All posts filed under: Licensing

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 …

Understanding the GPL licensing of WordPress

Licensing As I’ve noted previously, WordPress is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), version 2. The text of version 2 of the GPL has accompanied every release of WordPress since its inception, in the license.txt file included in each download. Originally, and until version 3.2 of WordPress, the license.txt file was a verbatim reproduction of the GPL, with no reference to b2 or the WordPress contributors. Matt and his co-developers had, instead, included full attribution to b2 and Michel Valdrighi in the readme.html file included with each download. For example, in the open source spirit that pervades the WordPress community and which Matt has championed from the outset, the readme.html file in version .71 of WordPress said this: “WordPress is built from b2, which comes from Michel V. We wouldn’t be here without him, so why don’t you grab him something from his wishlist?” Nice. As WordPress matured, each download continued to include a license.txt file and a readme.html file but, with the release of version 3.2 of WordPress, Matt and his co-developers …

Automattic, open licensing and open data

The open spirit of WordPress Everyone knows that the founders of and contributors to the WordPress software at WordPress.org wholeheartedly embrace the spirit of open source software. The GPL (the open source licence under which WordPress is licensed) sits at the centre of what they do and Matt Mullenweg, for example, speaks passionately about the GPL and champions the cause it represents (and those that defy the GPL’s requirements (or spirit) when the community thinks it applies (or should be applied) may, well, be frowned upon). Here’s an example of Matt speaking about the GPL: [wpvideo ABaVkvrA] From software to other creative content Whilst copyleft has its origins in the software world, the open source software movement is now a subset of the larger world of open licensing and open data. Various licences and tools exist to enable people to share not only their software but also their creative content and other data on standardised terms that are quick and easy to put in place. Automattic’s generosity Not surprisingly given its founders, Automattic has always …