All posts filed under: Licensing

Comments against Unsplash WordPress plugin are a bit …

Unsplash releases a free GPL-licensed plugin and boom! Unsplash is an awesome platform. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s an awesome platform. WordPress is an awesome CMS. I’ve always said that and it’s why I write about it. Both have an open access ethos and, for that, both are to be celebrated. Unsplash releases an official WordPress plugin to the WordPress.org plugins repository, in her usual way Sarah Gooding writes an excellent article on the release, and then what happens? People start complaining in the comments. People assert that: the Unsplash licence is “against the GPL”; and promoting the plugin and hosting it on WordPress.org “shouldn’t have happened, even if it’s just a service gateway”. In response, even Matt says he’s “not sure if this should be allowed in the directory”, later adding: “Maybe if there was a way again to find just the CC0 licensed images, which the Creative Commons also requested, this could be okay to promote.” Someone else says: “They can now force user sign ups to inflate …

Taking GPL’d code proprietary…

The question It’s been a while since I’ve dropped a post here. Hell, I even bypassed the entire coming into effect of the GDPR (though I have written about it elsewhere: The GDPR and its practical global effect, whether we like it or not). Life gets busy sometimes. Anyway, yesterday I received an interesting question through the Ask me a question page of this site. The question was this (I’ve removed some names to make the example more generic): “Let’s say a code project has been released under the GPL for years. The original author of the project (let’s call the author Charlie) or his or her company (let’s call it CharlieCo) wants to take it under a proprietary licence. Is Charlie or CharlieCo allowed to do this, given that the original work was released under the GPL (and has been licensed under the GPL for ages) and given that the original author has accepted contributions under that licence?” When asked this question, most lawyers practising in this field can be expected to say things …

Unsplash GPL-compatibility concern should be a red herring

The question A reader of WP and Legal Stuff asks: “There’s quite a big debate going on at the moment about Unsplash’s new license. See: https://wptavern.com/unsplash-updates-its-license-raises-gpl-compatibility-concerns It would be great to a get a lawyer’s input on whether the new license is GPL compatible or not. Is it possible for individual photos to be GPL while having a restriction on the collection as a whole?” The short answer is that the new Unsplash licence imposes a prohibition on a certain kind of use of the licensed images that the GPL would not impose, but it shouldn’t matter because the GPL doesn’t require images bundled in a distributed theme folder to be GPL-licensed and nor should this be required for themes submitted to the WordPress.org theme repository’. There is, however, a potentially important respect in which I suggest the new Unsplash licence needs to be clarified to create greater certainty for the developers of products, like themes, that contain the images as discrete files, so those developers can be confident that the end users of their products …

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 …

“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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …