Does WordPress Want to Shove a GPL Shaped Stick up My…

Update January 21, 2017: This post is part of the WPMU DEV Blog archive and contains information that is out-of-date, but we’re keeping it on the blog for posterity. For all the latest WordPress news and resources, check out our latest posts.

Don’t get me wrong, I love WordPress. I really, really do. I literally own the T-shirt… and the hoodie.. and the badges… and even organized the first AU WordCamp back in 2007. I want to own more merchandise, and do more good things, seriously!

In fact WordPress is also my full time job; me and my partners own and run one of the largest WordPress MU hosts on the web  at Edublogs, make big media / corporate blogging sites at Incsub, and provide the free WordPress MU plugins hub WPMU DEV.

But there’s something I haven’t mentioned yet, you see, we have a dirty little secret, namely that the free WPMU plugins site also has a ‘Premium’ version where people pay to download custom plugins, themes, videos and other stuff that we’ve made  (as well as get support, upgrades and all that jazz).

What’s so dirty about that? Well, you see, we don’t give our plugins a GPL license even though, as said on my previous post about making money with WPMU:

“Long story short, it’s fine to sell things, including exactly what you’re doing on the site today, but insofar as the code links or uses any core WP functions it should also be GPL licensed.”

Which brings up a very very big issue, critical not only to WPMU DEV Premium but also to anyone who works with WordPress – namely that if you build a theme, plugin or anything else that “links [to] or users any core WP functions” then you must:

“Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code…” [3.b. GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE Version 2, June 1991 – the one that ships with WP.]

Now, I expected you’re a bit surprised that I brought that up – surely, you’re thinking, he’d be more upset about the bit that allows anyone to distribute his code, wouldn’t he? I mean, if we were to release our plugins under GPL then someone would be able to just download them, put them up on another site (for free) and raise a one fingered salute in our direction!

Whereas actually I don’t care about that bit much, I mean we have market (and search engine) position enough to hopefully avoid that being a big issue, I can’t see members of the WPMU community giving a site like that many links or credence, they could well be stuffed with malware etc. and also we offer more than code – you get upgrades, bugs fixes, support, community and to request stuff (which often gets made!).

Sure it’d royally piss me off, but I’d get over it.

Naw, what I really care about is that this means that someone should, according to Matt’s reasoning (and his reasoning does matter, a great deal), be able to come up to Edublogs and demand that we hand over all our custom code to them.

Or, and which is even more terrifying, they should be able to go up to our high profile clients at Incsub… and do just exactly that… I mean, holy shit, way to piss someone off and trash my business.

[Oh, incidentally though, don’t try that please ;) Thankfully nothing we’ve done for them is GPL licensed]

Or – more pertinently – and this is to all you people out there who design themes for clients, make custom WP functionality or run your own businesses on WP or WPMU – apparently if you are approached by someone who asks you for that theme/plugin/functionality, you’d better hand it over. Or be in violation of the WP license. Feeling nervous yet?

Or, more to the point, doesn’t that make Automattic feel a bit nervous?

I mean, those guys are generous to a  fault, I’m their biggest fan – they’ve got the best CEO, the smartest founder, the creator of WordPress MU and developers that would make any company jealous. And when I brought up the fact that there was stuff in that wasn’t released, like CSS editing, Matt offered to sort it out and release it – I mean, OMG, how cool is that.

In fact I’m sure they’d release their grannies diaries if they were asked (and they linked to WP anywhere), without hesitation, but that’s not what I’m concerned about.,

It’s your VIP clients guys…, WSJ magazine, TIME magazine, Discover magazine, All things D etc. etc. – I mean, I bet there are some nifty themes and plugins in play there guys – but you wouldn’t want me walking up to them and demanding they be delivered to me… would you?

But as I was saying, all of this is by-the-by if you don’t agree with Matt when he says: “insofar as the code links or uses any core WP functions it should also be GPL licensed”.

Now, I’m not a lawyer (what, you hadn’t noticed!) or even a developer, so I have turned for advice to smarter sorts than me – but they are busy at the moment, so with luck they’ll have the chance to chime in on this post in the comments :)

But naturally I can’t help myself in terms of having a stab at it… I mean, in purely simple terms, can it be conceived of as fair or reasonable that something you have written 100% yourself, from scratch, because it *links* to WP components – yet alone uses WP hooks – should then be subject automatically to a GPL license???

And is it 100% said and done that simply linking to a WordPress element or using a template tag or hook constitutes being a “work based on the Program… that is to say, a work containing the Program or a portion of it” [taken from the same license]? Throw me a bone here… is there a precedent?

