Every now and again, something kicks off in the WordPress community about the GPL – usually sparked by the foundation moving against someone not fully in compliance. This time, the WordPress foundation has banned any theme or plugin authors who sell on the ThemeForest marketplace from speaking, organizing or sponsoring WordCamps. Envato, the parent company of ThemeForest have been banned all along since 2011 when a new set of guidelines from the foundation came out – the reason? Because they force authors to sell under a split license, all PHP code is GPL and all graphics are under a different, more restricting license. Envato made a response to this on the WPDaily blog, stating their reasons for the split license – mostly seems to protect authors from hosting companies from selling on their themes.
When it comes to WordPress themes, I feel we have a license that is both respectful and 100% GPL compliant, while protecting the rights and freedoms of creators. To give an example, we are consistently approached by hosting companies ranging up to some of the largest in the world, looking to license WordPress themes and site templates to make available to their client bases, sometimes numbering in the tens or hundreds of thousands. To my mind, it doesn’t make sense that a regular license sold on ThemeForest should give such a buyer the right to on-sell a creator’s work at that volume – if only for the simple reason that volume reselling can significantly reduce demand for the original work.
Have a read of the comments here, Matt makes an appearance also with some good points.
So what to make of all this ?
Firstly, I think the foundation is out of order throwing their weight around and taking this out on good members of the community. Themeforest is the largest marketplace and a lot of these authors make their living from selling on there, punishing them for the restrictions put in place by Envato is not good. Most of the people caught in the cross fire at the moment would happily license their themes 100% GPL given the choice. But given the choice between feeding their family or being 100% GPL, you can’t blame them for choosing the money.
The foundation are not happy with Envato, that’s fine – offer a competing marketplace which is 100% GPL and can offer the same amount of sales and Im sure it would be a huge success.
Secondly, Envato, I don’t know why they don’t just move to 100% GPL – My belief is that if you create things for WordPress and release them publicly they are GPL. WordPress is GPL and so is everything released for it – simple enough ?
It hasn’t affected any of the big theme companies – WooThemes, StudioPress etc all are 100% compliant and business is booming for them. There is always that thought in the back of your head “What if someone else sells my products” – but you have to not worry about this, you are not just selling the digital files which comprise a WordPress theme, customers are paying for support, updates and the reassurance that your company will be there when they need it. Some operator who sells or gives away old copies of themes is not going to make any sort of dent in your business.
Envato do a lot for the WordPress community and that should also be recognised, they have millions of customers – how many new people have they introduced to WordPress? How many members of our community earn a living via them? It seems to me if they went 100% GPL they could fully participate by supporting WordCamps instead of being ostracised by the foundation.