WordPress, Thesis and the GPL
July 16, 2010 7:28 AM Subscribe
Who gets to make money off WordPress?
posted by ao4047 (147 comments total)
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Dust-up brewing in the world of WordPress as theme author Chris Pearson
head honcho Matt Mullenweg
battle out the question: Is a theme a 'derivative work'?
If so, then WordPress themes must be freely distributed under the same license as WordPress, the GPL 2 license (inherited from b2evolution
, a previous project WordPress is based on). If not, then Chris (author of the Thesis theme at DIYThemes
) and similar designers can sell their themes and not release their code back to the project. Other theme
studios have already gone GPL and make their money on consulting, support and customization. Also at stake is the business of premium/paid WordPress plugins.
Andy Warner hosted the happy couple at an interview that turned sour (includes transcript).
Matt presents research from the Software Freedom Law Center:
When WordPress is started, it executes various routines that prepare information for use by themes. In normal use, control is then transferred via PHP’s include() function to HTML and PHP templates found in theme package files. The PHP code in those template files relies on the earlier-prepared information to fill the templates for serving to the client. On the basis of that version of WordPress, and considering those themes as if they had been added to WordPress by a third party, it is our opinion that the themes presented, and any that are substantially similar, contain elements that are derivative works of the WordPress software as well as elements that are potentially separate works.
Chris cited lawyer Mike Was's blog and opinion that GPL does not extend to WordPress themes due to Fair Use guidelines
and things ratcheted up when he claimed he is one of the top 3 most important figures in the history of WordPress and told Matt "Either you sue me or you don't. Or you continue to talk, or you don't."
Chris retired to a blog for a shirtless rant
as Matt tweets missives
and the discussion spilled over into Twitter (#thesiswp
) and Hacker News.
One developer ran a comparison script between the WordPress source and the Thesis theme and found several instances where Thesis uses exact code copied and pasted from WordPress.
Andy from the WordPress team says that simply extending one of WordPress's PHP classes qualifies as a derived work.
WordPress UX designer Jane recounts her conflicts with Pearson over this issue.
Drupal, another GPL system is of the opinion that themes and modules built for their CMS are also derivative works.