And, more to the point, is it possible to create ANYTHING that plays alongside WP that doesn’t link to or use WP hooks? So doesn’t that mean by default anything that even touches it MUST be covered by the GPL? Do you think that’s really in the spirit of things?

[Not to mention, for example, a corporate intranet that links to a WP install… but I’ll ignore that as it’s a bit tenuous.]

And aren’t there plentiful example of propitiatory software (like Oracle) that extensively hooks into / links to /uses GNU/GPL licensed code (Unix)?

Sure, you could say Unix is a standard… but isn’t WP becoming just that in the blogging world?

Plus, you’d be surprised at the number of corporate objections made to WP based upon some corporate lawyers fears about the GPL – I’ve experienced it, in person, at the two largest media operators in Australia… and guess what, neither of them use WP :(

But finally, and at the end of the day, regardless of the whatever technicalities are involved in the license, don’t we have each others best interests at heart? Is it fair to enforce on anyone, just because they happen to use WP as a base CMS / blogging platform etc. that everything the do should be available on demand to anyone who fancies it? Is it really sustainable for you (or anyone for that matter) to police that? And do you think that is honestly in the best interests of the software?

Because I really do <3 you WordPress – and really don’t want you stiff me and everyone else that promotes, works with, gives back to and earns a decent days work out of your goodness.  Come along now, surely we can work something out…

45 Responses

  • New Recruit

    Well said. You bring up a ton of valid points and some very interesting arguments.

    Should web hosting companies feel guilty for running proprietary software on top of LAMP? Shouldn’t they release their code because they are taking advantage of LAMPs resources? Maybe I should approach MediaTemple and ask to use their interface?

    But that’s besides the point. You guys, (incsub) have given away so much knowledge, information and code, to the community at large, that you should never feel any shame trying to make a living off of your hard work.

    My point again is that you guys (broadly speaking, including a lot of people here like lorelle and andrea) are the Mavens that have driven WordPress over the tipping point.

    You should be able to have some protection for your custom work that is built on top of this great open source project.

  • > You should be able to have some protection for your custom work that is built on top of this great open source project.

    The whole point of GPL is to prevent people from taking something that is shared by all and building their own little priate propriatary software with it.

    If the plug-ins could run without WordPress, and merely connect to it, then they’re yours. But if the plug-ins can’t run without WordPress, then they’re derivative, and should be GPLed, as what you have in fact created is a modified version of WordPress.

    Or to put the same point another way: their sharing of their WordPress code with you is contingent on you sharing your WordPress code with them. If you don’t share, you no longer have a license to use WordPress.

    > I bet there are some nifty themes and plugins in play there guys – but you wouldn’t want me walking up to them and demanding they be delivered to me… would you?

    I don’t get this part… just post links to the source somewhere on your site, and nobody can demand anything of you.

    Proprietary content? Make it *data* – they can’t demand your data from you.

  • EPIC GPL misunderstanding/misreading FAIL. :-)

    You must only provide source to those whom you distribute the “binaries” to (and remember that in almost all cases with PHP, you’re always distributing the source anyway).

    No one can ask you for the Edublogs code unless you’ve distributed it to them. Which you haven’t, because it’s a service.

    The client for whom you create a WordPress derivative (modified core, plugins, whatever) can ask for the code, because you’ve distributed the “product” to them… and you’ve probably already given them the code anyway, because it’s PHP. :-)

    I find it deeply disappointing that such misunderstanding of the GPL still exists among FLOSS developers — surely you read the license before contributing to the project and building a business around it?

    “As your attorney,” I advise you to read the GPL and update this post. :-)

  • uol
    Design Lord, Child of Thor

    From the GNU GPL FAQ (which, I believe, is what Matt is asserting):

    “If a program released under the GPL uses plug-ins, what are the requirements for the licenses of a plug-in?

    It depends on how the program invokes its plug-ins. If the program uses fork and exec to invoke plug-ins, then the plug-ins are separate programs, so the license for the main program makes no requirements for them.

    If the program dynamically links plug-ins, and they make function calls to each other and share data structures, we believe they form a single program, which must be treated as an extension of both the main program and the plug-ins. This means the plug-ins must be released under the GPL or a GPL-compatible free software license, and that the terms of the GPL must be followed when those plug-ins are distributed.

