All posts filed under: Themes

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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 …

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“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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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A reader asks: Theme reviews, CC0, model releases and GPL-compatibility

Question Ulrich asks: “I do theme reviews for the theme repository on WordPress.org. All the code and assets in the theme need to be GPL compatible. I have a few questions about how GPL compatible images work with model releases. The popular GPL compatible image licence is CC0. Can an image be released under CC0 even if there is no model release? Is a CC0 image without a model release GPL compatible? Who is responsible for getting the model release? The photographer, theme author, website owner? Who is liable if a theme with a CC0 image without a model release is used on a pornographic site?” Thanks for the great bunch of questions Ulrich. I appreciate receiving them. Outline and summary Outline Before I jump into the specific questions you’ve raised, I think it may be helpful for some people if we step back from those questions and: sketch out what WordPress.org and the Theme Review Handbook have to say about GPL-compatibility; describe CC0; analyse what is meant by “GPL-compatibility”; and explain why, in my …