v Page [2015] EWHC 563. I thought I’d give a quick rundown on this case given its relevance to the negative SEO post. The claimants were a law firm and a particular lawyer within the firm who practises law in Colorado, United States. As the Court explained, someone posted a defamatory allegation on the lawyer’s Google Maps profile, alongside a …

How lawyers’ terms for your WordPress business can affect your revenue

So you’re starting an online business You’re starting a WordPress-related business of some sort. You need website terms of use or a privacy policy or software-as-a-service terms for the site. You ask your lawyer to whip something up so that that particular box can be ticked off: “Terms of use, done”. You might be someone who works closely with your lawyer on such issues or you may give your lawyer comparatively free reign. Does it matter? I suggest it does, as I’ll try to show in this post. Three “stories”, if you like, have prompted me to write this post: a story about Pinterest and its early terms of use; a story about some client feedback I had a while ago; and a story about the Envato Studio terms of use as described in Taking care with the IP terms of WordPress development services. I’ll tell the three stories shortly but the point of this post is that the the manner in which lawyers (or others) draft terms of use and other legal terms for …

Taking care with the IP terms of WordPress development services

Setting the scene Does this sound like you? You need to have a custom theme or plugin developed. Or you need help modifying an existing theme or plugin. You need someone to build a WordPress platform of some sort. Or you otherwise need help doing X, Y or Z with your WordPress site or business that, like the other tasks just mentioned, will involve the creation of new software code. You need the work done yesterday, you’re happy to pay a reasonable amount for it and you just want to get on with it. I’ve been in this kind of situation a few times and I’m sure there are thousands out there that either have been too or are in it right now. Rather than going to a known developer (you might not know any), you might turn to one of the WordPress-specific job shops such as codeable or WerkPress or similar services for which WordPress is clearly an important category, such as Elto (formerly Tweaky) or Envato Studio. In your hurry, you may tick …

A reader asks: Selling ThemeForest themes outside of ThemeForest

Questions Alex asks these questions (I’ve amended them slightly): “I have come across sites that are charging to download ThemeForest WordPress themes and are adding a note stating they are licensed under the GPL. I looked a number of those themes up on ThemeForest and they were not licensed under the GPL or were only partially licensed under the GPL. I am planning to sell WordPress themes and would appreciate a clarification as to the licensing that ThemeForest is purporting to use. (As of this writing, very few businesses on ThemeForest have opted to use GPL, so where does that actually place a theme sold on ThemeForest?) A few theme authors have adopted the 100% GPL licensing but the majority have not. With that stated, could someone (such as myself) resell the theme in question, [Hypothetical Theme], by attaching the GPL license? I understand that ThemeForest is claiming they have a totally different license in effect. That seems to be where the confusion is.” These questions could span a number of different scenarios: a theme …