    If the program dynamically links plug-ins, but the communication between them is limited to invoking the ‘main’ function of the plug-in with some options and waiting for it to return, that is a borderline case. ”

  • New Recruit

    Andrea and Stephen have hit the high points. The GPL is specifically designed to be “sticky” in this fashion, and it only applies to public code releases… if you keep your mods in-house, the GPL cannot be used to take it from you. But I wanted to address a couple other points:

    RE: “I can’t see members of the WPMU community giving a site like that many links or credence, they could well be stuffed with malware etc….”

    More likely, they would be uploaded to any of the popular, legit plugin repositories. There’s nothing illegal or dishonorable about freely distributing GPL’d software, so there’s no reason to assume that they would end up in some shady corner of the intertubes. That’s where non-GPL’d software ends up.

    RE: “can it be conceived of as fair or reasonable that something you have written 100% yourself, from scratch, because it *links* to WP components – yet alone uses WP hooks – should then be subject automatically to a GPL license???”

    It depends on what you mean by “links”. Stallman & Co. have made it very clear that the GPL’s scope is meant to extend to any code that shares data structures with a GPL’d app. So while a blog editor that communicates with WP via XML-RPC doesn’t need to be GPL’d, a plugin that directly accesses WP’s variables *does*.

    RE: “Throw me a bone here… is there a precedent?”

    There have been a few tests, although none that are so clear that you can say with certainty what a court would rule in a case like this. In most cases, folks eventually realize that even if they’re found to not be violating the letter of the GPL, they’re certainly violating the spirit of it, and give up.

  • @Joss: Ah, well, in that case they must distribute “the code” to those who receive “the product” via their premium service, but are under no obligation to distribute it (read: either code or product) to anyone else. That said, anyone who receives “the product” via the premium service and then distributes it *must also* distribute “the code” (which may or may not be desireable to James).

  • Excellent post James. There seem to be a number of conflicting opinions on the GPL and how far it extends to “plugins” or code that extends other GPL licensed software and I feel the current approach of “Jump on any post that mentions making money and say GPL in the comments” isn’t helping in the least.

    If anything, this and the recent Themes “jump in, delete, apologise later” approach only serves to put doubt in the minds of developers and theme authors and sends them off to other platforms.

    If the “but insofar as the code links or uses any core WP functions it should also be GPL licensed.” argument holds, then what about classes that don’t link to WP but are used by the plugin or…,

    Hell, I’m going to stop there. There are numerous ways and I’ve got scibblings on all of them, but at this point I’m having a long think about the direction I’m going to take on this, including using other platforms.

  • The Incredible Code Injector

    Jeff above me has it spot on.

    Also, there is a bit of precedent in terms of themes and the design. The stylesheet and any images *can* be licensed differently than GPL, as they can be used on other platforms, for other designs (straight up html for example, without relying on WP or GPL anything.

    It’s always interesting to discuss the finer points, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in terms of competition.

    In the end though, I find that many users, if they want it, they’ll pay. GPL or not doesn’t matter to them. There’s a whole segment of the blogging population willing to pay for it. Depends on which side you want to play on.

    Kind of reminds me of how much the pron industry has done for web development, like secure online payments.

  • uol
    Design Lord, Child of Thor

    @Jeff Waugh: In this case, the source code in question are scripts (a fairly transparent product compared to binary code). So the source, by its nature, ships as the product.

    So if someone joins and downloads a premium plugin are they free to distribute it to a ‘non-premium’ person who happens to observe and desire the extended functionality of that WordPress installation?

    The remark in the post above about customers being forced to hand over paid-for ‘premium’ code seems to miss the mark. Isn’t it the copyright owner’s obligation to do this? Unless the clients are making their own derivative plugins from the premium plugins, in which case they too are bound by the GPL.

    As an Ubuntu Linux user, I don’t think I am obliged to provide a copy of the OS source code on demand. Canonical are though and of course, they do.

    p.s. I can’t see any legal statement in the code of the premium plugins we use or on quick scan of the premium website either. It would be useful to link to it if one exists.

  • Jacob Santos seems to be creating a library that will sit between WP and plugins. I believe this library will allow plugins to “communicate at arms length”, thus allowing plugins to use whatever license they like.

    CorePress Library:

    Jacobs’ postings on the subject:

    IMO, in order to keep the top developers developing WP Apps (aka plugins), they need to be able to sell their Apps (I’m calling them applications, not cimly plugins). Tying their work to consulting, ties them to hourly work, which does not scale well.

  • “Naw, what I really care about is that this means that someone should, according to Matt’s reasoning (and his reasoning does matter, a great deal), be able to come up to Edublogs and demand that we hand over all our custom code to them.

