Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer. I don’t even play one on the internet. All of this post is speculation by a blogger.
WordPress, everyone’s favorite blogging platform, is released under the GNU GPL, an open source software license. The GPL is notable in that it not only requires that source code be made available, but that it stipulates that anyone may modify and redistribute that source code as long as the derivative works are also licensed under the GPL.
Is a theme integrated into WordPress closely enough that it’s required to be licensed under the GPL? This morning, Matt Mullenweg (creator of WordPress) posted a piece stating the “official” view that WordPress themes must be GPL.
How does this play with the premium (read: $$$) themes which are available for WordPress? I’m a big fan of Thesis (so much of a fan that I offer up that affiliate link), but a GPL-ed theme would wipe out the basic revenue model of “pay to use the theme.” There would still be opportunity for payment for services such as the excellent Thesis support forums, but the basic pay-to-use notion would be gone, since the code would be freely available from any number of sources.
I decided to pop the question of Thesis’ future to Chris Pearson (@pearsonified), the man behind DIYthemes which is the company that releases Thesis:
ahockley: Curious to see how this affects some premium themes, namely Thesis: http://bit.ly/txqE0 @pearsonified
pearsonified: @ahockley It won’t affect Thesis at all.
ahockley: @pearsonified Thanks for the reply… but… Thesis isn’t GPL, is it?
ahockley: @pearsonified So if Automattic says themes need to be GPL, and Thesis isn’t GPL, how does this not affect Thesis? Connect the dots for me
pearsonified: @ahockley Automattic says that, but they cannot and will not enforce it. Therefore, DIYthemes will continue to operate as normal.
Interesting way of handling the situation… sounds like Pearson isn’t planning to change his operation unless forced, and he’s confident that Automattic won’t press the issue.
Photo by stopnlook, used under Creative Commons licensing