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Business

Open Source WordPress Licensing Themes

Regarding WordPress companies that sell themes aka support. Can you technically contact the company and ask them to send you the theme forgoing paying for support mentioning WP's GPL?

13 Answers

James Barnett
James Barnett
39,199 Points

Edit The PHP and HTML would be covered under the GPL but not the CSS or the graphics.

I read that as, if you wanted to get a copy of the PHP & HTML for a theme you could, however without the CSS it would require significant design work to make it into a workable theme.

source: http://support.envato.com/index.php?/Knowledgebase/Article/View/428


Theme Developers and the GPL is a super murky area.

http://www.ivycat.com/2013/07/a-newbies-guide-to-the-gpl-and-wordpress-licensing/

James Barnett
James Barnett
39,199 Points

I'm flattered :smile:

I concur Zac Gordon should totally put this in the teacher notes of one of his videos in the the Build a Wordpress Theme course

James you should throw this in the show notes of one of your videos. Great link and thanks for passing this along.

James Barnett
James Barnett
39,199 Points

I don't have any videos are you confusing me with Zac Gordon?

Yeap. :)

Michael Zorko
Michael Zorko
2,397 Points

As a theme developer I think of the countless hours I put into making a theme. The hard work. Then I sell the theme and I offer support as part of the theme purchase. With that in mind I have to ask. Why would you go out of your way to to avoid paying someone for their hard work? Just curious. Or maybe I don't understand the question.

James Barnett
James Barnett
39,199 Points

Your theme is a derivative work of someone else's hard work you didn't pay them for (Wordpress).

Michael Zorko
Michael Zorko
2,397 Points

Yes, you are correct. I also offer free support for my themes. However, all of my themes are base HTML style with a PHP kicker. I apply them to Joomla, Drupal, and Wordpress. So I sell the HTML theme with ride alongs for the CMS systems. So in essence. I charge for the HTML, and I give the CMS versions for free.

However that was not the discussion. The point is this. We live in a something for nothing society. If you do not wish to pay for the theme, then don't. Find another theme.

James Barnett
James Barnett
39,199 Points

The basic question here is about derivative works and how when using a piece of software you agree to be bound by its licensing agreement. In the case of Wordpress one of its terms is that any derivative work such as the PHP used to make a theme free of charge.

There's a badge on the various possible licensing schemes including the open source in the Copyright Basics course here on Treehouse.

Michael Zorko
Michael Zorko
2,397 Points

Yes. You are right. However, when I charge for my theme I am not charging for the work that was done by Wordpress. I am charging for the 11 seconds it took me to use Dreamweaver to put that logo placeholder in the upper left hand corner. I am charging for the 3 minutes it took me to develop the header graphic that my theme user can use. I am charging for the overlay.

I understand what you are saying. It is an issue of vernacular. It is not what you say, it is how you say it. if it takes me 3 hours to develop an HTML theme. That is what I charge for it. I create the Wordpress theme and offer it as part of the package. Well within the Guidelines.

However if I am understanding you correctly, then companies like Themeforest, Simplescipts, Mojo.. all are operating in violation for offering themes for purchase based on the WP GPL.

I am incredibly familiar with copyright basics. I just think it is funny that someone would go out of their way to point out a WP GPL to get around paying for a theme.

My great great great grandfather invented the chocolate chip cookie. I swear if I ever show up at a bake sale and you are selling them you are a gonner! ;-) How dare you sell a cookie based on his hard work and determination! Granted he did not create a license. It seems so silly.

Maybe the James should create his own theme and support himself when he needs help, so he does not run into these moral issues of conduct! ;-)

James Barnett
James Barnett
39,199 Points

However if I am understanding you correctly, then companies like Themeforest, Simplescipts, Mojo.. all are operating in violation for offering themes for purchase based on the WP GPL.

No they operate under a spilt license.

"The PHP component and integrated HTML are covered by the GPL. The rest of the components created by the author (such as the CSS, images, graphics, design, photos, etc) are covered by the marketplace license."

source: http://support.envato.com/index.php?/Knowledgebase/Article/View/428

As such James Whiting could get the PHP & HTML for a theme but not the CSS nor any images. Such code could be useful as a starting point for making your own theme.

Zac Gordon
STAFF
Zac Gordon
Treehouse Guest Teacher

First of all, this is a huge and hotly debated topic in the WP community.

Second, in my personal opinion, if someone has already made the decision to sell their work then I respect that and pay them if it's a plugin or theme I really want to use.

In the plugin course which comes out in a few days I do talk about deciding whether or not to charge for your work, but not so much about the conceptual licensing debate.

Good discussion gentleman, Zac looking forward to the course. Yes, I was referring to derivative aspects of the license. I would think if someone sent you an email requesting a derivative work that you made under the license you as a developer should concede the code. Otherwise, if you put a price tag on it, great.

Zac Gordon
STAFF
Zac Gordon
Treehouse Guest Teacher

Gotcha on the derivative aspect. Definitely still debated though. A funny loop around is that even if the PHP and HTML are under the license it doesn't mean they're bound to go out of their way to give you the files. The license sets the terms for technically/legally making the code available but it doesn't bind anyone to putting in effort to making their work available for download.

Imagine if you had to contact a single person to download the 2012 theme everytime you wanted it. Obviously your request would likely get lost in the pile of other requests and there's nothing holding the dev to get you the files. However, once you did get the files the license would bind what you can do with it. Tricky, but so is the whole topic.

And correct, that premium theme developers use a different license.

James Barnett
James Barnett
39,199 Points

Zac Gordon -

> And correct, that premium theme developers use a different license.

I thought all themes were licensed under the GPL at least partially with some being dual-licensed with the only PHP/HTML covered under the GPL. What am I missing?