    Or, and which is even more terrifying, they should be able to go up to our high profile clients at Incsub… and do just exactly that… I mean, holy shit, way to piss someone off and trash my business.”

    Not quite, as has been mentioned in above comments. is an end user of WPMU, as would be Edublogs, as any other end site is.

    The custom goodness any user puts into their site is their own, and not required to be licensed, redistributed, or follow any particular scheme. Even if that custom goodness is from, or any other site. For Matt to offer up the CSS Editing feature shows a ton of class, and I applaud that. By no means is he required to do that whatsoever, so to do so is a class act.

    Where the issue lies is when those modifications are distributed. Being as the original program is licensed under the GPL, when additional code for the original program is released it must also be released under the GPL.

    Now it all comes down to perception.

    For example, I as an end user can modify WP to no end for my own personal use and have a great time. If I give my modifications to someone, I have to provide any and all modifications under the GPL, as well as make specific comments in the areas which I have modified from the original (if I have hacked the core). That last part gets overlooked way to frequently.

    Now, as I said this gets a bit hazy and depends on perception. What if someone as an end user cannot make the modifications/additions that they would like?

    They in turn can hire someone to do so on their behalf for their own personal use. Right? OK, so what’s the difference if they code it or hire someone on their behalf to do so? The end result is exactly the same thing. They have code in their site for their own personal use, and have only hired someone to work on it for them. The person hired isn’t redistributing code, they are simply modifying a site for private use on someones behalf.

    In turn, if they were to release that code to someone else, then it falls back to the GPL and redistribution, and must be licensed as such.

    To bring this back together, Edublogs is an end user of the Premium plugins. Granted it may have early access to those particular plugins (for testing purposes) but its still an end user.

    Now, when someone gets a subscription and accesses the plugins, are you redistributing WordPress? Technically, no you’re not. What the Premium side provides is a service for people who are modifying their own site for personal use. They are hiring the Premium folks to act on their behalf, to modify their own site, no different than hiring someone to work on their site.

    See what I mean about perception, and how it gets hazy? Can a plugin stand on its own two feet, without the other program? Sure, why not? Make it spit back “hello world” (or something related to the plugin) and “technically” it works right? It may be lacking in features, but works nonetheless.

    So, at the end of the day, it depends on which side of the fence you sit. In this instance, it would seem that the GPL keeps you from revamping WP, and not providing any information as to it originally being WordPress, and then selling the code for a profit. It protects the copyright holder (Automattic) from getting the shaft by someone taking their work, modifying it, and redistributing it as their own for profit. (In a nutshell).

    How that applies to making a file (or files) available separately that work with WP is the gray area, as you are not modifying the original code, nor are you redistributing the original code.

    The people at the GPL will tell you it has to be GPL and the code cost the same as the original source. Then again, they’re pretty biased over there. Look at the “fight” between Jooblah and SMF in 2007 over the SMF/Joomblah bridge, and the GPL folks butting in and saying that not only the bridge file but the program it connected to must also be GPL (SMF, which it’s not). I’ll save you the long details, it got pretty ugly. The end result there is that there were many users hurt over it, and it didn’t solve anything at all.

    IMHO, Matt has been very generous in this area with WordPress, and not been a complete super stickler for the GPL and overdone it. He has used it’s protection to protect WordPress, and the core has benefited greatly from that. However, he has also allowed for developers and designers to be paid for their time in working on things like themes and plugins, without too much gruff over it (other than the rare case where someone takes it over the line). As a result, even though there have been the occasional spats, as a whole the entire community has seen the benefit.

    How this all stacks up in the future is still in the cards, but I believe the whole GPL = Massive Doom scenario is a bit overrated.

  • New Recruit

    Ok so I understand that you can’t charge money for items using core WP code. So then…

    “To put it simply, how does one make money selling free copies?”

    “As the old joke goes: software, free. The manual, $10,000. But it’s no joke. A couple of high profile companies, like Red Hat, Apache, and others make their living doing exactly that.”

  • It is ironic that I am reading this while listening to FLOSS weekly (or maybe it isn’t ironic; I can never get that definition straight). Anyway does this have anything to do with Brian Gardner releasing his themes as GPL and then pulling them back? Is this issue clear cut or not?


  • long story short, release the code, plugins are not worth $50 bucks a month, most wpmu website are not your direct competitiors, you are a niche, or at least lower the payment, its not worth paying $50 dollars for an update of 1 single plugin that u need. matt is right.

