All posts filed under: GPL

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

WordPress-related business brands: protect and do no harm

The significance of WordPress-related brands As I’ve noted in an earlier post, as WordPress has evolved and become more popular, more and more businesses have sprung up in what someone referred to the other day as “the WordPress marketplace”. In addition to Automattic, there are: theme shops: think Array, Elegant Themes, StudioPress, WooThemes, ThemeForest, Themezilla and (one of my minimalist favourites) Elmastudio, among countless others; plugin and app shops: think Rocketgenius’ Gravity Forms, Yoast’s WordPress SEO Premium, the impressive array of WPMU DEV plugins, iThemes’ BackupBuddy, Gravity Wiz, CodeCanyon, Conductor, Reactor by AppPresser, VelocityPage and Pippins Plugins (whose site, I’ve just noticed, has had a super redesign), again among many others; WordPress designers (too many to even start naming); WordPress coding shops: think WerkPress and Envato Studio; WordPress news sites: think WPTavern, again among others; WordPress business consultancy, support services and fora: think Chris Lema, Matt Report Pro, WP Elevation, Post Status Membership Club, WP Site Care and WP Curve; and WordPress security services (like Sucuri). All of these businesses have distinctive brands, the importance …

The GPL and assumptions of automatic inheritance

Here’s the thing There’s a smallish matter relating to the interpretation and application of the GPL that it might help to clear up. It concerns the topic of the GPL and inheritance. References in this post to the GPL are to version 2 of the GPL. What we read on the web When reading various articles on WordPress and the GPL, as well as articles on the GPL in other contexts (such as the Drupal context), it is fairly common to find references to ‘inheritance’, to the effect that ‘a derivative work inherits the GPL’. Here are some examples I’ve come across on the web: “a derivative work inherits the benefits of the GPL”; “[d]erivatives of WordPress code inherit the GPL license”; “[i]f a plugin or theme makes a call to any WP function then that plugin or theme technically falls under GPL. Which pretty much means, any distributing theme or plugin inherits the the GPL regardless if it’s being sold or freely released”; “if you make a derivative work of GPL licensed code, your …

WordPress themes, the GPL and the conundrum of derivative works

Meet ‘theme’ In the beginning (of WordPress that is) there was no separate theming system as we know it today. Rather, the theming system that we now know and love was added in version 1.5 (“Strayhorn”), in February 2005, and has been enhanced numerous times since then. Today, the humble theme – responsible for the layout, look and feel of a site – is a key and swappable component of virtually every WordPress installation and, as most WordPress users know, for those who don’t wish to develop their own theme there is a dazzling array of readily available themes to choose from. Evolution of commercial themes and their licensing As WordPress became more and more popular and as people began to see and leverage its value, it was inevitable that new business models would emerge. One such business model was the development and sale of premium/commercial themes. Turning to the topic of licensing (and putting what the GPL may require to one side for now), the owners of such businesses could license their themes: in their …

The GPL and the story of WPScan and Vane

The debate By now, many in the WordPress community will have heard about the WPScan/GPL debate. Personally I was a bit late to the party on this one but, thanks to a tweet from ManageWP this morning, I’ve now read a bit about it. I’m not expressing a legal conclusion Now, I don’t want to wade into this specific debate and try to express a legal view on what’s right and wrong here because I don’t know the facts well enough. Instead, I’m just going to state a few propositions that I believe reflect copyright law (in many countries) and the requirements of the GPL. I leave open how they might apply to this situation and, to be clear, I’m not providing any legal advice to anyone that reads this post. My usual disclaimer applies (I know that sounds a bit OTT but I’m just exercising a lawyer’s caution). The propositions So, without further ado, here are those propositions I mentioned: Sole copyright owner can do what she wants:  A person (or company), lets call …