    (sorry for posting twice)

  • @peshka: Why? Why should James do any of that? If an update of a plugin isn’t worth $50 to you, then don’t pay it and don’t get it.

  • New Recruit

    Thanks to everyone for the informed debate and discussion – I’m definitely a lot wiser now than I was when I wrote the post… however, that’s not to say that I’ve changed my position!

    @peshka – I don’t think Matt, myself or anyone else here is talking about the value of the plugins… and if the price is to high for you, you don’t have to sign up.

    Personally I think it’s a bargain for what people get – my subscription to is far more expensive!

  • @Joss: If *YOU* distribute GPL products then *YOU* are obligated to provide the source. That distribution could be in the form of a WordPress plugin hosted on your web site, or giving an Ubuntu CD (which contains products with GPL obligations) to your friend.

    One quite important example of this: If you purchase premium plugins (which *OUGHT* to be provided under the terms of the GPL, as they are WordPress plugins), and you create a site for a client… you are providing those plugins to your client under the same terms you received them -> the GPL.

    @James: That CorePress idea makes absolutely no sense legally, by the way. :-)

    @Jason: You should *NOT* conclude from any discussion about GPL obligations that “you can’t charge money” for anything distributed under the GPL. To the contrary, both you and I, despite not being copyright holders, *CAN* charge. It’s entirely orthogonal to our obligation to provide “the source” to whom we distribute “the product”.

  • I think Andrea hit the nail on the head in comment 4. If you *distribute* the plugin, you must distribute it under the GPL.

    I think Jeff Waugh was off with comment 5. I believe the issue is whether people who receive the code can *redistribute* it under the terms of the GPL. If they can, then it’s hard to build a business charging for the code.

    I believe that for sites like or other sites for which Incsub have done custom work, that does not need to be licensed under the GPL. But for plugins sold via the WPMU Dev Premium subscription, that code does need to be distributed under the GPL.

  • Phew, I’m glad to see so many comments correcting your post James! I’m a big believer in the GPL and unfortunately I believe it does mean your premium MU plugins should be released with a GPL license. On the other hand, you and your team do so much for the community can that tip the scales?

    You could build in support for another non-GPL CMS so the plugins don’t depend on WordPress (maybe) but as it is, those plugins depend on the long hours spent by others releasing Free Software and the GPL protects the interests of all those developers.

  • Callum: That’s one of the things the GPL was designed to protect -> if you distribute product/code under the GPL to anyone, you are distributing it under (and therefore they receive it under) the same terms. Thus, they can redistribute it further, as they have the same permissions and obligations as you.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t “charge for the code”, but it certainly does complicate a business model based on false scarcity. That’s why there is so much creativity around business models (and customer satisfaction) in the world of Open Source business.

    It might be worth reading up on Marten Mickos’ well-stated “time vs. money” thoughts about the MySQL business model, which is deeply relevant to this discussion (open core, paid consulting and services, etc).

  • @Jeff Waugh: Apologies, my previous comment wasn’t super clear. I realise that the GPL allows for redistribution. I also understand you can still charge for a copy of the software.

    My point was that if the code is not “distributed”, the GPL doesn’t apply. I know there’s some debate over whether this should be the case, hence the GNU Affero GPL licence.

    Personally I support open source licensing, I think it makes economic as well as “social” sense. I’d like to see more of openly available for example.

  • There was a point raised above that possibly could be used as at least a partial loophole:

    Code that can stand alone, and be used separately from GPL’d works, can have its own license, yes?

    So, let’s say you have a hypothetical class library that lets you communicate with some sort of network service (like IM, Twitter, a weather service, etc). The class library is stand-alone — anybody could write code that runs against the interface, it’s not dependent on WordPress in any way. If I write such a class, I can license it however I want, including a private, purchase-only, no-redistribution without permission license. We’re all agreed there, right?

    If I write a WordPress plugin that implements that interface (brings in the class and calls its methods), the *plugin* code, if I distribute it, is supposed to be GPL. But the class can’t be forced to be GPL, right? [1]

    Now, somebody else could feel free to write a work-alike class implementing the same interfaces, and make it GPL. But they’d have to be careful not to copy the original class code wholesale, or risk violating its copyright. Instead, they (theoretically) would be obligated to only work from the interfaces exposed in the GPL’d plugin code, and reverse engineer based on that (which might not give them the full set of interfaces actually available in the non-GPL library).

    [1] This is the point I’m not absolutely sure of. Does GPL somehow forbid you from distributing “non-GPL-compatible” code along with GPL code? The whole “fork/exec” vs “shared structures” argument gets really fuzzy here I think. If my class can be a black-box, it shouldn’t matter how it’s called. I, as the code creator, should be able to determine what is or is-not acceptable usage, and control redistribution rights. But that’s just my common sense talking, not any analysis of what the GPL actually claims. Somone please correct me if common sense doesn’t apply here.

  • There are two different questions: Is this action in line with the intent and desires of the authors of the GPL and the authors and community of the GPL’ed software I’m writing a plugin for? And, if I stick some code on my website that will only work when using shared structures from a GPL’ed piece of software can and will anyone successfully sue me?

    The answer to the first question is clearly “no.” The answer to the second question is “probably not, at least I’ve never heard of it happening.”

  • New Recruit

    @Tom, acutally there’s been at least one GPL lawsuit, about a year and a half ago regarding BusyBox. The lawsuit, “Erik Andersen and Rob Landley v. Verizon Communications Inc.” case number 1:07-cv-11070-LTS, was filed December 6th, 2007, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. A press release of The Software Freedom Law Center, provider of pro-bono legal services to protect and advance Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), can be found here:

  • Paul,

    Yes, there has been one settled suit and lots more settled out of court, but this php plug-in issue is relatively speaking an edge case.

  • @Tom: I hope that it gets settled both quickly and with a reasonable solution. It could be a huge way to boost the capabilities of using WordPress as a platform for so much more than blog.

  • New Recruit

    My largest complaint isn’t the fact that you are charging for the themes/plugins everyone deserves to make money. Where I disagree is how you are blatantly ignoring the GPL License. You are even stating on your site that EVERYTHING you make is under the GPL however to download and install/update your plugins you MUST purchase them. Clearly a violation of this rule in the GPL.

    As stated above I understand that you want to make money, however I will never buy a product of your while you are clearly violating this and doing so on purpose because this article clearly states you know what you are doing.

    What you should be doing is offering the plugins/themes for free and letting people donate to your company. Doing custom work for another company is not the same as writing a plugin and selling it to the general public.’

    Clearly you are not the only company violating this license and this whole topic is making me want to switch away from WordPress more and more.

    Maybe you should offer custom development services and just offer your plugins for free and take donations. I know that with a plugin that looks as good as the Ultimate Facebook I would have put it to use and donated for the work you put in. I refuse to pay anything for your plugins when you are REQUIRING a purchase!

  • New Recruit


    You are correct and I was not picking on WPMUDEV, I stated I feel they should be paid for their work, there a tons of people doing the same thing as hey are.

    I understand it’s free as in speech and not free as in beer as they told me via email, however GPL is GPL and since WordPress is not a dual license (Commercial + GPL) it would appear that all plugins and themes would also have to be solely GPL.

    I am not picking on anyone I am wondering how so many people are in violation of a license and they blatantly know so because of this post. That was my point.

    My other point was maybe WordPress should change it’s licensing model to allow for less strict rules.

    The way I see it is so long as I am not distributing the plugins or themes in a closed source package it is open source and therefore the plugins and themes must be free to use. However when it comes to WPMUDEV they state everything they offer is under the GPL, well that’s not the case when you force a fee to use the plugin/theme, by doing so you are making use of the dual license and violating the original license agreement that WordPress was released with.

    The entire way that wordpress is licensed makes me sick as a developer.

  • New Recruit

    Big confusion here jcrawford. They are not violating the GPL. The devil is in the details.

    While they can not require you to pay for GPL licensed code, they are also under no obligation to make it available to you for no cost.

    The big secret that most people do not realize is that once you or anyone has possession of the GPL files (whether you pay money to get them or not), you can redistribute them at no cost to others. It’s your prerogative of what to do with them once you get them. You are under the same GPL license. You can distribute their files while charging a fee, or distribute them for free. That is what makes it open. :)

    So you could actually buy their subscription, download all their software, and start selling it on your own site in direct competition with them. Or you make it all available for free download. That is the heart of the GPL.

    The catch is, can you provide a better service experience to your customers while distributing the files? That’s what people really pay $ for – the service and peace of mind knowing the code will work.

  • New Recruit

    I understand what you are saying and I was thinking that too, however isn’t it in violation to not allow updates to someone who does have the GPL code? You cannot run updates once it is in place and when I contacted them I got this response. Actually it just clicked with the updates as they are allowed to charge for downloading the files. Maybe they should make that a bit more clear or have a FAQ to point people to when they inquire about it?

    That I believe is in violation no?

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